Professional Ethics


Course Objective

(a). Subject-specific learning outcomes
By the end of the course, the student
- is able to identify central ethical dilemmas that they may be
confronted with in their later career;
- has an advanced knowledge of central views and positions in ethics;
- can reflect on the influence that factors such as the national,
cultural or professional background may have on ethical questions.
(b). Academic learning outcomes
By the end of the course, the student
- comprehends classic and contemporary academic texts relating to
- is able to reflect on the interrelation between law (e.g.
employment-related obligations), social and institutional structures
(e.g. of a company) and ethical dilemmas that may arise therein.

(c). Social and communication learning outcomes
The graduate is able to
- identify and address ethical dilemmas arising in a professional
context, and do so both alone and in cooperation with people of diverse
- articulate ethical dilemmas to different audiences, taking their
specific (national, cultural or professional) background into

(d). Study skills and professional orientation
The graduate is able to
- reflect on their personal role and societal responsibility in the
context of professional ethical dilemmas;
- make use of this knowledge and these skills in determining their
future academic and professional development.

Course Content

Professionals, in legal and non-legal occupations alike, may be
confronted with serious ethical dilemmas at some point of their career.
The course addresses these dilemmas from multiple angles, drawing from
classic and contemporary literature as well as from real-world examples.
Students are encouraged to approach complex ethical questions through
different means, such as case studies, discussions and role playing, and
to draw from their own personal experiences and (e.g. national, cultural
or social) backgrounds. The course is organized into seven themes, each
of which addresses a central question of professional ethics:

1) Empirical vs. normative: how do legal and non-legal professionals
actually behave, and what does that tell us about their ethical
2) History: how can historical examples (e.g. from WW II) be helpful
with regard to present-day ethical questions?
3) Human Rights: do multinational companies have a responsibility with
regard to human rights when they are active, for example, in African or
South East Asian countries?
4) Utilitarianism vs. deontology: is there a limit to utilitarian ethics
and if so, where and when?
5) Role vs. person: does a professional need to stick to his
professional role, or should he create an ethical distance between his
role and his moral responsibility as a person?
6) Sustainability and professional ethics: what are the potential
pitfalls in developing ethical conduct with regard to climate change and
sustainability in general?
7) Ethical narratives of professional corporations: how can we use
corporate ethical self-narratives, e.g. as expressed in their codes of
conducts in a fruitful way?

Teaching Methods

Seminars (Attendance is mandatory)

Method of Assessment

Written exam

General Information

Course Code R_ProEth
Credits 6 EC
Period P6
Course Level 200
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Law
Course Coordinator prof. dr. J.M. Harte
Examiner prof. dr. J.M. Harte
Teaching Staff

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself