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180101 SE Bioethics (2021W)

Evolutionary Ethics

5.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 18 - Philosophie
Continuous assessment of course work


Note: The time of your registration within the registration period has no effect on the allocation of places (no first come, first served).


max. 25 participants
Language: German


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

UPDATE 11/19/2021: until further notice we are switching to distance learning mode, i.e. using the video conference software BigBlueButton on Moodle.

If the COVID-19 situation and public health regulations permit, the seminar will take place in a hybrid online/offline format. Participation will be possible in person or via BigBlueButton. However, assessment and time slots for online sessions remain the same. If participation due to health or travel reasons is not possible, please get in touch with the course leader.

Monday 11.10. 13:15 - 14:45 Hybride Lehre
Hörsaal 3F NIG 3.Stock
Monday 18.10. 13:15 - 14:45 Hybride Lehre
Hörsaal 3F NIG 3.Stock
Monday 25.10. 13:15 - 14:45 Hybride Lehre
Hörsaal 3F NIG 3.Stock
Monday 08.11. 13:15 - 14:45 Hybride Lehre
Hörsaal 3F NIG 3.Stock
Monday 15.11. 13:15 - 14:45 Hybride Lehre
Hörsaal 3F NIG 3.Stock
Monday 22.11. 13:15 - 14:45 Hybride Lehre
Hörsaal 3F NIG 3.Stock
Monday 29.11. 13:15 - 14:45 Hybride Lehre
Hörsaal 3F NIG 3.Stock
Monday 06.12. 13:15 - 14:45 Digital
Monday 13.12. 13:15 - 14:45 Digital
Monday 10.01. 13:15 - 14:45 Digital
Monday 17.01. 13:15 - 14:45 Digital
Monday 24.01. 13:15 - 14:45 Digital
Monday 31.01. 13:15 - 14:45 Digital


Aims, contents and method of the course

In this course we address the interplay between biology and ethics. While bioethics traditionally includes the application and critical reflection of ethical principles in biology, so-called "evolutionary ethics" is about the introduction of biological knowledge into ethics. Associated with this are a number of philosophical problems - depending on how strong the respective claims are. These range from relatively indisputable descriptions of the biological dispositions of human thought and action, which can enrich the ethical discourse to enforce accepted norms, to attempts to justify ethical norms with the help of biology. These differently strong programs of an evolutionary ethics each have their own claims and associated problems.

In addition to the purely descriptive "auxiliary service" of evolutionary ethics, there are also a number of successful explanatory approaches and models on the genesis and framework conditions for moral action, for example using evolutionary game theory or evolutionary anthropology.

In addition to the possibilities that evolutionary ethics can offer philosophical ethics, we discuss conceptual problems (naturalistic fallacy, should-be problem, metaethics, group selection) as well as difficulties that arise from its thoroughly controversial past (dark chapters such as social Darwinism, Eugenics etc.).

Overall, this is intended to provide a critical overview of useful perspectives, known fallacies and problems of the interaction between biology and ethics.

Assessment and permitted materials

Assessment will be based on: active participation, home-assignments, co-chairing of a session, and a reflection paper.

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

Participants of this course should be familiar with the central theses and problems of evolutionary ethics, be able to understand, discuss, and critically reflect upon them in their historical and contemporary context.

Two unauthorized absences will be excused. By registering for this course/seminar, you tacitly agree to having all your electronic submissions checked by the plagiarism detection software Turnitin.

Assessment scheme: active participation (20%), home-assignments (20%), co-chairing of a session (10%), and a reflection paper (50%).
1 (excellent) 100 – 90%
2 (good) 89 – 81%
3 (satisfactory) 80 – 71%
4 (sufficient) 70 - 61%
5 (insufficient) 60 – 0%

Examination topics

Differently strong programs of evolutionary ethics; criticism of programs of evolutionary ethics; is-ought fallacy & naturalistic fallacy; metaethics; evolution of morality and cooperation; cultural evolution and game theory; free will; sociobiology and evolutionary psychology; naturalism; morally analogous behavior in animals; and much more, depending on your interests.

Reading list

- Gräfrath, Bernd, Evolutionäre Ethik? Philosophische Programme, Probleme und Perspektiven der Soziobiologie, de Gruyter, 1997.
- FitzPatrick, William, "Morality and Evolutionary Biology", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2021 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2021/entries/morality-biology/>.
- Wuketits, Franz M. (2011), Die Naturgeschichte von Gut und Böse. Biologie in unserer Zeit, 41: 334-340. https://doi.org/10.1002/biuz.201110460
- Additional articles and texts will be announced in the seminar and on Moodle.

Association in the course directory

Last modified: Mo 10.01.2022 12:09