Law and Ethics


About this course

If we assume that law seeks to do justice, solutions to moral dilemmas and problems are founded in ethical theories of justice (rather than jurisprudence). These theories serve as linchpins to the answer: “what is the right thing to do? and/or ‘what kind of person or legal professional should I be?” (in any given or in a particular situation and either as a judge, a lawyer or, just as a person, a citizen or parent, teacher or friend, etc.). Thinking about law and justice in a theoretical way sharpens the mind. It opens the insight that justice is not merely subjective - a matter of opinion. Rather, we discover through theory that justice is complex and can be objectified, thought out, abstracted from opinion, doubted, rejected or defended. Immersing ourselves in theory also allows for a reflexive attitude: becoming critical upon one’s own value system, exposing our presumptions and biases that we hold, allowing to achieve better judgement when we must decide upon matters that impact upon others. (To be sure: we will all be in positions of responsibility in which our decisions affect others.)

In this course, we explore ethical theories of justice and virtue. We do not do this by reading the original texts of justice theorists but rather by engaging in a discussion with one of the most rewarding authors on how to interpret and understand theories of justice: Michael J. Sandel. In his Justice. What is the Right Thing to Do? he introduces us to a selective number of theories of justice, from classical to modern and contemporary thinkers. By means of timeless questions – such as: “is torture always wrong? Are markets fair? Is bodily self-determination absolute? Are there duties to be loyal to one’s community?” – he introduces theories of justice through which we may understand better contested issues such as surrogate motherhood, equal rights, obligations regarding poverty eradication and all kinds of everyday ethical dilemmas. The book of Sandel will be supplemented with texts that highlight, criticize, or complement elements of the ethical theories as presented by Sandel.

The course exists of a series of lectures as well as a series of seminars, meant to discuss and reflect upon the themes discussed in the book and the additional texts.
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Learning outcomes


1. Knowledge, understanding, insight
After this course:
• Has working insight in dominant Western ethical theories, in particular utilitarianism, Kantianism, liberalism, and libertarianism, as well as Aristotelian virtue ethics.

2. Contextual positioning
After this course:
• Has a better understanding of the relationship between law, morality and justice, illustrated by contemporary professional, social and ethical dilemmas.
• Has improved dealing with legal problems from the point of view of ethical theories.

3. General academic and legal skills
After this course:
• Is able to recognise theories of justice in contemporary discussions on legal issues and is able to assess the relevance of these theories in topical cases and is able to defend and argue a particular moral position, in both writing and oral expression.
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Good to know

Do you study at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) or Wageningen University and Research (WUR)? You can enrol via

Required prior knowledge

You must meet the following requirements

  • Completed all course modules listed below
  • Introduction to Law of Obligations (RGBUPRV001)
  • Introduction to Property Law (RGBUPRV002)
  • Foundations of Law (RGBUSBR001)
  • Intro Constitutional/Administrative Law (RGBUSBR002)
  • Introduction to Criminal Law (RGBUSTR001)

Link to more information

If anything remains unclear, please check the FAQ of Utrecht University.


  • Start date

    11 November 2024

    • Ends
      2 February 2025
    • Term *
      Period 2
    • Location
    • Instruction language
    Enrolment period closed
These offerings are valid for students of TU Eindhoven