Philosophy and Public Policy

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Alexander Voorhoeve LAK 4.01 and Dr Andrew Khoury


This course is compulsory on the BSc in Politics and Philosophy. This course is available on the BSc in Philosophy and Economics and BSc in Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

 The course offers critical reflection on the design and evaluation of public policies from the perspective of moral and political philosophy. To this end, we study a range of theories and concepts that are used in policy evaluation. We often discuss and evaluate them by focusing on specific policy proposals. The course addresses questions such as: 1. What is well-being, how is it measured, and how should it be measured? 2. When, if ever, is paternalism justified? 3. What is the role of personal responsibility in determining people’s claims on public resources? 4. When, if ever, is equality in the distribution of goods (such as health, income, or well-being) important? 5. How should we evaluate risks of harm and chances of benefit to people? 6. When is it permissible to harm others in self-defence? 7. What are our rights to freedom of expression? 8. Is torture ever justified? 9. What are the limits on privacy? 10. What do we owe to the global poor?


10 hours of lectures and 9 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT. 1 hour of classes in the ST.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 2 essays in the MT and 1 essay and 1 exercise in the LT.

Indicative reading

WolffWolff, J. (2011) Ethics and Public Policy: A Philosophical Inquiry; J. Feinberg. (1971) 'Paternalism', in his 'Harm to Self'; National Institute for Clinical Excellence (2008) 'Social Value Judgments'; D. Parfit (2000) 'Equality or Priority?'; J.S. Mill 'On Liberty'. 


Exam (67%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (33%, 2000 words) in the ST.

Key facts

Department: Philosophy

Total students 2012/13: 53

Average class size 2012/13: 13

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills