Autonomy, Capacity, and Consent

7.5 credits

Syllabus, Bachelor's level, 5FP118

Education cycle
First cycle
Main field(s) of study and in-depth level
Practical Philosophy G2E
Grading system
Fail (U), Pass (G), Pass with distinction (VG)
Finalised by
The Department Board, 4 September 2023
Responsible department
Department of Philosophy

Learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students should be able to:

  • describe and explain various pressing ethical controversies involved in questions about autonomy, decision-making capacity, and informed consent, and some of the influential arguments on either side of those controversies
  • recognize the ways in which philosophical arguments concerning particular ethical issues can shed light on more general moral theories and principles
  • analyze and critically engage with contemporary philosophical essays and arguments with clarity and precision, both orally and in writing
  • develop cogent philosophical arguments of their own and to compose longer and increasingly original analytical essays that offer constructive responses to ongoing philosophical debates.


This course investigates the nature of and relationship between autonomy, decision-making capacity, and informed consent. It divides into three parts. The first part asks: what is it to act autonomously and why is autonomy important? The second part asks: what is required to have decision-making capacity, understood as the ability of subjects to make their own medical and health-related decisions, and what is its relationship to autonomy? The third asks: what is consent, and why is it important? Although the focus of the course will be on general moral, metaphysical, and legal questions such as these, it will also consider a range of case studies arising in medical, research, and public health settings.


Lectures and discussion seminars. The lecture-style will be thoroughly interactive. Students are expected to participate and contribute.


Two short writing assignments to be completed during the course, and a take-home, essay-based exam at the end of the course of 3000 words.

If there are special reasons for doing so, an examiner may make an exception from the method of assessment indicated and allow a student to be assessed by another method. An example of special reasons might be a certificate regarding special pedagogical support from the University's disability coordinator.

Other directives

The course may run jointly with the second cycle course 5FP117.

No reading list found.