MPhil in Applied Ethics


This module examines the increasingly important field of bioethics. We examine moral questions revolving around human life
– birth to death, health care and human flourishing. Drawing upon both philosophical and theological discourses, we ask the
fundamental questions: how can one best preserve and protect the quality of human life?

The content includes:

Beginning/s of Life

  • How far should science assist in human reproduction?
  • What grounds, if any, are there for various forms of fertility control?
  • Are there ever grounds for abortion?

Health and Human Flourishing

  • Who should pay for health care?
  • What criteria should govern medical research on human subjects?
  • How does AIDS change the playing field of health care?

End of Life

  • Do I have the right to die?
  • What are the moral implications of living wills, advance directives and the limitations of public health resources?


This module acquaints the students with the following: Firstly, the origins, definitions and dimensions of Business Ethics and the
theoretical approaches to Business Ethics including the approach of Catholic Social Thought. Secondly, it examines the relationship
between economics and ethics and between economics and Christian Ethics. In addition, it considers different approaches to ordering
the economy, such as Classical Economic Liberalism, Marxism, the Social Market Economy and Christian Social Teaching, liberation
theology’s critique of economic injustice and the “preferential option for the poor”. Thirdly, it critiques the issues of globalisation, the
neoliberal globalised economy, the South African economy and current macro-economic ethical issues, both global and national.


The focus of this module is an examination of the moral purpose of business in the new millennium with a particular focus on the nature,
role, and moral purpose of the corporation in both a national and global context. This includes an examination of such key concepts as the
nature, purpose, moral agency, role and responsibilities of the corporation; a consideration of various theoretical approaches to the corporation;
the approach of Catholic Social Thought to the corporation; the corporation and the neoliberal globalised economy, including ethical issues and
responsibilities in this context and the corporation in the context of the South African economy with particular attention paid to ethical issues.
The module also examines unethical business practice, especially in South Africa, and ethical principles in business, such as creating and maintaining
ethical corporate culture, the role of corporate ethics statements, codes of conduct and corporate governance, ethical risk assessment, reporting on
ethics and the institutionalisation of ethics in South African corporations.


This module focuses on ethical business leadership. To this end, it examines the field and approaches to leadership, the relationship between ethics
and leadership and various approaches to ethical leadership. It also considers the issues of work, especially the approach of Catholic Social Thought
in this respect, the issues of moral decision making and conflict resolution, and of ethical leadership in the service of the common good. Finally, it
focuses on leadership in the South African business context.


This module considers specific ethical issues and dilemmas facing business in the global and South African contexts. The areas to be considered

include, but are not limited to:

Issues at the systemic level:

  • Justice, especially distributive justice, given the current economic paradigm,
  • Poverty,
  • Fair trade,
  • Human rights and employment rights,
  • Ethical and cultural relativism,
  • Environmental issues.

Issues at the organisational level: Ethical issues with respect to policies, structures and practices in corporations and organisations.

Areas to consider include:

  • Governance and governance failures, conflict of interests,
  • Corporate social responsibility, corporate social investment, distributive justice, company profits and poverty relief,
  • Accountability versus fraud, bribery and corruption,
  • Worker empowerment: worker participation,
  • Employment equity and affirmative action,
  • Remuneration,
  • Job creation, retrenchment, redundancy,
  • Whistleblowing,
  • HIV/AIDS in the workplace
  • Gender issues in the workplace,
  • Information technology,
  • Environmental -  for example: pollution, unsustainable use of resources.

Issues at the individual level:

  • Individual ethical decision making,
  • Personal moral standards versus corporate policies,
  • Case studies (various issues may be presented for example, whistleblowing, gender and race issues, fraud, bribery and so on).


The module will offer an analysis of Catholic Social Thought (CST) with a concentration on the past 100 years. We shall examine both ‘official’
documents of the Church (encyclicals, letters of bishops conferences, etc) and non-official responses to them by theologians, religious movements
and theological currents, as they apply to such areas as human rights, political ideologies and concrete historical situations. Fundamental to this is
the belief that CST is a developing, changing, historical response to the world (contextual moral theology). The course will start with an historical
overview of the development of CST since the 19th Century, suggesting that it is in part a political response to the collapse of the Catholic Church as a
European political force after 1870. Having sketched the ‘big picture’ we shall examine a number of key themes.

  • The Church and the Triumph of Human Rights Discourse.
  • The Rise and Crisis of Socialism.
  • Decolonization and National Liberation.
  • ‘Post-Socialism’, Globalisation and the Rise of Resistance to ‘Empire’.


This module provides a survey of critical theories of gender. What are the similarities and differences between men and women? It also surveys
answers to questions such as “What is a family”, “Is the family in a crisis?”, “Are virtues gendered?” and “What are the ethical decisions that parents,
children and families are faced with?”

Catholic social teaching, biblical teaching and perspectives from other disciplines on men and women, sexuality, marriage and celibacy, relationships
between parents and children, and the nature of relationships between older and younger people in the family in a range of economic, political, cultural
and religious contexts, form part of the content of the module. Changes in the modern world (globalisation, industrialisation, urbanisation, war, poverty,
disease, the impact of the media, such as television and the internet) affect the nature of family life, particularly the assumptions about men and women,
their relationship in the family in the sphere of work and leisure; how children ought to be raised, and how the elderly and handicapped are to be cared for.


MPhil Teaching Timetable 2018

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