Family Ethics

Enseignant(s): Roser Dominic
Cursus: Master
Type d'enseignement: Cours
Langue(s) du cours: Anglais
Semestre(s): SA-2021

The family raises a host of ethical questions. Historically, these questions were seen as philosophically less important than those arising in the area conceived as the public realm. But recently, renewed attention has been given to this crucial aspect of our lifes. In this course, we aim to discuss practically relevant topics regarding the family in a philosophically well-grounded way.

No previous knowledge is required. The course can even serve as a way of familiarizing oneself with contemporary philosophical ethics. But the willingness to participate actively – in the form of critically reading a text each week and contributing oral and written viewpoints – is essential.

In the first part of the course, we will go through foundational issues:

  • What is the value of the family? What justifies organizing societies in these units and giving legal protection to them?
  • What advantages might there be to the “traditional” family model? Which alternatives score better, particularly in light of feminist, queer, and liberal criticisms?
  • What is special – from a philosophical point of view – about biological relationships?

In the second part of the course, we will discuss rights and duties within the family:

  • Parents often show much love for their children – but how much sacrifice does justice really demand of them?
  • Does a commitment to human equality put limits to how partial parents may be towards their own offspring?
  • How strong are the duties of children towards their parents, in particular in old age?
  • How strong are familial duties among siblings and among the extended family?

In the third part of the course, we will discuss the relationship between the family and the wider community:

  • Are there moral duties to limit procreation for environmental reasons?
  • How must the financial burden of child-rearing be shared between parents and the rest of society?
  • Should there be extra voting power for families which allows, for example, parents to cast additional votes in the name of their children?
  • To what extent can the state legitimately override parental decisions for the purpose of protecting children’s rights?


  • Knowledge about the central questions and positions in the field of family ethics
  • Knowledge about the main strands of contemporary ethical thinking
  • Improvements in critical thinking and open-minded, argument-based debating
  • Ability to spot ethical issues and tools for giving systematic answers to new questions