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Admission requirements

Admission to one of the following programmes is required:

  • MA Philosophy 60 EC: specialisation Ethics and Politics

  • MA Philosophy 120 EC: specialisation Philosophy of Law

  • MA Philosophy 120 EC: specialisation Philosophy of Political Science


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.

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;

  • theories of autonomy, rationality, subjection, obedience and compliance in relation to authority.

In addition, students will:

  • be familiar with the dominant contemporary theories of authority and political obligation;

  • 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);

  • recognize the main ideas of theories of authority and use these in argument (use the knowledge actively in argumentation and discussion);

  • formulate critical responses to philosophical arguments and positions;

  • write a coherent argumentative text within limited time.


The timetable is available on the MA Philosophy 60 EC website and the MA Philosophy 120 EC website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours

  • Attending (14 weeks x 3 hours): 42 hours

  • Time for studying the mandatory literature: 95 hours

  • Time for completing weekly assignments: 95 hours

  • Writing midterm paper: 15 hours

  • Peer review: 8 hours

  • Writing final paper: 25 hours

Assessment method


  • Weekly assignments (20% of the final grade)

  • Miterm paper (30% of the final grade), revised in the light of peer review

  • Final paper (30% of the final grade), revised in the light of peer review

  • Peer review of midterm paper and final paper (10% of final grade)


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of several subtests (assignments, papers). A subtest can be graded as unsatisfactory.
Class attendance is required and is a condition for submission of the paper.


One resit will be offered, consisting of one substantial paper. The mark will replace all previously earned marks. No separate resits will be offered for subtests. Class attendance is required is a condition for submission of the paper for the resit. Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination(s) cannot take the resit.

Exam review

Discussion of the paper is by appointment after publication of the final grade.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • posting of texts

  • assignments

  • feedback on your assignments

Reading list

All literature will be made available through Blackboard.


Enrolment for courses and exams through uSis is mandatory.

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetables for courses and exams.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. B.J.E. Verbeek