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Ethics II


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to:

  • BA students in Filosofie, who have successfully completed at least 70 ECTS credits of the mandatory components of the first and second year of their bachelor’s programme, including History of Modern Philosophy, Griekse en Romeinse filosofie or History of Political Philosophy, Ethiek, Politieke filosofie / Political Philosophy.

  • BA students in Philosophy: Global and Comparative Perspectives, who have successfully completed at least 70 ECTS credits of the mandatory components of the first and second year of their bachelor’s programme, including World Philosophies: Greek and Roman Antiquity, World Philosophies: Modern Europe, Ethics, Political Philosophy.

  • Pre-master’s students in Philosophy who are in possession of an admission statement and who have to complete an advanced seminar, to be selected from package B.


Ethics Post-Wittgenstein

Wittgenstein’s thought (and certain of his inheritors, such as Cora Diamond and Stanley Cavell) has resisted domestication by the Anglo-Analytic tradition (those inheritors more still). One traditional view regarding his ethical thought was that he had none to speak of (Peter Hacker) and yet Wittgenstein has recently inspired profuse expressions of ethical thinking and interpretive work, as manifest in the dozen or so volumes published on Wittgenstein and ethics in the last decade.

The scope of those claiming to work in Wittgenstein’s light ranges from, e.g., those that regard him as purveying a merely contemplative approach to life (such as Sabina Lovibond and Reshef Agam-Segal) to those, e.g., that see him as reinvigorating the possibility of genuinely practical reflection on animal life and broader social issues (such as Ian Hacking, Alice Crary, and Naomi Scheman). Although the sheer diversity of interpretative and practical approaches to Wittgenstein might seem to count against the usefulness of studying Wittgenstein’s thought, we might rather see that diversity as the virtuous fruit of grappling rigorously with the difficulty of articulating the ethical in a bewilderingly variegated world. Insofar as the endeavour to simply apply traditional ethical theories proves unhelpful in addressing many contemporary crises, coming to appreciate that difficulty through a look at these diverse receptions of Wittgenstein might be of significant value.

We will study primary and secondary texts, holding the landscape together by keeping in view Wittgenstein’s relentless efforts to investigate notions like objectivity and the irreducible difficulties of articulating what Diamond calls a “total vision of life” for understanding others and ourselves. The course may touch on issues such as centrality of seeing and the the role of literature in ethics, moral perfectionism, naturalism and rationality in ethics, relations of the practical to the contemplative, the moral status of animals, and accounts of immanent critique.

Course objectives

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • employ certain of Wittgenstein’s signature philosophical contributions to ethical thought;

  • understand various interpretations and uses of that thought in the secondary literature;

  • develop and defend, orally and in writing, their own positions in philosophical ethics by creatively and rigorously employing the aforementioned tools.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Class attendance and active participation is required.

Assessment method


  • Participation (15%)

  • Midterm paper of 3000 words (35%)

  • Final paper of 5000 words (50%)


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of several subtests (see above).


The resit consists of a paper that replaces the final paper. No separate resit will be offered for the midterm paper. The mark for the resit (100%) will replace all previously earned marks for subtests.
Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination cannot take 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

Required readings will be announced through Brightspace.


Enrolment through MyStudymap is not possible for this course. 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.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

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


Not applicable.