nl en

Moral Psychology


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, History of Political Philosophy or Griekse en Romeinse filosofie, 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.


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?

  • 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 the results of automatic, unconscious processes?

  • Are moral judgments and moral motivation necessarily connected?

  • Does self-control have a purely instrumental role to play in our moral agency?

  • How is weakness of will possible?

  • Is weakness of will better explained as acting against our better judgment or as being too ready to reconsider our intentions?

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 MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Class attendance is required.

Assessment method


A class presentation and a final paper.


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

  • Class presentation (20%)

  • Final paper (80%)


If the final mark is unsatisfactory, there is an option for re-examination by writing a paper. The mark for the resit will replace previously earned marks. 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

All texts will be made available at the beginning of the course.


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 information bar at the right hand side of the page.

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


Not applicable.