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Research Seminar Ethics and Politics


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to students enrolled in the MA Philosophy 60 EC who have chosen for the specialisation Ethics and Politics, and to students enrolled in the MA Philosophy 120 EC, specialisations Philosophy of Law and Philosophy of Political Science.

This Research Seminar is mandatory for above mentioned students.


Characteristics of the research seminar

The research seminar is a mandatory part of the MA programme. In this intensive seminar students will hone their skills necessary for writing a successful MA thesis so they are well prepared for writing their thesis in the following semester. In particular, the research seminar pays attention to topics such as formulating relevant research questions, composing research plans, and efficient writing. Students should enroll in the research seminar that belongs to the specialisation they have chosen and in which the MA thesis will be written. The instructor of the research seminar will also the be the staff member who is responsible for making sure that the process of thesis writing remains on track.

Subject description

Authority is a pervasive feature of our societies. The most obvious institution that claims to have authority is the law and more general the state. However, in addition to legal and political authority, there is also parental authority; expert authority; democratic authority, etc., etc. This seminar will be about authority and especially about the question whether the state has any authority over us. We will investigate what authority is. We will look at attempts to justify claims of authority and will see if any of these attempts is successful. Finally, we will look who and what might actually have authority.

In the course of the seminar, we will discuss topics such as anarchism, political obligation, civil disobedience, positivism, natural law, and autonomy.

In addition to these substantial themes, this seminar will devote attention to the skills necessary to write an MA thesis in philosophy.

Course objectives

This course aims to investigate the phenomenon of authority.

Students who successfully complete the course will:

  • have a good understanding of contemporary debates about the authority of the state and authority in general; students will be able to recognize the following ideas and use these in argument: autonomy, rationality, subjection, obedience and compliance;

  • be familiar with the dominant contemporary theories of authority;

  • know the standard critiques of these theories;

  • possess some understanding of historical roots of these theories, especially the work of Hobbes, Locke, Hume and Godwin.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • present this knowledge in written form (essay);

  • formulate a philosophically relevant question;

  • formulate a research topic that reflects both knowledge and understanding of key discussions and methods relevant to the field;

  • fomulate a research plan that is feasible within the time available for its completion;

  • write a coherent argumentative text within limited time.


See Timetables MA Philosophy 2015-2016

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course Load

Total course: 10 ECTS credits x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Attending seminars: 14 weeks x 3 hours = 42 hours

  • Time for studying the mandatory literature: 90 hours

  • Time for completing weekly assignments: 90 hours

  • Research plan: 10 hours

  • Writing midterm paper: 15 hours

  • Comments: 8 hours

  • Writing final paper: 25 hours

Assessment method

  • Weekly assignments (30% of the final grade)

  • Detailed research plan (prerequisite for taking the exam)

  • Midterm paper (30% of the final grade)

  • Comments on research plan and midterm paper fellow student (prerequisite for taking the exam)

  • Expanded final paper, based on research plan, midterm paper and received comments (40% of the final grade)


One resit will be offered, covering the final paper. The grade will replace previously earned grades for subtests. Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination(s) cannot take the resit.


Texts, assignments, feedback on student’s assignments will all be made available through Blackboard.

Reading list

  • All literature will be made available through Blackboard.


Please register for this course via Study administration system uSis
See also Registration for lectures and tests

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “”.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. B.J.E. Verbeek