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Ethical Capability

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Learning in Ethical Capability

The Ethical capability curriculum focuses on the conceptual and analytical skills necessary for informed deliberation on ethical issues. This curriculum enables students to identify the assumptions and implications of different ethical positions, recognising the areas of contestability within those positions. It is based on three assumptions:

  • many aspects of ethics are contestable and debatable and students are encouraged to challenge assumptions and to examine competing sources of authority
  • the development of ethical capability is enhanced by engaging with philosophical ideas, the premises of different religions, secular world views and cultural norms
  • reasoning is central to developing ethical capability and provides a way to structure competing considerations and manage judgements. Students are encouraged to confront ethical dilemmas critically, to ask whether intuition or feelings are adequate guides, and to consider how a range of principles or values contribute to their understanding of an ethical issue.

The curriculum provides the opportunity to examine multiple issues and examples sourced widely from, for example, narratives and other literary forms, current affairs, issues raised across diverse fields such as history, the arts or science, or hypothetical ethical dilemmas constructed specifically for examination of particular problems.

Students will draw on the learning set out in the critical and creative thinking continuum to develop the skills and considerations of ethical decision making and apply these to their exploration of ethical concepts, principles and problems.

Learning about world views, religions and philosophical thought

In Ethical capability, students are introduced to different religions and world views and a range of relevant philosophers and/or schools of thought. Students develop the capacity to apply this broad understanding to the investigation of ethical problems.

Students are introduced to schools of thought and/or individual thinkers as appropriate. As a guide, the views of thinkers such as John Stuart Mill, Peter Singer, John Rawls, Kant and Aristotle can be introduced through references, including excerpts, from both primary and secondary sources. Schools of thought such as utilitarianism, relativism, realism or hedonism can be drawn on to strengthen student understanding. A range of relevant precepts are also introduced, which can include those from the five most common religions and a secular world view representative of humanism and rationalism.

To support this learning, the outline of the key premises of the world’s major religions and a secular world view, as referenced in the introduction to the Humanities Learning Area, is also available here:

Learning about world views and religions (PDF)

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