Program Description


Economic relations form a fundamental part of our life in society, which is studied by Economics. Economics was the first social science to emerge in modern times, and its origins (as an autonomous discipline) can be traced back to the work of the Scottish moral philosopher Adam Smith (18th century). Economics studies the decisions of economic agents (consumers, sellers, the state) and the evolution of aggregate indicators (e.g. GDP, inflation, unemployment).
As we know, economics is the main science that influences the policies of Western governments. Economics is therefore a science with a strong impact on people's quality of life. The public relevance of economics is confirmed by the fact that it is the only social science on the Nobel Prize list.
Despite the importance of economics, this science is often criticized for not being concerned with ethical issues, sometimes even recommending courses of action that clash with moral principles. To what extent are such criticisms plausible? This course discusses how it is possible to establish a dialog between economics and ethics - not only on the theoretical (academic) side, but also on the practical side of business life.

Course descriptio

I) Course objectives:

  • To review and deepen some of the theoretical foundations of the normal undergraduate curriculum in Economics and Management, and to encourage critical reflection on these. Some topics to review: neoclassical theory; rational choice theory.
  • To address ethical issues that are not usually dealt with in current undergraduate and master's degrees in Economics and Management.
  • To raise awareness of the need to articulate the dialogue between Ethics and Economics, and to recover the vision of 'Political Economy' present in Adam Smith's foundational work.
  • To explore recent innovations in behavioral economics and the dialogue between economics and psychology, focusing on the dynamics of cooperation in various games.

II) Some issues to be addressed in the course:

  • What conception of the human being is implicit in mainstream economics (neoclassical theory)?
  • Is homo economicus a plausible hypothesis about economic behavior?
  • What are the various motivations/intentions of economic agents?
  • Is there a place for virtue, altruism, reciprocity and the ideal of communion in impersonal markets?
  • Does studying economics affect people's moral character, making them more selfish and less cooperative?
  • Is it true that the only goal of companies is to increase their profits (as Milton Friedman argued)?
  • Should economics be concerned with issues of social justice and ecology?
  • Should the state intervene in the markets?

III) Skills to be developed during the course:
Critical reflection on the anthropological and ethical assumptions of economics and their application to the life of companies and organizations.

  • Systematic presentation of content.
  • Analysis and discussion of some classic texts, in order to encourage active participation and critical thinking on the part of the trainees.
  • Secondary school economics teachers who wish to review and complement their undergraduate/master's degree training;
  • Teachers of Philosophy, Moral Education, Psychology, Geography, Biology;
  • Entrepreneurs, economists, managers, engineers;
  • Banking and insurance professionals
  • Economic and financial journalists;

The course is generally aimed at anyone interested in debates in the social sciences, and how theoretical positions influence the praxis of our life in society.

  • González Fabre, Raúl (2005), Ética y Economía: una Ética para Economistas y entendidos en Economía, Desclée De Brouwer, Bilbao. 
  • Friedman, Milton (1970), “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits”, The New York Times Sunday Magazine (September 13, 1970).
  • Hausman, Daniel (2018), “Philosophy of Economics”, in Edward Zalta, ed., The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
  • McDade, Pedro (2008), “Pensar o ser humano na Economia: do indivíduo (homo oeconomicus) à pessoa”, Brotéria 167:4, 243-263.
  • McDade, Pedro (2014), “Apresentação: Economia de Comunhão”, Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia 70:1, 5-8.
  • Peil, Jan & Irene van Staveren, eds. (2009), Handbook of Economics and Ethics, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, UK.
  • Sen, Amartya (2012), Sobre Ética e Economia, Almedina, Coimbra [original: Sen, Amartya (1987), On Ethics and Economics, Blackwell, Oxford].
  • White, Mark D., ed. (2019), The Oxford Handbook of Ethics and Economics, Oxford University Press, New York.




Tel: (+351) 253 20 61 00