Kies de Nederlandse taal
Course module: FRRMV16013
Topics in Moral Psychology
Course infoSchedule
Course codeFRRMV16013
ECTS Credits5
Category / LevelM (Master)
Course typeCourse
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byFaculty of Humanities; Utrecht Graduate School of Humanities; Domein Filosofie en Religiewetenschap RMA;
Contact persondr. A. Kalis
Contactperson for the course
dr. A. Kalis
Other courses by this lecturer
dr. H.C. Sauer
Other courses by this lecturer
Teaching period
2  (12/11/2018 to 25/01/2019)
Teaching period in which the course begins
Time slotC: MON-afternoon, TUE-afternoon,THU-morning
Study mode
RemarkCounts towards the fulfillment of the “Topics Seminar” requirement for RMA Philosophy students.
Enrolment periodfrom 22/10/2018 09:00 up to and including 23/10/2018 23:59
Course application processOsiris
Enrolling through OSIRISYes
Enrolment open to students taking subsidiary coursesYes
Waiting listNo
Course placement process(Sub)school
The intended purpose of this Topics Seminar is for the participating student  (1) to become familiar with positions taken in the current debates over the specific topic area of the course; (2) to appreciate the arguments for and against the positions; and (3) to develop an independent judgment about the most promising approach in this area.     
This “Topics Seminar” explores in depth issues and texts in the area of moral psychology, understood to include issues in philosophical psychology, action theory, philosophical anthropology, theories of the emotion, subjectivity, and motivation.  The specific topic will be different each time, so as to tailor it to current research developments in the field.

Previous topic (2016-17): “Evolutionary Psychology, Institutional Design, and Ethical Behavior"
In this course we will study the complex relationship between the psychological tendencies of human beings, as they have emerged through evolution, the demands of morality and justice, and the institutional, social, or cultural contexts in which humans make ethical choices.  
We will examine accounts from evolutionary sociobiology regarding the way in which various human tendencies have emerged in tandem with "niches" (including social practices, cultural traditions, and institutional structures) that facilitate behavior that may be no longer be adaptive in view of current demands on ethical behavior.  Cases to be discussed will likely include  in-group/out-group discrimination, procrastination, and tragedy of commons (e.g., climate change).
We will look at theorists who draw on evolutionary biology, cognitive neuroscience, anthropology and psychology to argue that psychological altruism, mutualism, and a capacity for normative guidance have enabled and are involved in the process of moral niche-construction.  We will also discuss the biases that can undermine cooperative behavior, as well as the meta-ethical questions raised by ethical claims based on evolutionary theory. 
Guiding question for the seminar discussions include the following:  Under what conditions do ethically problematic biases manifest themselves? What sorts of situations, processes and mechanisms foster stable cooperation? Can we take any lessons from the way these problems have been ‘solved’, and apply them to our own institutions? Does a better understanding of the origins of our moral loyalties, provide reason to rethink them in our present day and age?

This course is for Students History and Philosophy of Science, RMA Philosophy. Students of other MA-programmes, please contact the Course Coordinator. 
The entrance requirements for Exchange Students will be checked by International Office and the Programme coördinator. Therefore, you do not have to contact the Programme coördinator yourself.
Entry requirements
Prerequisite knowledge
Broad familiarity with undergraduate-level work in the areas covered in the course. Students from outside the RMA programme who have not completed MA or advanced undergraduate courses in this area should consult the instructor before enrolling.
Private study materials
Will be made available via Blackboard.
Required materials
Instructional formats

General remarks
The course is taught in the form of a seminar in which lecture, close reading, discussion, group work, and presentations are integrated. Typically, meetings begin with questions or comments prepared by students, followed by discussion. The final hour will typically be devoted to a lecture on the reading for the subsequent meeting.

Class session preparation
Students are expect to have read carefully the required reading in advance of the seminar meeting and to be prepared to participate actively in the discussion of the texts and related issues.

Contribution to group work
Active participation, including taking responsibility for the discussions in groups.

Active participation
Test weight0
Minimum grade-

Test weight30
Minimum grade-

The assignment or examination is assessed for demonstrating understanding of the texts, skills of critical argumentation, and written communication skills.

A written assignment, take-home examination, or in-class examination is due half-way through the term.

Test weight70
Minimum grade-

The final paper is assessed for the quality of the research question, cogency of the argumentation, clarity of written expression, and demonstrated ability to relate the analysis to a clear understanding of the texts for the course.

The final paper is due in week 9.

Kies de Nederlandse taal