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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2021/2022

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: Theology and Religion


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2021/22


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • to provide an introduction to the advanced study of theological ethics
  • to explore how explicitly religious ethical positions turn on doctrinal and philosophical issues
  • to investigate the extent to which any ethical system is quasi-theological


  • This module is an introduction to the advanced study of theological ethics. It will address ‘the principles of theological ethics’ in two senses. First of all, it investigates how explicitly religious ethical positions turn on deep doctrinal and philosophical issues: doctrinal issues such as the interpretation of scripture, creation, christology, trinitarian theology, ecclesiology and eschatology; and philosophical issues such as the nature of truth, metaphysics, epistemology and hermeneutics. Secondly, it explores the extent to which any ethical system is quasi-theological, in that it makes fundamental claims about reality and our purpose within it.
  • These conceptual issues will be explored through reading key historical thinkers, such as Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Butler, Kant, Kierkegaard, Barth and Balthasar. This approach will situate recent discussions of virtue, narrative and post-secular ethics within the context of a tradition of Christian reflection. The module will also trace the deep undercurrents at work in the contemporary interest surrounding religion and public reason, as found, for example, in debates between thinkers such as Rawls, Habermas and Pope Benedict.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • understanding of the significance of fundamental doctrinal and philosophical themes for theological ethics
  • engagement with central texts in theological ethics written by key thinkers from the tradition
  • appreciation of the relationship between theological and philosophical ethics and between religion and public reason
Subject-specific Skills:
  • the ability to analyse the underlying doctrinal and philosophical presuppositions of ethical positions
  • the ability to evaluate the cogency of these presuppositions, in the light of a tradition of Christian reflection
  • the ability to trace the genealogy of contemporary positions, identifying points of continuity and discontinuity with earlier thinkers
  • the ability to see how deep theological and philosophical commitments inform political and ethical practice
Key Skills:
  • advanced research skills, including the ability to locate, evaluate, and summarise key sources, both in print and online, and to cite them to a professional standard
  • advanced communication skills, including the ability to construct a sophisticated argument, supported by the sources, in a clear, concise and convincing manner

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The lectures supply a framework of information and interpretation, which gives students an overview of a subject and a point of departure for their work, introducing subject-specific knowledge and demonstrating the use of subject-specific skills.
  • The tutorials give students an opportunity to present plans for their work, and to receive feedback on their formative work, on a one-to-one basis, promoting the development of subject-specific and key skills.
  • The seminars give students an opportunity to present the results of their work, and, in dialogue with one another and with staff, to evaluate these results, promoting the development of subject-specific and key skills.
  • The essays require students to investigate particular topics, to present the results of their investigations in a clear and concise manner, and to cite their sources fully, accurately, and consistently, assessing subject-specific knowledge, subject-specific skills, and key skills.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Tutorials 4 2 in Michaelmas Term and 2 in Epiphany Term 1 hour 4
Seminars 10 fortnightly over Michaelmas Term and Epiphany Term 2 hours 20
Preparation and Reading 276
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5000 words 100%% yes

Formative Assessment:

One formative 5000 word essay

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University