Academic Year: 
ECTS Credits: 
Course Description: 

This course is an introduction to normative ethics, touching also on some metaethical issues. Our main task will be to understand and examine different kinds of normative ethical theory. A normative ethical theory is a theory that aims to answer substantive moral questions, such as: What acts are right or wrong? What kind of person should I be? We will discuss the contrast between utilitarian, or more broadly consequentialist, moral theories, and Kantian, or more broadly deontological, theories. We will discuss the relative strengths and weaknesses of these types of normative ethical theory, as well as the third major approach to normative theory, virtue ethics, which focuses primarily on personal character.

Learning Outcomes: 

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

  • demonstrate a clear understanding of the nature of consequentialist, deontological and virtue theoretic approaches to normative ethical theory
  •  explain various strengths and weaknesses of the different normative theories
  •  analyze and charitably reconstruct ethical arguments from readings, and summarise them clearly and succinctly
  • perform their own evaluation and critique of the validity and soundness of arguments, both orally and in writing

Two-year Philosophy MA students will be graded according to an in-class written final exam, taken as part of the Theoretical and Practical Philosophy exam scheduled for the end of spring term. Other students taking the class for credit must submit a 2,500 word final paper on a topic agreed in advance with the instructor, and the grade for the class will be primarily determined by the grade earned for the final paper. For all students, participation in class and additional assignments (e.g., in-class presentation, short ungraded writing assignments) will be taken into consideration in case of a borderline grade, and the grade earned on the exam or final paper may accordingly be adjusted up or down by up to 1/3 of a letter grade.