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Philosophy of Law: (Dis)Respect and Recognition under Rights-Based Rule of Law


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to students enrolled in the MA programme Philosophy 120 EC, specialisation Philosophy of Law.


This course examines the intertwinement of legal, moral, social and political norms of respect for persons under a legal regime of liberal-democratic Rechtstaatlichkeit.

The outcome of the (2011) Wilders-trial in the Netherlands illustrates that in a full-fledged liberal democracy, ongoing jurisprudence produces a category of utterances that may be called ‘lawful disrespect’. Does the legal system presume that citizens will be able to respond actively and with resilience to such utterances – notably when these are expressed in public spaces under shared jurisdiction? Or are civic rights built on much more ‘passive’ ideals of dignity, understood as vulnerability and respect-worthiness? Philosophers in several fields of research have recently debated the question how civic rights and ideals of (dis)respect are connected – institutionally as well as conceptually.

The course offers intense interdisciplinary readings (from moral, legal, and political philosophy) on the theme of recognition-respect for persons and citizens. Authors studied will include (among others) Boxill, Darwall, Feinberg, Hill, Honig, Honneth, Mouffe, Sennett, Tamanaha and Waldron.
Students will be expected to critically compare the theories studied and (in the second half of the course) to develop normative arguments of their own by means of position-papers, debates and essays in which a chosen selection of legal cases will be commented upon.

Course objectives

This course provides an overview of recent research into the formal juridical and the informal ethical regulations of respect and (dis)respect for the dignity of persons in public life. Cases to be studied will be taken from legal jurisprudence as well as from the philosophical literature. Students will practice the oral and written presentation and the exchange of arguments in debates in class, making independent use of the moral-, legal- and political-philosophical texts studied. Finally, students will be expected to be able to critically compare, evaluate and apply these arguments in essays in which they reflect on selected recent jurisprudence and policy-making.

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

  • key concepts and conceptions of dignity, respect and recognition;

  • how these concepts function in the theoretical justification as well as in the daily operation of liberal constitutional systems.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • reflect critically on the ongoing public regulation of respect and disrespect by means of law and policy;

  • take a reasoned position in debates on law- and policy-making on this topic, through active use of arguments developed in the philosophical literature.


See Timetables Philosophy 2014-2015 , Timetables MA Philosophy 60 EC/120 EC.

Please note:

No class on 1 September due to the official opening of the Leiden University academic year.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars, combined with lectures in the first weeks and with tutorials in the final weeks.

Class attendance is required.

Course Load

Total course load (10 EC): 280 hours.
Attending seminars (3 hours per week x 14 weeks): 42 hours
Studying the compulsory literature: 118 hours
Completing assignments: 30 hours
Mid-term paper: 30 hours
Final essay, including research: 60 hours

Assessment method

  • Review assignments with presentations (30% of the final grade)

  • Mid-term essay (30% of the final grade)

  • Final essay (40% of the final grade)

Sufficient class participation and preparations (position-papers) for debates are prerequisite for entering the final essay.


  • All texts to be studied in the first two weeks will be distributed through Blackboard.

  • A detailed schedule with all reading materials and assignments per week will be published on Blackboard shortly before the first meeting.

  • A list of participants and the roster for review-assignments during the first half of the course will be published on Blackboard shortly after the first meeting.

Reading list

A detailed schedule with reading materials and assignments per week will appear on Blackboard shortly before the first meeting. Most of the reading materials will be articles, available online.

Purchase is recommended (but not obligatory) of the following booktitles from which parts will be read:

  • Stephen Darwall, The Second Person Standpoint: Morality, Respect, and Accountability (Cambridge: Harvard UP 2006).

  • Jeremy Waldron, The Harm in Hate Speech (Cambridge: Harvard UP 2012).

  • Robin S.Dillon (ed.), Dignity, Character and Self-Respect (New York: Routledge 1995).


Please register for this course on uSis.
See Registration for courses and examinations

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

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Drs. P.T.M. (Paul) van den Berg

Note: part-time lecturer! Please ask your questions during class. Emails cannot always be read directly and will be answered twice a week (on Wednesdays and Sundays)


In November two guest lecturers will contribute to this course: prof. dr. Paul Cobben from Tilburg University and dr. Gijs van Oenen from Erasmus University.

Please note: no class on 1 September due to the official opening of the Leiden University academic year.