98920 - Bioethics and Biolaw (1) (LM)

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Philosophical Sciences (cod. 8773)

Learning outcomes

The course will be devoted to the fundamental principles, values and moral and legal arguments for a critical bioethics and democratic bio-law. The focus will be on issues relevant to public ethics and democratic deliberation challenged by global policies and moral dilemmas connected to the ever new boundaries of scientific and technological knowledge.

Course contents

Torture or Democracy. The History, the Abolition, the Attempted Rehabilitation of a Crime against Humanity

The course will be dedicated to one of the most controversial "judicial practices", punishments or crimes still under discussion today on the international scenario: the torture.

The course will start from the analysis of Cesare Beccaria's masterpiece “On Crimes and Punishments”. The Lombard Enlightenment essay played a crucial role in the eighteenth-century debate for the reform of the penal system, for the questioning of excessive penalties (above all the death penalty) and for the abolition of the extreme crime of torture, on the basis of the defense of the principle of legal certainty in connection with the principle of equity.

Starting from the commentary on Beccaria's text, the course will arrive at the very recent discussion on the crime of torture, its definition will be deepened and the arguments presented by numerous authors committed to pleading its compatibility with a democratic juridical-political system will be discussed.

The crime of torture is a paradigmatic case for reflecting on what is "law" and for understanding how much violence the law is able to "endure". Torture generates a psychological and relational trauma, which due to its specificity exhibits the profound meaning and decisive importance of coming to terms with the nature of a democratic state of law and peculiar forms of violation of human dignity.


Student Reception: Thursday at 2.30 pm, unless otherwise stated and reported in the news online.

Timetable of lessons: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 11 am - 1 pm, Aula IV, Zamboni street, n° 38.

Beginning of the Course: I Semester - September, 21 2023.


§ Textbooks (compulsory for all students):

Cesare Beccaria, Dei delitti e delle pene, Feltrinelli, Milan (or English version).

Françoise Sironi, Persecutori e vittime. Strategie di violenza, Feltrinelli, Milan 2001 (or French or English version).

Marina Lalatta Costerbosa, Il silenzio della tortura. Contro un crimine estremo, DeriveApprodi, Rome 2016.


One book among the following:

Henry Alleg, Tortura, Einaudi, Turin 1956 (or French or English version).

Jean Améry, Intellettuale a Auschwitz, Bollati Boringhieri, Turin 2011 (or German or English version).

Friedrich von Spee, Cautio criminalis. Caccia alle streghe, Salerno Editrice, Salerno 2004 (or German or English complete version).

Pietro Verri, Osservazioni sulla tortura (or English complete translation)

Alessandro Manzoni, La colonna infame (or English complete translation).


For not-attending students:

Luigi Ferrajoli, Il paradigma garantista, Editoriale Scientifica, Naples 2011, Part I.


§ Optional seminar activities will be offered by the Course

The Schedule of the events will be given at the beginning of the course.

Teaching methods

Lectures, seminars and discussion on bioethical themes.

Interdisciplinary seminars will be hold by experts working in the field.

Lessons will be recorded (but not necessary in real time) and made available by accessing ad hoc virtual teams-classroom. Access is possible through the unibo institutional credentials at the link present from September on the virtual materials of the Course.

Assessment methods

Final oral examination. Room 5.01 (str. Zamboni 38). On September there will be an examination schedule.

Evaluating criteria:

1. Expertise; practical reasoning ability; critical competence.


18-21/30 basic level

22-25/30 moderate level

26-28/30 good level

29-30/30 excellent level.


Students with disabilities and Specific Learning Disorders (SLD)Students with disabilities or Specific Learning Disorders have the right to special accommodations according to their condition, following an assessment by the Service for Students with Disabilities and SLD. Please do not contact the teacher but get in touch with the Service directly to schedule an appointment. It will be the responsibility of the Service to determine the appropriate adaptations. For more information, visit the page:


Teaching tools

§ Optional seminar activities will be offered by the Course

The Schedule of the events will be given at the beginning of the course.


http://www.governo.it/bioetica/ Žhttp://ec.europa.eu/research/biosociety/bioethics/bioethics_ethics http://bioethics.georgetown.edu/pcbe/ [http://www.governo.it/bioetica/%20%C3%82%C2%8Ehttp://ec.europa.eu/research/biosociety/bioethics/bioethics_ethics%20http://bioethics.georgetown.edu/pcbe/]

Office hours

See the website of Marina Lalatta Costerbosa


Peace, justice and strong institutions

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.