This course intends to be an introduction into the field of legal and political philosophy, which is concerned with the ultimate foundations of law and politics. Contrary to most other introductory courses, no handbooks and hardly any secondary literature will be used, but mostly primary sources i.e. Great Books. Moreover, the course aims to provide an overview of some of the most important written reflections on law and politics brought forward in history, and not merely of the positions prevailing at the moment.
The central foundational question of law and politics is whether there is a ‘higher law’, understood as ‘divine law’ or ‘natural law’.
Most of the people most of the time believe that the latter is indeed the case: the state/law does not have the license to do whatever its likes. It should realise the ‘higher law’, or at least respect it, and not transgress its commands. Human rights discourse only is the most recent effort to put into words this ‘higher law’
Hence, the question arises how ‘human rights’ can be justified? Is there really such a ‘higher law’? Or is it rather the expression of subjective, Western preferences?
In the past the ‘higher law’ was thought of in different terms, not as a system of ‘human rights’, but as a whole of ‘duties’ -think of the Ten Commandments-, or as a whole of ‘virtues’. Both ways of conceiving the ‘natural’ or ‘divine’ law have a long history, and many authors have put forward strong arguments in their favour. If one looks at the matter in this way, the idea of a ‘higher law’ acquires a wholly different meaning and content. And as a consequence, also our thinking about the tasks and the limits of the state/the law changes completely.
Objectives of the course
This course aims to train the students in reading, speaking, and writing -and ultimately thinking- at a very high level. Moreover, it aims to introduce the students into one of the most important topics and eternal questions of legal and political thinking. The method is 1) the study of some of the greatest works ever written, and 2) a classroom discussion of these works.
Mode of instruction
Number of (2 hour) seminars: 5
Names of instructors: Prof. A. Kinneging
- 5 short weekly papers (400-500 words)
Each paper counts for 20% of the final grade. No essay can be retaken, however grades can be compensated. The results of the papers are no longer valid after the present academic year.
The weekly papers have to be uploaded in Brightspace (Turnitin)
Areas to be tested within the exam
The examination syllabus consists of the required reading (literature) for the course, the course information guide and the subjects taught in the lectures, the seminars and all other instructions which are part of the course.
Obligatory course materials
- to be announced
Course information guide:
- not applicable
- not applicable
Recommended course materials
- not applicable
Registration for courses and exams takes place via MyStudymap. If you do not have access to MyStudymap (guest students), look here (under the Law-tab) for more information on the registration procedure in your situation.
Coordinator: Prof. Andreas Kinneging
Work address: Faculty of Law, KOG, Steenschuur 25, Leiden
Contact information: Room A3.39
Telephone number: 00 31 (0)71 527 7654
Institute: Interdisciplinary Study of the Law
Department: Legal Philosophy
Room number secretary: A3.19
Opening hours: Mon – Fri 8.30 – 16.30
Telephone number secretary: 00 31 (0) 71 527 7548