POL3114 : Animal and Environmental Ethics

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This module aims to introduce students to the works of key theorists in environmental and animal ethics, and to discuss their works in light of current political debates on issues such as climate change and animal rights. The course will provide students with a range of perspectives on pressing political issues in this field and expose them to a variety of methodological approaches, as we will engage with scientific theory, moral philosophy and applied ethics. It will also help students develop their critical analysis skills by challenging them to reason in a logical manner about scientific and moral claims; to construct their own coherent philosophical arguments; and to consider the implications that these theories have for politics today.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module explores questions on how we should value both our environment and the non-human beings that we share that environment with. We will consider questions such as: how can we (and indeed should we) attribute rights to animals? Can plants or ‘the Earth’ have rights? Do we have duties as individuals to animals/the environment or should governments assume primary responsibility? The module will examine the key literature which addresses the varying approaches to such questions with the aim of asking what, if anything, we owe to the non-human, living world. The module follows the following structure:

•       Animal machines: the value of nonhumans in Descartes, Kant and the Abrahamic religions.

•       Kindred spirits: animals in Pythagoras and Eastern religions.

•       The impact of Darwinism.

•       What is the Earth worth? Assessing the instrumental benefits of the environment.

•       Environmental holism: the intrinsic value of species and ecosystems

•       Moral individualism: critiquing holistic theory

•       Rights pt.1: Animal rights

•       Rights pt 2: Earth rights

•       Activism and political change: who bears responsibility?

•       Climate justice: justice for whom?

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture221:0022:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching101:0010:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery41:004:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1164:00164:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lectures introduce students to the key themes. The seminars allow for participation by students in clarifying and exploring key ideas and issues. These help to develop critical-analytical and oral communication skills. Essays help to develop critical-analytical skills and written communication skills. Planning and organisational skills are developed throughout module, along with knowledge outcomes.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M502000 words
Essay2A502500 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

A mix of assessment methods will provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate their overall understanding of the core concepts and debates in animal and environmental policy. A written, unseen examination will assess students’ ability to elaborate on specific issues within applied ethics in a knowledgeable, well-argued and coherent manner. The 2,000 word essay will assess students’ ability to synthesise the theoretical and empirical material acquired from lectures, seminars, and independent research. It will also offer students the opportunity to investigate an area of their choosing in greater depth.

Reading Lists