The good life
Cursus informatieRooster
Studiepunten (ECTS)4
CategorieMA (Master)
Aangeboden doorRadboud Universiteit; Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen; Pedagogische Wetenschappen;
dr. W. de Muijnck
Overige cursussen docent
Contactpersoon van de cursus
dr. W. de Muijnck
Overige cursussen docent
S1  (29-08-2016 t/m 29-01-2017)
Inschrijven via OSIRISJa
Inschrijven voor bijvakkersJa

Aan het einde van de cursus is de student in staat om:    

  1. elementaire kennis te laten zien van normatieve begrippenkaders zoals die binnen de hedendaagse empirically informed ethics worden ontwikkeld (discussie en essay)
  2. een eenvoudige vraagstelling te formuleren over een aspect van ‘goed leven’ op het vakgebied van empirically informed ethics    
  3. de theoretische posities uit de cursusliteratuur ten aanzien van een zelf te kiezen kwestie adequaat samen te vatten (essay)
  4. een zelf te kiezen reële situatie zelfstandig te analyseren en bereflecteren aan de hand van zowel de genoemde theoretische posities als persoonlijke ervaring (essay)
  5. op systematische en coherente manier een eigen visie te beargumenteren op een zelf te kiezen thema binnen empirically informed ethics (essay)

We might describe ethics as the attempt to give a well-argued answer to the question: ‘How should I live?’ The Good Life is about so-called empirically informed ethics. Here is some background.

Traditionally, ethics has been the search for key principles of moral obligation, and for an answer to the question: ‘What should I do?’ A few decades ago, however, ethicists rediscovered Aristotle, who taught us to ask a broader question, namely: ‘What life is worth living?’ or: ‘What kind of person should I be?’ This gave rise to what we know as virtue ethics. Virtue ethics seemed more relevant to the life of real human beings than classical ethics.

Meanwhile, various developments in evolutionary, developmental, social and cognitive psychology – with themes such as emotion, unconscious mental processes, environmental triggers, cognitive bias, self-deception, or our kinship with other primates, to name just a few – challenged a long philosophical tradition of thinking about human nature.

Apparently, human behaviour wasn’t governed by reason so much as by the ‘passions’ - as another great thinker, David Hume, had already claimed. But if our views of human psychology have changed so much, shouldn’t this have consequences for how we do ethics?

It might seem that instead of an ethics for beings that are esentially rational and virtuous, we rather need one for the somewhat sophisticated apes that we really are. However, don’t we humans still have a potential for goodness and excellence – if only we knew how to cultivate it?

This, indeed, is the idea behind so-called positive psychology and happiness research. Informed by our best empirical research, as well as by wisdom from the world’s great spiritual traditions, we – natural beings of incomplete goodness and rationality – can develop methods that enable us to flourish and live happy, healthy, virtuous, and meaningful lives.

At this point, the traditional divide between science and ethics, fact and value, or ‘is’ and ‘ought’ seems no longer very productive. First, it seems that scientific psychology cannot be value-free anyway. And secondly, it seems that ethics had better be ‘empirically informed’ in order to be useful to real human beings.

In The Good Life we read some contemporary sources that seek to achieve this promising cross-fertlization of ethics and psychology. We discuss key ideas from these sources and, in the form of an essay, apply some of these to a real-world situation.

Language: English


The student writes a paper of approx. 2000 words on one from a range of issues (to be announced). In this paper, s/he discusses the views of the authors, and develops his/her own view. There will be three versions of the paper, each with instructor feedback, the last one graded.

A finished bachelor in philosophy or one of the social / behavioural sciences
Mastery of English language

Contact informatie
dr. Wim de Muijnck, T: 024-3612687, E:

Verplicht materiaal
Haidt, Jonathan. (2006). The Happiness Hypothesis. Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. New York, NY: Basic Books. ISBN 9780465028023. 297 pp.
Wolf, Susan. (2012). Meaning in Life and Why It Matters. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691154503. 168 pp. (N.B. This is the paperback edition. The hardback is © 2010 and has ISBN 9780691145242. The contents are the same.)


Meetings are on a weekly basis, with variation between frontal teaching and discussion. Students are expected to read the texts carefully prior to class meetings. Everyone is expected to participate actively in the discussions.

GelegenhedenBlok S1, Blok S1