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Moral Psychology


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to:

  • BA students in Philosophy, who have successfully completed their first year, and who have also completed at least 10 EC’s of the mandatory components of their second year, including: Political Philosophy.

  • Pre-master’s students in Philosophy who are in possession of an admission statement, and for whom this course is part of their programme.


Moral psychology seeks to understand our moral agency. It is an interdisciplinary field that draws on both the conceptual resources of philosophical ethics and the empirical resources of the human sciences. In this course, we will address important ethical issues in the light of recent empirical evidence about the psychological assumptions underlying our ethical theories, moral judgments and moral behaviour.

The questions to be discussed include the following:

  • Are actions ever freely willed?

  • Are agents ever morally responsible for their actions?

  • What makes us moral agents?

  • How are we to understand self-control in the light of new empirical evidence?

  • How is weakness of will possible?

  • Can empirical evidence help us to adjudicate between competing ethical theories such as rationalism and sentimentalism?

  • Should we be sceptical about views of character as portrayed in philosophical virtue ethics?

  • What lies at the heart of moral judgment?
    *Are moral judgments and moral motivation necessarily connected?
    oral theories make all kinds of implicit assumptions about agents and the world they inhabit. In this course we will investigate several of these assumption and the central concepts they employ. We will investigate what makes an event an action; what makes something into an agent; whether agents are persons; what exactly is motivation and desire; can we hold such beings responsible fort heir actions; how is weakness of the will possible. In addition, we will look into some contemporary psychological research into moral motivation and determine what insights this research gives for moral psychology.

Course objectives

The aim of this course is to provide students with a detailed knowledge of some major issues in contemporary moral psychology.

Students who successfully complete the course will have:

  • a good understanding of the following concepts: moral agency, action, free will, determinism, character, moral responsibility, moral judgment, desire, reason, emotion, moral motivation, self-control and weakness of will;

  • insight into the contemporary rationalism-sentimentalism debate and situationism.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • pursue a philosophical and empirically informed approach to important topics in moral psychology;

  • recognize different psychological assumptions in ethical texts and evaluate their plausibility;

  • critically engage with important literature on the issues discussed.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Class attendance is required.

Assessment method


  • Midterm paper

  • Final paper

  • One class presentation


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of the two papers:

  • Midterm paper: 30%

  • Final paper: 70%

    Successful completion of the presentation is required.


If the final mark is unsatisfactory, there is an option for re-examination by writing a paper. The mark for the resit will replace all previously earned marks for subtests. No separate resits will be offered for midterm test. Class participation and the presentation are required for taking the resit.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

  • Tiberius, Valerie (2015), Moral Psychology: A Contemporary Introduction, New York: Routledge.

  • Other texts will be made available at the beginning of the course.


Enrolment through uSis for this course is not possible. Students are requested to submit their preferences for the third-year electives by means of an online registration form. They will receive the instruction and online registration form by email (uMail account); in June for courses scheduled in semester 1, and in December for courses scheduled in semester 2. Registration in uSis will be taken care of by the Education Administration Office.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the information bar at the right hand side of the page.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc., contact the Education Administration Office Huizinga


Not applicable.