PH435      Half Unit
Philosophy of Economics: Ethics and Economics

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Lukas Beck


This course is available on the MSc in Economics and Philosophy, MSc in Philosophy and Public Policy, MSc in Philosophy of Science and MSc in Philosophy of the Social Sciences. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.


Students must have completed a university-level introductory course in economics, such as EC1A3 and EC1B3.

Course content

This course will investigate various normative issues lying in the intersection of philosophy and economics. It will critically examine methods used by economists for policy evaluation, such as social welfare functions and cost-benefit analysis. And it will consider ethical questions related to economic institutions, such as taxation, property, and use of markets. Questions to be addressed may include the following. What is "well-being" and to what extent can it be measured and compared between individuals? Are inequalities in the distribution of well-being necessarily undesirable or unjust? Can it ever be preferable to prevent a very large number of headaches rather than saving a single life? Should the interests of future generations be given equal weight with those of the current generation? What sorts of goods and services are appropriately exchanged in markets.


15 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the WT.

This course is delivered through a combination of seminars and lectures totalling a minimum of 30 hours across Winter Term. This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of Winter term.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce a formative essay of 2000 words, which is due in the Winter term.

Indicative reading

  • Dan Hausman, Michael MacPherson, and Debra Satz (2016), Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy, Public Policy, 3rd edition.
  • Matthew Adler (2019), Measuring Social Welfare: An Introduction.
  • John Broome (2009), Ethics out of Economics.
  • Amartya Sen (1999), Development as Freedom.
  • Elizabeth Anderson (1995), Value in Ethics and Economics.


Essay (70%, 2000 words) in the ST.
Multiple choice quiz (30%) in the WT.

Key facts

Department: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method

Total students 2022/23: Unavailable

Average class size 2022/23: Unavailable

Controlled access 2022/23: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills