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Ethics and Economics


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to MA students in Philosophy 60 EC, specialisation Philosophical Perspectives on Politics and the Economy.


This course focuses on the systematic ethical analysis of economic institutions and the social science of economics.

We will examine how economics works from an ethical perspective and study key economics concepts. What do economists mean by rationality and how does it relate to prudence or selfishness? What different notions of welfare/well-being have been proposed? What are the ethics of efficiency and how is it applied in cost-benefit analysis? Can economic methods contribute to ethical analysis?

In addition we will examine the ethics of economic institutions and policy making. What are property rights, and what is their moral relevance? What is a market, and what are the virtues and moral limits of markets? How should we think about controversial markets such as for human kidneys?

Course objectives

This course aims to provide an overview of central issues and debates in the field of economic ethics that will complement the other courses in the 3PE programme.

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • the linkages between economics and moral philosophy;

  • the normative assumptions that underline standard economic concepts and theories such as efficiency, market, and rational choice theory;

  • the role of ethical reasoning in economic policy-making.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • critically evaluate the concepts studied and the role they play in (the background of) academic and policy debates;

  • apply these concepts in an original argumentative way to identify and address real world problems.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Note: Class attendance is required and includes preparatory reading and commenting on texts.

Assessment method


  • Midterm Essay: 40%

  • Final Essay: 60%

Class attendance requirement: Students who miss more than 2 classes will have their final grade reduced by 0.5 for each additional absence.


The final mark for the course is determined by (i) the weighted average of the essays combined with (ii) the class attendance requirement.


Students can resit an essay assignment that they have failed if their overall grade for the entire course is 5 or less. It is not possible to make up for the attendance requirement.

Inspection and feedback

Students will have an opportunity to discuss the grading of their essays with the instructor.

Reading list

Recommended advance reading

For those without a background in economics, reading through one of these will be very helpful:

  • Heath, Joseph. Economics Without Illusions: Debunking the Myths of Modern Capitalism. New York: Currency, 2010.

  • Harford, Tim. [Any Edition]. The Undercover Economist. Reprint edition. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks.


Enrolment through MyStudymap is mandatory.


  • 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.