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Philosophy of Law, Governance, and Politics: The Question of Law


Admission requirements

Admitted to this course are students enrolled in the MA Philosophy 120 EC, specialisation Philosophy of Political Science, Philosophy of Law, or Philosophy of Law, Governance, and Politics. For them, it is one of the mandatory specialization courses. Students from the MA 60 Philosophy, specialization Moral and Political Philosophy can take this course as an elective.


This year, we will read together a classic in the Philosophy of Law. H.L.A. Hart is thought by many to have been the greatest legal theorist of the 20th century. His reputation rests largely upon what he accomplished in one book, The Concept of Law, first published in 1961.

In this seminar we will explore the doctrines that Hart put forward in that book and other writings, with specific reference to the criticisms they attracted, some of which attained a celebrity (or notoriety) of their own, such as the “Hart-Fuller debate”, the “Hart-Devlin debate”, the “Hart-Dworkin debate”. In particular, we will look at the question what the relation is between morality and the law.

Course objectives

This course aims to:

Provide students with insight into the nature of law through the prism of its relation to morality and equip them for philosophical reflection on law, governance, and politics.

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

  • The legal philosoph of H.L.H. Hart, as well as the main critique of his theory (i.e., that of Dworkin, Fuller, Raz, Finnis and Devlin.)

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • Present this knowledge orally as well as in written form (essay).

  • Students will be able to recognize the main ideas of theories of law and use these in argument (use the knowledge actively in argumentation and discussion).

  • Formulate critical responses to philosophical arguments and positions about law.

  • Write a coherent argumentative text within limited time.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Class attendance is required.

Assessment method


  • Weekly assignments of approximately 500 words each (30% of the final grade)

  • One final paper of app. 3500 words (60% of the final grade), revised in the light of peer reviews.

  • Peer reviews of final papers (10% of final grade)

  • Presence and active participation (mandatory)


The final mark for the course is established by (i) determination of the weighted average combined with (ii) additional requirements (i.e., presence and active participation). To pass the course, the weighted average of the partial grades must be 5.5 or higher.


One resit will be offered, consisting of one substantial paper of app. 3,500 words. This will replace the final paper; it does not replace the results of assignments and peer reviews.

Inspection and feedback

The weekly assignments, the peer reviews, as well as the final paper will receive feedback and grades through BrightSpace and TurnItIn. Attendance will be tracked using BrightSpace as well.

Reading list

Students are expected to get their own copy of the second edition of:

Hart, H. L. A. 1994. The Concept of Law. Second Edition. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Other (secondary) literature will be available through the university library.


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 right information bar.

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


Not applicable.