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Administrative Ethics



Ethics matters. It impacts our private lives, informs the structure of governmental institutions, guides our public policies and is of concern to the conduct of civil servants. The importance of ethical reflection becomes visible every time state officials or lay citizens are confronted with moral choices that permeate their actions, whether these choices concern our welfare and health systems, our sexual behavior, the borders of our community, the rules for our mutual interactions or the kinds of restrictions and incentives the state can legitimately impose on us. The purpose of this course is to examine two approaches for dealing with such moral choices. The first approach is generally known as applied ethics, and is premised on the claim that the workings of morality can be formulated in terms of a unified ethical theory. This approach implies that, ultimately, moral questions have correct answers and that the role of any appropriate ethical theory is to articulate a coherent conception of morality that can generate and justify these answers. The second (historically more recent) approach is usually called political ethics. Unlike defenders of applied ethics, supporters of political ethics think that disagreement is a persistent feature of our moral lives. Different moral considerations often pull or push us in opposite directions, and are not always reducible to a perfectly coherent ethical conception. Following this second approach, the task of ethics is not that of articulating a theory that captures the ultimate unity of morality. Rather, ethics is about formulating those principles whereby we can manage or, more modestly, make sense of our moral conflicts.

Course objectives

  1. Students should become familiar with some of the major debates and concepts of ethics (at a minimum, they should be able to master concepts such as ‘utilitarianism’, ‘deontology’, ‘virtue ethics’, ‘political ethics’, and so on).
  2. Students should acquire a close understanding of key modes of reasoning, interpreting and constructing an argument in ethical theory;
  3. Students should be able to identify the main claim or thesis of a philosophical text, summarize the way in which the argument is articulated and identify the limits of a philosophical argument;
  4. Students should be able to read ethical theory texts with a critical eye and think about the way in which the historical, social and political context of these texts matter for the argument that is being presented or for the mode of reasoning and the discourse adopted by various moral philosophers;
  5. Students should be able to articulate the ways in which the questions raised by different ethical theories can impact or inform the problems of governance, public policy and administration.
  6. Students should be able to master the basic presentation skills that are required in the context of a standard presentation event (conference, workshop, etc.).


On the right side of programme front page of the E-guide you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Blackboard.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures (attendance highly recommended)

  • Workshops (4 x 2 hours) on the methodology of academic poster-making and on podcast-making

  • Collective poster presentation session (2 hours): 5 final group posters will be presented in a final collective poster presentation session. The posters presented in this collective session will be selected on the basis of the mean of student rankings and teaching staff rankings of the academic posters. NB: Student rankings will not count in the final grade of the posters or podcasts, but will partly determine what posters are going to be presented during the final selection.

Working group attendance
No absence from the working groups is allowed, unless adequately justified (for example, a medical certificate or a message from the study advisor). If the student has an excuse for missing a working group, the student has to hand in an extra assignment (decided by the working group teacher) within one week following the working group the student did not attend. If the student does not hand in the extra assignment in time, the student will be excluded from further participating in the working group, which leads to a failure of the 2nd assignment for the course.

If the student provides no excuse for missing the working group, the student will have to hand in 2 extra assignments (decided by the working group teacher) within one week following the working group the student did not attend. Absent these 2 extra assignments, the student will be excluded from further participating in the working group, which leads to a failure of the 2nd assignment for the course.

Course Load

According to established norms, a 5 ECTS course requires (5x28=) 140 hours of study.
For this course the study load is roughly divided as follows:
Lectures (7x2): 14 hours
Examination: 5 hours
Poster and podcast workshops and preparation: 8 hours
Self-study: 113 hours

Assessment method

1 group academic poster and podcast presentation: 40% of the final grade
1 written exam: 60% of the final grade
The grade of both exams has to be 5.5 or higher
Compensation is not possible.

Students that want to take part in a resit for a written exam, are required to register via uSis. Use the activity number that can be found on the ‘timetable exams’. For dates and times, please see course syllabus and rooster online.

For further information about the exam rules please see: Rules and Regulations


Blackboard will be used for communicating with students and for sharing the necessary documents (syllabus, paper assignment description, etc.).

Reading list

To be specified.


Register for every course and workgroup via uSis. Some courses and workgroups have a limited number of participants, so register on time (before the course starts). In uSis you can access your personal schedule and view your results. Registration in uSis is possible from four weeks before the start of the course.

Also register for every course in Blackboard. Important information about the course is posted there.


Dr. A. Poama a.poama@fgga.leidenuniv.nl