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Philosophy of Humanities: Method and Interpretation


Admission requirements

Admission to one of the following programmes is required:

MA Philosophy 60 EC: specialisation Modern European Philosophy
MA Philosophy 120 EC: specialisation Philosophy of Humanities


Many different philosophical methods, especially from the continental tradition, have found their way into the humanities broadly. In this course we reflect on the foundations of major different philosophical methods in the humanities (e.g. dialectics, phenomenology, critical theory, hermeneutics, semiotics, deconstruction). It is a characteristic of continental philosophy that a strict separation between method and content is often not possible. Questions of method (of the different kinds of writing, style, logic or argumentation) often cannot be dissociated from substantive views on the task of philosophy and of the humanities. The use of a certain method often implies a diagnosis of the culture in which the humanities operate, and specific views on, among other things: what the most important questions and challenges for the humanities are, what it means to think and reflect critically, and what the responsibilities are of intellectual thought.

We focus on method and interpretation in two senses: some texts are discourses 'on' or 'about' method and interpretation, while other texts exemplify or employ important or striking methods. Special attention goes out to: (1) different conceptions of what it means to think and how to do that; (2) how to read, interpret and critically engage with texts that employ a kind of logic, style or language that seems different from more conventional theoretical or scientific method; (3) the relation between science, philosophy and literature in the humanities.

Edition 2023-2024: “…yet there is method in 't”: Philosophical Approaches to Hamlet

One of the most enigmatic, rich and heavily commented on of Shakespeare’s plays, Hamlet forms an exemplary case study that is of some significance to almost all directions of study in the humanities. In this course we will study different philosophical approaches to Hamlet by Hegel, Kierkegaard, Benjamin, Lacan, Schmitt and Derrida. We will supplement these readings with texts by these authors on method and interpretation, in order to ask what it means to interpret a work: to what extent do these thinkers indeed ‘apply’ the methods they describe in their approach to Hamlet? And to what extent does ‘application’ of preconceived methods run into up against its limits?

Course objectives

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • the nature, function and value of different philosophical methods from the continental tradition that have found their way in to the humanities broadly.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • reflect critically on the possibilities and the problems inherent in the ‘application’ of philosophical methods;

  • critically apply considerations on the methods under discussion to a case or to problems in philosophy as well as in the humanities broadly.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Assessment method


  • Active participation (pass/fail)

  • Weekly questions for discussion (pass/fail)

  • Oral presentation (pass/fail)

  • Mid-term paper (35%)

  • Paper proposal (pass/fail)

  • Final paper (65%)


  • Mid-term paper (35%)

  • Final paper (65%)


The resit consists of one final paper that replaces all previously earned grades. No separate resits are offered for mid-term papers. A condition for taking the resit is that all other course requirements have been met (active class participation, discussion-questions, presentations, paper proposal, mid-term and end-of-term-papers).

Inspection and feedback

Everyone will receive written feedback on mid-term paper and end-of-term paper via e-mail. Paper-proposals are discussed in person by appointment. It is always possible to request extra feedback on any (part) of the assignments by making an appointment.

Reading list

All texts will be published on Brightspace with one exception: you are expected to have read Shakespeare’s Hamlet. You may use any edition you like. Here is some advice:

  1. Thompson, Ann, and Neil Taylor, eds. Hamlet: Revised Edition. Arden Shakespeare. 3rd series. London: Bloomsbury, 2016.

    • The comprehensive choice. Very good and detailed introduction and back-matter. Many notes (perhaps to the detriment of reading experience). Equally good if not better is its predecessor: the second series edited by Harold Jenkins (1982).
  2. Hibbard, G. R., ed. Hamlet. Oxford World’s Classics. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1987.

    • Slightly more pocketable. Authoritative text. Good introduction and back-matter. This is based on the Folio-edition: a number of (sometimes famous) passages have been relegated to an appendix.
  3. Gill, Roma. Hamlet: Oxford School Shakespeare. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1992.

    • This is one of many good student/school editions that give more help and simpler explanations on the text.

Whichever you get, consider buying from an independent bookstore or antiquarian.
A list of sources for further reading (as well as information on film versions of Hamlet) will be published and updated on Brightspace.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the information bar at the right hand side of the page.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc., contact the Education Administration Office Huizinga


Not applicable.