Courses

Below you find the course descriptions of Applied Ethics. The programme consists of compulsory courses, electives, an internship and a Master's thesis. Read more about the curriculum and our teaching an research environment, including our teaching staff.

Ethical Theory & Moral Practice (compulsory)

Do we have duties towards refugees and if so, which ones? What is the moral status of a foetus and under which circumstances is abortion permissible (if any)? Do we have an ecological responsibility towards future generations and what may this entail? These are just some examples of difficult real-life questions without “easy answers”, that is, examples of moral problems.

In this course we aim to identify and understand the prominent approaches for dealing with such moral problems. We will discuss how basic ethical concepts, as morality, obligation, principle, virtue, value, rights etc. can be understood. We will consider the use of important normative ethical theories (such as consequentialism, Kantianism, rights-based ethics, and virtue ethics) and methodologies as they have been developed in applied ethics, as mid-level principles, casuistry, mixed-judgments, and empirical ethics. We will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each of these approaches with respect to their ability to address concrete moral questions.

Ethics and Public Policy (compulsory)

In this course, you will examine different topics involving ethical issues in the context of policymaking in a democratic society, or at least in political systems where policy choices are seen as a form of collective decision making in relation to the common good. To this purpose, we will analyse the relation between legitimacy, individual liberty and public goods. This in turn will cause us to l examine questions like:

  • What defines public policy, who develops public policy and in what way is it related to the institutions of politics and representation?
  • What are legitimate grounds for public policy and thus for state intervention? What is the normative structure of public policy and how (where) do ethics and ethical judgement play a role?
  • What is the role of individual autonomy? How is respect for autonomy related to the de facto capacity of citizens for rational choice serving their self-interest? Is government in a position to know better (or to act on this without ulterior motives)? Where is the dividing line between the fundamental rights of the individual and those of his neighbours (and thus of society)?
  • What is the philosophical basis of public policy? What is the role of scientific advice in making policy decisions? How can we open up policy making to strategic and future-oriented thinking? What is the specific political entity whose interests should be served by this; is this defined regionally, nationally or even on a global scale? In what cases, and why?
  • What is the importance of context? What happens when a societal issue is translated into a policy problem? And when a policy problem is translated into a factual or normative question? Or vice versa, when a factual or normative claim is translated into a policy advice? Or when policy tries to solve a societal issue?

Career orientation Students will get acquainted with policy oriented careers in practical philosophy.

Ethics of Institutions (compulsory)

This course aims to give the students a graduate-level introduction in the ethics of institutions. It aims to equip them to make a basic ethical analysis of an institution, and provide them with the knowledge of the relevant literature. The course also aids the students to develop their own normative position in the landscape of ethical theories, or to strengthen the critical understanding of a position that they may already be endorsing. The focus in the course is on the theoretical and methodological tools that are needed to make an ethical assessment of institutions. The example of higher education will be used to illustrate the differences between the different theoretical tools.

Methods & Tools in Practical Philosophy (compulsory)

This course is a follow-up to Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, which is taught in the first semester (2nd block) of the MA program. The course consists of two parts, that are closely connected. First, there are classroom discussions on how to be an applied ethicist in practice: what toolbox, what approaches do applied ethicists use and what role can they have in different domains (like medical ethics, business ethics and environmental ethics). The students are expected to learn to reflect on issues of expertise (what kind of expertise can I offer and is needed), on the status and authority of ethical deliberations in societal contexts and on the plurality of views on applied ethics. These deliberations are needed to succesfully finish a project for a stakeholder, which is the second part of the course. These projects also serve to improve the professional skills of students. The content of the project varies each year (e.g. a bank, a journal, an ethics committee).

Career orientation : Students will be stimulated and trained to improve the skills that they need in professional practices. Emphasis will be put on writing skills (reaching the non-philosophical audience) and organizing skills that require ethical expertise. Students will get in touch with people in professional practices and will help to organize lecture seminars with e.g. alumni.

The following courses must have been completed:
Ethical Theory and Moral Practice AEMV16002 and
Ethics of Institutions AEMV16001

The following courses must have been completed:
Ethical Theory and Moral Practice AEMV16002 and
Ethics of Institutions AEMV16001

Thesis Applied Ethics (compulsory)

There is no content available for this course.

Medical Ethics and Philosophy of Medicine

Is euthanasia of demented patients in a progressed state morally permissible? Do we have a moral duty to develop and use enhancement technologies? What should government, industry and individuals do in order to tackle problems like obesity? Biomedical ethics is an interesting and complex branch of applied ethics. At the start of the course students will choose a specific ethical issue for an in-depth analysis. They will work during the course on this issue and scrutinize arguments in order to develop a well-argued viewpoint or position resulting in a paper. During the course we will study the theoretical approaches, concepts, arguments and methods in medical ethics and philosophy of medicine necessary to identify, analyse and understand ethical issues and to find justifiable approaches to these issues.

