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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 (35%)

  • Intermediate writing assignment (15%)

  • Final Essay (50%)

Further requirements:

  • Class attendance requirement: students absent for more than 3 classes will not be allowed to take the final essay and will not be allowed to pass the course. This also applies to students who do not make up the reading assignments for all missed classes by the end of the teaching period.

  • Students must receive at least a 5.5 for the final essay in order to pass the course


The final mark for the course is determined by (i) the weighted average of the assignemnts (see above), combined with the class attendance requirement.


Students can resit an essay assignment if they have failed the course and if they also received less than 5.5 for that essay. It is not possible to make up for the attendance requirement.

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

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.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website


  • 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.