CCGL9014 Global Issues

Thinking about Global Ethics


Course Description

This course provides, against the background of some of the most significant global problems and concerns, an introduction to some of the main moral issues in international affairs, such as ethical universalism vs. particularism and cultural relativism; the (real or perceived) tension between nationalism or patriotism on the one hand and cosmopolitanism on the other; global distributive justice; moral issues in the context of pollution and climate change; individual responsibility in a global context; and the (real or perceived) tension between human rights and international (criminal) law on the one hand and national sovereignty/self-determination on the other. At the end of the course, students should have an overview of some of the most important debates about global ethics and be able to make use of some of the most advanced philosophical theories in assessing the issues involved.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Describe and explain some of the main global problems and some of the main theories about global justice intended to tackle these problems.
  2. Relate and apply these theories to specific cases and issues and to different phases in the development of the international order.
  3. Demonstrate an awareness of how normative debates can be connected with, affected by and impact upon political agendas.
  4. Identify certain advantages and limitations of the respective theories.
  5. Form an informed opinion and support it by argument.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 10
Reading / Self-study 100
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 15
Total: 149

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Term essay 60
Tutorial participation 40

Required Reading

  • Beitz, C. (2012). Human rights. In R. E. Goodin, P. Pettit & T. Pogge (Eds.), A companion to contemporary political philosophy (pp. 628-637). Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Brennan, A., & Lo, Y. S. “Environmental ethics”.  In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Fall 2011 edition). From http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2011/entries/ethics-environmental/ [relevant excerpts will be uploaded on Moodle]
  • Brock, G. (2009). Global justice: A cosmopolitan account. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [pp. 45-54]
  • Buchanan, A., & Golove, D. (2004). Philosophy of international law. In J. Coleman & S. Shapiro (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of jurisprudence and philosophy of law (pp. 872-875). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Coady, C. A. J. (2003). War and terrorism. In R. G. Frey & C. H. Wellman (Eds.), A companion to applied ethics. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Fieser, J. Ethics. In J. Fieser, B. Dowden et al. (Eds.), Internet encyclopedia of philosophy. From http://www.iep.utm.edu/ethics/#SSH1b.iii
  • LaFollette, H. (2008). World Hunger. In R. G. Frey & C. H. Wellman (Eds.), A companion to applied ethics. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Pogge, T. (2012). Cosmopolitanism. In R. E. Goodin, P. Pettit & T. Pogge (Eds.), A companion to contemporary political philosophy (pp. 312–331). Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Risse, M. (2012). Global political philosophy. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. [Chaps. 2, 5, 6]
  • Steinhoff, U. (2013). Against Pogge’s “Cosmopolitanism”. Ratio, 26, 329-341.
  • Wallerstein, I. (2006). European universalism: The rhetoric of power. New York; London: The New Press. [pp. 1-29]

Recommended Reading

  • Lai, K. L. (2001). Classical China. In D. Jamieson (Ed.), A companion to environmental ethics (pp.21-36). Basingstoke: Blackwell.

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr U.B. Steinhoff
Department of Politics and Public Administration, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 1927
Email: ustnhoff@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr U.B. Steinhoff
Department of Politics and Public Administration, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 1927
Email: ustnhoff@hku.hk