Career orientation: Students will learn what type of roles ethicists in the field of health care ethics play and the type of expertise needed. The achieved knowledge and skills are useful for a professional career in health care organizations as well academic ethics centers.

You have to be enrolled for Applied Ethics. Other students need to contact the course-coördinator Ineke Bolt.
The entrance requirements for Exchange Students will be checked by International Office and the Programme coördinator. Therefore, you do not have to contact the Programme coördinator yourself.

Economic Ethics

Every domain of the modern economy raises ethical questions. Should every economic activity be relegated to the market? Is the responsibility of firms only to make profits or do they have a wider social responsibility? What should the role of the state be in the economy? These are questions which relate to the organization of the economy as a whole as much as to the responsibility of private firms and single individuals. These types of questions cannot be answered by merely considering economic efficiency as the guiding normative principle (which itself is an ethical value, grounded in ethical theory); other ethical values, such as justice, equality, freedom, political legitimacy, democracy etc. will also play a role. Competing ethical theories must therefore be considered to answer them. This course will provide an introduction into the ethical debates surrounding the major institutions of the modern economy (focusing on: property, markets, corporations, finance, labour, and the welfare state) and will prepare the student to recognize ethical dilemmas in economic policy making and apply ethical theories to these dilemmas. The course draws on (and presupposes knowledge of) basic normative theories in ethics and political philosophy, both historical and contemporary.

You have to be enrolled for Applied Ethics. Other students need to contact the course-coördinator Hanno Sauer.
The entrance requirements for Exchange Students will be checked by International Office and the Programme coördinator. Therefore, you do not have to contact the Programme coördinator yourself.

Sustainable World: humans, animals and nature

The notion that one should strive for a sustainable world seems widespread. Nonetheless, making this ambition operational appears to be rather complicated in practice, and implies many normative decisions. For instance, the need to address climate change-related problems is widely acknowledged. At the same time this acknowledgement does not automatically result in clear guidelines of how to deal with questions of food production for 9 billion people in 2050, the use of animals or the freedom to travel around the globe during holidays.
This course starts with these questions in the debate on sustainability and subsequently deals with their normative background. It focusses on the relation between assumptions at the level of ethical and political theory and applied questions of sustainability. The course deals with problems of sustainability as a normative issue that has direct implications for our dealing with humans, animals, and nature. Therefore, it includes elements from animal ethics and nature ethics, and discusses the relevance of the human rights framework, the problem of uncertainty and political and institutional questions in the context of sustainability.
You have to be enrolled for Applied Ethics. Other students need to contact the course-coördinator Frank Meijboom.
The entrance requirements for Exchange Students will be checked by International Office and the Programme coördinator. Therefore, you do not have to contact the Programme coördinator yourself.

Topics in Social and Political Philosophy

This “Topics Seminar” explores in depth issues and texts in the area of social and political philosophy. The topic for 2019-20 is “Socialism”.

Socialism remains one of the most prominent visions for the political and economic future. Yet it will be hard to find a political theory that is more misunderstood, and that attracts more confusion about its moral commitments and institutional proposals. In this course, we will give socialism a fair hearing. We will discuss recent developments in socialist political philosophy and take its strongest critics into account. We will consider its normative foundations, its institutional analysis of markets and governments, its egalitarian commitments and presuppositions regarding human nature. This will allows us to come to an informed assessment of its prospects and perils.

Socialism remains a remarkably powerful political philosophy. But many scholars have failed to keep up with its most sophisticated recent developments and, indeed, most sophisticated recent criticisms. This course aims to fill this gap.

Topics in Ethical Theory

This “Topics Seminar” explores in depth issues and texts in the area of ethical theory, including normative ethics, meta-ethics, and the foundations of moral judgment.
The topic for 2019-2020 is: Why care about the future and the past?

What morally relevant reasons do we have to care about how future people will do, and about what happened, and was done, to people who are no longer alive now? Such reasons can have to do with what future people are owed (morally speaking), and with what the descendants of people who are now dead --or perhaps also the dead themselves-- are owed, among other things because of wrongs in the past such as slavery and colonial exploitation. But these reasons can also have to do, more broadly, with what we value, and with how we understand ourselves and our place in the world.

In this course we will discuss various reasons and examine their tenability and importance. We will consider authors such as Thomas Nagel, Samuel Scheffler, Derek Parfit, and Bernard Williams. The primary emphasis of the course will be on reasons to care about future people, but we will also consider the past.

NB: Although some of the material covered in the course will be highly relevant to applied issues to do with, for example, climate change, this course is about exploring theoretical arguments and foundations rather than about application. All students from programmes other than the Research Master Philosophy need to contact the teacher to get permission to participate, and they will only get permission if their background in philosophy is sufficient.

