The Philosopy and Ethics of Public Policy

Ref: C3741111

Jonathan Wollf's book "Ethics and Public Policy" is an account of how a philosopher was invited to join committees on a variety of public policy bodies. Wollf found the experience eye-opening as he discovered the limitations of philosophy when it bumps into the real world as well as the limitations found in the real world with regard to established practices, unexamined assumptions and the complexities of pressures and special interests which have to be dealt with. Topics dealt with are experiments on animals; gambling; drugs; safety; crime and punishment; health; disability and the free market. This course is unlikely to offer any useful conclusions on these topics.

Course aim

The course will offer an examination of Jonathan Wolff's "Ethics & Public Policy", which looks at how philosophy can add to (or detract from) policies on issues such as safety, drugs and several others.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Explain some of the complications of public policy formation
  • Give an account of the limitations of academic philosophy in 'real-world' situations
  • Give an account of what philosophy can add to public policy discussions.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning

What else do I need to know?

  • All materials will be provided

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • Reading "ethics and Public Policy" by Jonathan Wolff would be useful.

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member
  • Become involved as a volunteer for a WEA partner or another organisation

Download full course outline

The Philosopy and Ethics of Public Policy Course Outline


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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