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Topics in Philosophy: Ethics




Admissions requirements

History of Philososphy


How are we to live? What would make a good life? These questions cannot be avoided, as each of us will have to make decisions, shaping the kind of life we lead. Which profession do I pursue? Should I marry? Is there anything more important than my freedom? The riddle of good and evil lies at the very heart of our lives, and refusing to solve it is but another way of making a guess at it.

In this course, students will be introduced to ethics and moral philosophy through the works of six thinkers representing fundamental positions within the western debate. We will take Aristotle’s Eudemian Ethics as the representative of the classical tradition in conjunction with a small work of Seneca’s about what a happy life consists of. We will study some selected parts from Hobbes’ Leviathan and from Hume’s Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, which have both shaped the Enlightenment view on ethics. After that we shall read an interesting work of Rousseau’s, the thinker who has molded the Romantic outlook. Lastly, we will end this course with the father of the postmodern attitude, Nietzsche’s Genealogy of morals. Students thus familiarize themselves with notions of virtue, duty, practical reason, desire, the state of nature, rights, passions, human uniqueness and individuality, human nature in general, happiness and with the notion of master and slave morality. Students may read the core texts in an English translation. No secondary literature will be required.

Course objectives

  • read and understand difficult texts;

  • describe and explain core concepts of moral theory, specifically virtue, duty, passions and practical reason;

  • describe and explain divergent fundamental perspectives in moral theory;

  • discuss problems of moral philosophy in a clear, coherent and civil manner, both in speech and writing.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

This is not a lecture course. All classes will be conducted as structured conversations between the instructor and the students, proceeding more or less like a Socratic dialogue with the week’s reading as the subject matter. Students thus improve both their critical thinking skills and their ability to clearly express difficult positions.

This means it is essential all students are properly prepared before coming to class, which will be ensured by requiring all students to write a coherent one page journal on their reading beforehand. A journal serves as an entrance ticket to a seminar.

This teaching style also means the texts and their authors take center stage; The classroom instructor is to be regarded as merely a more advanced student, helping along the other students in their attempt to understand the core texts.

This course will conclude with a 1500 word final essay, to be submitted one week after the final seminar.

Class will meet for two hours twice a week




There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

  • Aristotle, Eudemian Ethics, Cambridge University Press

  • Seneca, The Happy Life in Dialogues and Essays, Oxford University Press

  • Hobbes, Leviathan, Clarendon Press Oxford

  • David Hume, Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, Oxford University Press

  • Rousseau, Reveries of the Solitary Walker, Oxford World’s Classics

  • Rousseau, Confessions, Oxford World’s Classics

  • Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals, Dover Publications


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact



See Blackboard for additional information, such as the reading schedule etc.