Ethics: An Overview Interactive

Course Synopsis

What makes an action ‘right’ or ‘wrong’? Is it related to the amount of pleasure or pain caused, how an action accords with universal laws, or or for reasons stemming from some other, perhaps divine, source? In this course, students will examine some of the major ways philosophers have tried to tackle questions of morality and ethics over the centuries, and will ask whether it is even possible to devise a universal theory of ethics.

The course begins with a look at divine command theory, perhaps the oldest school of ethical thought, which states that what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ is purely dependent on what a deity states it to be. It then moves on to discuss utilitarianism and the thought of Jeremy Bentham, who placed pleasure and pain at the heart of moral decisions. We then explore deontology and the thought of Kant, who attempted to find universal laws of morality and ethics, and conclude by asking whether or not such overarching theories of morality are even possible to find and apply. Perhaps, instead, experience of the world and acting upon such experience is what counts.


What’s Included?





Personal Profile

Interactive Tutorials

Quizzes and Exams


Why Take this Course?

This course is ideal preparation for students thinking of studying ethics, philosophy, classics, history, or related subjects at university.

Aims and Objectives

  • To understand the key ideas relating to ethical philosophy
  • To encounter some of the key thinkers within the realm of ethics
  • To appreciate the complexities of ethical and moral debates in the present day

Key Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course students will be able to:

  • Understand the different schools of thought that have attempted to explain morality and ethics
  • Discuss with confidence the thinking of some major philosophers, such as Kant and Aristotle
  • Embark on your own further study of the subject


All courses include the following Interactive Tutorial series

Tutorial 1


0.5 - 1 hr

It is sometimes said that if God does not exist, everything is permitted. The idea behind this is that without some ultimate standard, morality becomes a mere matter of opinion. According to Divine Command Theorists, actions are right if God commands them and wrong if he forbids them. In this lecture, we’ll discuss the merits of this view as well as some serious problems with it. Even if we think God exists, the idea that morality is dependent on God can lead to some unfortunate consequences.

Tutorial 2


0.5 - 1 hr

According to utilitarians like John Stuart Mill, we don’t need God to lay down the ultimate standards of morality. Instead, actions are right if they make people happy and wrong insofar as they cause them pain and suffering. This is an attractive theory, and offers a good explanation of what went wrong in the sad case described above. In this lecture, we’ll examine whether it stands up to more sustained philosophical scrutiny.

Tutorial 3


0.5 - 1 hr

Immanuel Kant wanted us to see things differently. According to him, pleasure and pain do not have much to do with morality. Instead, actions are right if they place us in the right sorts of relations with ourselves and others. In fact, he thought that morality could be summed up by just one rule: Act only on those maxims that you can also will to become a universal law. In this lecture, we’ll be asking what Kant might have meant by this ‘categorical imperative’, and whether it really solves the problem.

Tutorial 4

Virtue Ethics & Applied Ethics

0.5 - 1 hr

Over the course of these lectures, we will have seen a number of problems with attempts to find a common principle that explains morality. Some contemporary philosophers have become so impressed by the problem that they have claimed there is no such principle. At first glance, this might look like giving up. But the suggestion that morality is fundamentally resistant to principles will take us back to one of the most innovative and influential thinkers in the history of Western philosophy: Aristotle.

What’s Included?

All courses contain the following elements:

Interactive Tutorials
Online Quizzes
Access to the discussion forum
Access to all course resources
Certificate of completion

Key Details

Course Pre-Requisites An advanced level of English
An interest in philosophy and ethical issues
No formal pre-requisites necessary, just the desire to learn more!
Course Level For students thinking of applying to study Philosophy at university level
This is an area-specific course within the wider subject of Philosophy
Difficulty level: Moderate
Fees £29.99
Workload 4 - 6 hours

Enrolment Options

Choose one of the following options to take your course:

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Membership 1


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Membership 2


6-Month Membership
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One of the best e-learning courses on the subject currently available. Would definitely recommend to others (Cultural Anthropology)

Laura, UK
It was a very useful and relevant experience that helped me review some contents, complementing my understanding of the subject. Overall, a very good, lively and complete extra-curricular activity which I wholeheartedly recommend. (An Introduction to Philosophy)

Martinez, Spain
Awesome! Just like all the other courses it was full of great ideas and aspects elaborated on in great detail on. Truly an educational experience. (Business and Management)

Kyle, Israel
This course is great, fast paced, interesting and very entertaining. It gives a great overview of philosophy, and concise introduction to the main themes, but also leaves space for personal reflection and research which is always welcome! (Ethics: An Overview)

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This course had a lot of interesting information on a very wide range of topics based on US history. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a basic overview of issues in 20th-century America. (20th-century American History)

Chalint (Greece)
The "Introduction to Law" course I took was excellent - I would recommend it to anyone wishing to apply to law school, or that is generally interested in the topic. Having completed the course, it leaves me wanting to study more of ORA's Law courses! (Introduction to Law)

Amelia (UK)
Victorian Classicism was an excellent course, which will be enjoyed by those interested in art history, greek mythology and British history as well as those with a great curiosity for traditions, morals and ethics during the 19th century. (Victorian Classicism)

Anne-Ly (Singapore)
After being out of high school and university for almost 10 years, the ORA Prep courses certainly helped in encouraging me to get back into uni as a mature student of Art History. I can hardly wait for the next academic challenge and I dearly hope anyone considering re-entering or visiting university for the first time comes across ORA Prep courses to build up their courage, too! Thank you, ORA! (Methodologies in Art History)

Anne-Ly (Singapore)
I'm very glad I discovered ORA Prep - it offers very interesting insights into the most varied subjects. I'm planning to enrol on other courses as well. I highly recommend it to anyone! (Ethics: An Overview)

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It is an enjoyable course that gives a good introduction to ancient Greek architecture. Now I look to these amazing sites with a deeper understanding of their history. It encourages me to study these structures further! (Ancient Greek Architecture)

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