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B2-HUM4: Introduction to Ethics (19-20)

Dutch Title

Inleiding ethiek

Course Code




Year of Study

Bachelor 2




7,5 ECTS




Dr. Fernando Suárez Muller



Dr. Fernando Suárez Muller



1. Differentiate several theories and proposals to ethics (1a)

2. Evaluate the argumentative force of critical positions and the alternatives to existing ethical political and economic norms (2a, 3a)

3. Situate ethical and social questions in their historical context  (1b)

4. Reproduce the content of different positions about ethics (1a)

5. Recognize the dynamics of changing structures in society (2a)

6. Connect to current issues in society on ethics (2a)

7. Write an academic and philosophical paper (2b, 3a, 4a)  

8. Construct logical arguments on relevant issues of ethics (3a, 4a)

Content Description

Humanization 2: Introduction to Ethics is a course dedicated to studying the basic approaches to ethical thought as they developed throughout the history of philosophy. Ethics is seen as the basis of a normative approach that has implications for political and economic thought. The subtitle of the course is therefore: Towards a Global Ethics, Politics, and Economics. Ethical reflection cannot abstract from the timeframe in which individuals live. In order to constitute such a new Global Ethics we need to create a new concept of community. This is what I call The Return to Koinonía, using a Greek term in order to express our belonging to a broader community of beings.

This implies however a new concept of love – a humanistic love for something which transcends humanity and is intimately involved with Being. This explains the extension of the new subtitle of this year’s course: The Redefinition of Love. The idea is that there needs to be something activating the System of Morals. This in my view is Love, which I like to redefine as the inner disposition of any subject to realize what is true, good and beautiful. So, besides being an introduction to the basic approaches to ethics as they have developed throughout history, the course will pursue this general aim: to show that ethics today needs to focus on a global idea of community and that this implies a reorientation of humanism towards an idea of love that exceeds what has been called philanthropy or humanitarianism, which is always a love confined to humanity.

The course follows the development of ethics historically, finally arriving at the most poignant problem of global society: the future existence of mankind. We will start with Socrates, Plato as representing the ontological approach in ethics. Aristotle and his concepts of virtue ethics and eudemonism. We will focus on modernity: the concept of humanistic ethics in the Renaissance (Ficino, Pico, Erasmus) and the political conception of the ideal state in Renaissance utopian thinking (Morus).This concept prepares the contractualist approach to ethics as designed by Thomas Hobbes. The importance of subjectivity and individualism also prepares the emotivist approach to ethics as designed by David Hume and Adam Smith. The deontological approach to ethics that partly already started with Plato and Stoicism is developed in a modern way by Immanuel Kant. Utilitarianism and existentialism are two contemporary approaches to ethics, that, as we will see, are being complemented by a series of approaches that taken together can account for a global approach to ethics in which two principles, responsibility and love, dominate, constituting the basis for a new understanding of community (koinonía). 


Interactive Lectures and text comprehension seminars will take place two times a week. We will endeavor the connection between ethics and politics/economics on the one side and between ethics and the motivating ground of love. We will use audio-visual means if necessary. Students will be encouraged to communicate their reading experiences in short. There will be continuous feedback in both directions.


The course will close with a short paper of ca. 3000 words. The student must show descriptive and reflective capacities, being able to make interconnections between theories (and reality) as well as being academically critical.


and other prescribed sources

Obligatory literature:

  • Plato, The Republic,
  • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
  • Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, On the Dignity of Man,
  • Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan,
  • David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals,
  • David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature,
  • Immanuel Kant, Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals,
  • Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason,
  • Jeremy Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation
  • John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism,
  • Arthur Schopenhauer, On the Sufferings in the World,
  • Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals,
  • Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism,
  • Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus,
  • Hans Küng, A Global Ethic for Global Politics and Economics,
  • Virginia Held, Ethics of Care