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VCE Humanities

Philosophy Unit 2: Questions of Value


There are no prerequisites for this unit.

Course Description

What are the foundations of our judgments about value? What is the relationship between different types of value? How, if at all, can particular value judgments be defended or criticised?

This unit invites students to explore these questions in relation to different categories of value judgement within the realms of morality, political and social philosophy and aesthetics. Students also explore ways in which viewpoints and arguments in value theory can inform and be informed by contemporary debates.

Areas of Study

Ethics and Moral Philosophy

What should I do? What is right? On what basis can we choose between different courses of action? These are ongoing fundamental questions. In this area of study students are introduced to key debates in moral philosophy that stretch back thousands of years. The laws of our society reflect a position that murder and theft are wrong, but a philosopher is interested in the justifications for these convictions. Is morality a matter of personal prejudice or can we give good reasons for holding particular moral beliefs? Are there fundamental moral beliefs which should be universally binding, or are they preferences that develop in response to particular cultural contexts?

In this area of study students are concerned with discovering if there are basic principles and underlying ideas of morality and assessing ethical viewpoints and arguments according to standards of logic and consistency. Philosophical methods may be used to address everyday dilemmas, as well as issues debated in the media and important moral challenges of our times.

Further Problems in Value Theory

In addition to discussing ethical and moral value, philosophers consider a range of other types of values, including social, political and aesthetic value.

Often philosophers concern themselves with questions regarding the foundations of particular forms of value. They consider whether these various forms of value are grounded in the nature of things or whether are they human creations. If they are human creations, they consider whether these forms of value might yet appeal to commonly held or universal standards. How these questions are approached may depend upon the type of value considered.

At other times, philosophers set aside these foundational questions and consider particular questions relating to social, political or aesthetic value. Is democracy the only justifiable form of government? What are the obstacles to freedom? How are conflicts between rights to be resolved? What is the point of art?

This area of study provides students with an introduction to some of these questions and the ways in which philosophers have addressed them. Students explore how philosophical methods can be brought to bear on a range of questions regarding value.

Techniques of Philosophical Inquiry

In this area of study students develop their abilities to analyse philosophical arguments, apply techniques of logic, construct and manipulate chains of reasoning, identify and describe reasoning errors, including common fallacies, and analyse and develop analogies in response to philosophical problems.


Assessment Tasks
(school-assessed coursework)
On completion of this unit the student should be able to analyse problems in ethics and moral theory and related contemporary debates, and evaluate viewpoints and arguments in response to these problems, and discuss the interplay between philosophical thinking and contemporary ethical and moral debates.

An oral analysis and a short written exercise.

On completion of this unit the student should be able to analyse selected problems in value theory and evaluate viewpoints and arguments in response to these problems, and discuss philosophical issues in the context of relevant contemporary debates.

An essay and a written reflection.

On completion of this unit the student should be able to apply methods of philosophical inquiry to the analysis and evaluation of philosophical viewpoints and arguments, including those in value theory.

A presentations (oral, multimedia)

A dialogue (oral, written)

Overall Final Assessment

End of Semester Examination – 1.5 hours.

Information can be obtained from the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, Victoria, Australia: