CCHU9009 Humanities
Moral Controversies in Contemporary Society

[This course is under the thematic clusters of ‘Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth’ and ‘The Universe and the Question of Meaning’.]


Course Description

This course critically examines some moral controversies in contemporary society. It aims to help students develop their ability to think in intellectually sophisticated ways about difficult issues of personal and public morality. The course focuses on four controversial moral topics: animal use, assisted suicide, prostitution, and biomedical enhancement. These topics concern not only personal morality but also social or public morality. Students will be asked to discuss not only whether the above practices are moral or immoral, but also whether they should be prohibited, regulated, recognized, or supported by law. It is hoped that students will be better equipped to evaluate opposing arguments about the proper use of law in regulating personal conduct and social interaction. In the course of discussing these topics, students will be introduced to major moral approaches, such as consequentialism and deontology, as well as methods of critical thinking in moral reasoning.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Open-mindedly consider different viewpoints in moral controversies.
  2. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of different philosophical and popular arguments in the four topic areas of the course.
  3. Demonstrate understanding of the major moral philosophical approaches and techniques in moral reasoning.
  4. Formulate and critically assess personal positions/convictions.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

First semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 10
Reading / Self-study 60
Assessment: Essay writing 30
Assessment: In-class test (incl preparation) 30
Total: 154

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Tutorial participation 30
Mid-term essay 30
Final essay 30
Weekly study questions 10

Required Reading

  • Anderson, E. (1993). Value in ethics and economics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. [pp. 150-158]
  • Buchanan, A. (2011). Better than human: The promise and perils of enhancing ourselves. New York: Oxford University Press. [pp. 133-171]
  • Dworkin, R. (1993). Life’s dominion: An argument about abortion, euthanasia, and individual freedom. New York: Knopf. [pp. 179-217]
  • Kamisar, Y. (1978). Euthanasia legislation: Some nonreligious objections. In T. L. Beauchamp & S. Perlin (Eds.), Ethical issues in death and dying. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. [pp. 220-231]
  • Nobis, N. (2002). Vegetarianism and virtue: Does consequentialism demand too little? Social Theory and Practice, 28(1), 135-156.
  • Nussbaum, M. (2006). “Whether from reason or prejudice”: Taking money for bodily services. In J. Spector (Ed.), Prostitution and pornography. Stanford: Stanford University Press. [pp. 175-208]
  • Regan, T. (2006). The case for animal rights. In J. E. White (Ed.), Contemporary moral problems. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth. [pp. 387-396]
  • Satz, D. (2006). Markets in women’s sexual labour. In J. Spector (Ed.), Prostitution and pornography. Stanford: Stanford University Press. [pp. 394-418]
  • Singer, P. (2006). All animals are equal. In J. E. White (Ed.), Contemporary moral problems. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth. [pp. 379-387]
  • Singer, P. (2009). Parental choice and human improvement. In J. Savulescu & N. Bostrom (Eds.), Human enhancement. New York: Oxford University Press. [pp. 277-290]

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr F.F.L. Mang
Department of Politics and Public Administration, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 8337
Email: franz@hku,hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr F.F.L. Mang
Department of Politics and Public Administration, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 8337
Email: franz@hku.hk