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Introduction to Ethics


Seele P.

Docente titolare del corso

Schultz M. D.



Course Objectives
Readings are in English and Italian. The language of instruction is mainly English, discussions and contributions can be made in English or Italian. The course starts with the basic distinction between ‘morals’ and ‘ethics’, often used synonymously in everyday language. Where ‘morals’ refers to the values, customs, habits or traditions of individuals or groups, ‘ethics’ instead it the reason-based philosophical reflection upon ‘morals’. Five major approaches taken from the philosophical literature are discussed and presented: Aristotelian virtue ethics, Bentham and Mill’s ulilitarianism, Kant’s deontology, Habermas’ discourse ethics and the most recent approach: J. Greene’s moral tribes. In the course we analyze different moral dilemmas from different theoretical stances. The major approaches are subsequently transfered to different contexts of applied ethics (see below). 
Therefore the major objectives are:

  • Historical and systematic overview of philosophical ethics
  • Understanding the role of communication in ethics though discourse and responsibility
  • Applying ethics to different professional and practical contexts and moral dilemmas
  • Identifying ethical challenges in contemporary issues
  • Training reason-only based ethical reflection and critical thinking
  • Understanding non-Western ethical approaches such as Indian philosophy

Course Description
The course is organized in four steps.

  1. General introduction into philosophy and ethics, particularly the five main ethical approaches.
  2. Metaethics: Understanding the foundations of morals and ethics and the implications of the distinction between the concept of right and wrong.
  3. Applied Ethics: This third block is the major share of the course. Applied ethical contexts presented and discussed are: environmental ethics, business ethics, ethics of civil disobedience and violence, reparations & apologies, and animal ethics.
  4. Outlook. Finally contemporary challenges such as information and machine ethics in the digital age are presented and discussed.

Examination information
Individual written exam (100%)

Aristotele: Nicomachian Ethics; Politics
Blackburn, S. (2001). Being good: A short introduction to ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Connolly, P. et al (2009): Ethics in Action: A case-based approach. Wiley-Blackwell
Dalai Lama (2016): An Appeal by the Dalai Lama to the World: Ethics Are More Important Than Religion. Benevento Publisher
Greene, J. (2014): Moral Tribes. Emotion, Reason and the Gap between Us and Them. Penguin Books.
Keller, F. (2009): Basic Ethical Theory. In: Peggy Connolly et al: Ethics in Action. 11-51
Seele, Peter (2018): What makes a Business Ethicist? A Reflection on the transition from applied philosophy to critical thinking. Journal of Business Ethics. 150,3. 647-565. DOI 10.1007/s10551-016-3177-8
Silwa, P. (2017): Moral Understanding as Knowing Right from Wrong. Ethics 127: 521–552
Singer, P. (2009): Salvare una vita si può. ilSaggiatore.

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