History and Philosophy of Objectivity

What is it to be objective? Is objectivity always desirable? How can we achieve objectivity, or when should we rather avoid it? Objectivity seems to be one of the key ideals of a scientific and philosophical understanding of the world. However, it is still far from clear what exactly objectivity is, and whether it is something uniform across all domains. In this course we will investigate the notion of objectivity. We will work through Daston and Galison’s Objectivity (2007) in full, and consider selected studies on objectivity in relation to (scientific) objects, the notion of facticity, ancient epistemology, ethics and medicine, and to 19th/20th-century ideas on relativism. This way, we will build a methodologically and historically informed philosophical reflection on objectivity as an ideal within science and culture – also, we want to provide you with the conceptual and historical equipment to critically discuss Daston and Galison’s idea.

This course is for RMA students in the Graduate School of Humanities and students in the History and Philosophy of Science. Students of other MA-programmes (such as Applied Ethics), should check with the course coordinator or the RMA Philosophy coordinator (Mauro Bonazzi <m.bonazzi@uu.nl>), before enrolling, to ensure that they have the requisite philosophical background.
The entrance requirements for Exchange Students will be checked by International Office and the Programme coördinator. Therefore, you do not have to contact the Programme coördinator yourself.

Digital Ethics

As more and more aspects of our lives - including research in the humanities - become digitalized, there is an urgent need for careful reflection on the ethical issues raised by digitalization, informed both by an understanding of central ethical concepts and knowledge of how various technologies are deployed. This course is devoted to understanding the methods, principles, procedures, and institutions that govern the appropriate use of digital technology. Central ethical concepts addressed in the course include privacy, autonomy, nondiscrimination, transparency, responsibility, authenticity, and social justice. Central concepts form digital technology include datafication, algorithms, visualization, and access management.

The course will make central use of the “Digital Ethics Decision Aid (DEDA)” developed by the Utrecht Data School with the collaboration of the Ethics Institute. Using this tool as a guide, we will examine several pivotal cases that raise fundamental issues regarding the responsible use of digital technology, such as the unintentional discovery of confidential information in medical scans or database searches, or disputed claims to authenticity or ownership related to digital reproduction.

In addition, the field of ethics is itself subject to transformation to the extent to which a variety of digital methods are increasingly used to assist, automate, or even replace decision-making. Central here are questions regarding of the implications of Big Data processing, “smart” searchbots, automated decision supports, and techniques of data visualization for ethical judgments.

Informed by the lectures, readings, seminar discussions, and hands-on use of the DEDA, students form research teams to work jointly in developing and presenting their own ethical analyses of a concrete case. Building on the experience of a concrete analysis, students then each write a research paper on a digital ethics topic of their own choosing.

Interested M.A. students without a background in philosophy, ethics, or digital humanities may qualify to take the course; however, they should first contact the course coordinator: j.h.anderson@uu.nl.
The entrance requirements for Exchange Students will be checked by International Office and the Programme coordinator. Therefore, you do not have to contact the Programme coordinator yourself.

Tutorial I

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Students in the Master Applied Ethics who are interested in enrolling in this tutorial should contact the lecturer of this tutorial by e-mail in the enrollment period (30 October – 26 November). Part-time students will take priority in this registration.

Tutorial II

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Students in the Master Applied Ethics who are interested in enrolling in this tutorial should contact the lecturer of this tutorial by e-mail in the enrollment period (30 October – 26 November). Part-time students will take priority in this registration.

Independent Study Master

In the literature course, individual students read, review, and analyse literature (preferably books) in a specific area of applied ethics/ political philosophy. The average amount of literature will be 350-450p, depending on the difficulty, and to be decided by the supervisor. Staff will only supervise literature course that are closely connected to their own expertise. The literature should always be a coherent list in the field of moral/political philosophy and it should be of relevance for applied ethics.
This course involves an individual literature list and a few individual meetings on a specific topic. This topic should fit both your personal master’s curriculum and the specific research expertise of a faculty member who is available for supervision. The course is not a default course, but one that you only take if you have good reasons to deviate from the regular electives. You should speak about this beforehand both with your tutor and with the master's coordinator, also to enquire about whether there is a faculty member available to supervise you.For enrolling for this course, please contact: dr Jos Philipsbody { font-size: 9pt;

Internship Master Philosophy – Applied Ethics

The internship can be a traditional or a research-oriented internship. The internship counts for 10 ECTS. All students who plan to do an internship contact the internship coordinator of the department (Bart Mijland, b.mijland@uu.nl), who can advise on how to find an internship, suggests a supervising lecturer and advises on procedures and requirements. Before the start of the internship students have to develop an internship workplan and fill in the contract. The intership will be completed by submitting a written report to the supervising lecturer. This report includes a reflection on the experience and learning goals, (proof of) deliverables, and a reflection on theory and practice. .