Undergraduate Module Descriptor

PHL2035: Critical Bioethics

This module descriptor refers to the 2019/0 academic year.


NQF Level 5
Credits 15 ECTS Value 7.5
Term(s) and duration

This module ran during term 2 (11 weeks)

Academic staff

Christine Hauskeller (Convenor)





Available via distance learning


Bioethics is the discipline that discusses all ethical issues and social conflicts that arise from modern developments in the medial and life sciences and biotechnology. In this module you will encounter a critical position toward the predominant way of doing bioethics in philosophy that avoids engaging with the real life conditions in which science and technologies operate and affect the lives of individuals and change society.

We discuss bioethics as a philosophical discipline concerned with technologies and moral principles or rational decisions, and the ways in which individuals and communities in a pluralist global world respond and are affected by medical and biotechnological innovations. You will consider the entanglement between philosophical concepts of society and the individual and the ethical and normative approaches of different schools in bioethics and how cultural values affect social, scientific, ethical and knowledge practices.

The lectures will present a set of themes – see syllabus – which provide you with a broad understanding of bioethics as a global approach to new science and technologies of life. The module focuses on different ethical approaches in bioethics, including sociological bioethics and feminist bioethics. Illustrative case studies will be explored in the seminars. The conceptual and methodological focus is on the gap between theory and practice, uncertainty and notions of justice and fairness. You will also look at value pluralisms and cultural relativism, and the history and culture on forms of ethical reasoning. Case studies will include applications of genetics and stem cell science.

Some knowledge of key moral theories as taught in year 1 and year 2 modules would be an advantage but is not a formal requirement. This is an optional module for the Single Honours degree programme in Philosophy. It is available to students in sociology and other departments as an optional course in philosophy.

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