nl en

Research Seminar Ethics and Politics


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to students enrolled in the MA Philosophy 60 EC who have chosen for the track Ethics and Politics, and to students in the MA Philosophy 120 EC, specialisations Philosophy of Law and Philosophy of Political Science.

This Research Seminar is mandatory for above mentioned students. Students in the one-year MA programme must complete the research seminar in their first semester; students in the two-year MA programme complete the course in their first year.


Characteristics of the research seminar

The research seminar is a mandatory part of the MA programme. In this intensive seminar students will hone their skills necessary for writing a successful MA thesis so they are well prepared for writing their thesis in the following semester. In particular, the research seminar pays attention to topics such as formulating relevant research questions, composing research plans, and efficient writing. Students should enroll in the research seminar that belongs to the track in which the MA thesis will be written. The instructor of the research seminar will also the be the staff member who is responsible for making sure that the process of thesis writing remains on track.

Subject description

Why should one follow the requirements of morality? What reasons are there for doing one’s duty? Indeed, why be moral? This difficult question has fascinated great philosophers both in the past and now. The question typically has been understood in terms of rationality: is it rational to be moral? How does rationality relate to morality? In this seminar, we will look at the instrumentalist tradition of Hobbes and Hume respectively. We will contrast these historical figures with contemporary representatives of these traditions.

Course objectives

This course aims to investigate the relation between rationality and morality in the theories of Hobbes and Hume, as well as their contemporary counterparts. In addition to these substantial themes, this seminar will devote attention to the skills necessary to write an MA thesis in philosophy.

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

  • contemporary debates about the rational justification of morality. Students will be able to recognize the following theoretical positions and ideas and use these themselves in argument: instrumental rationality; hobbesianism; humeanism; covenant; and convention;

  • the major strands of criticism of these positions;

  • the historical roots of hobbesian and humean philosophy, based on active understanding of the moral philosophy of Hobbes and Hume, and their contemporary counterparts, respectively.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • present this knowledge in written form (essay);

  • formulate a philosophically relevant question;

  • formulate a research topic that reflects both knowledge and understanding of key discussions and methods relevant to the field;

  • formulate a research plan that is feasible within the time available for its completion;

  • write a coherent argumentative text within limited time.


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

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required for taking the exam.

Course Load

Total course (10 ECTS credits x 28 hours): 280 hours
Attending (14 weeks x 3 hours): 42 hours
Time for studying the mandatory literature: 90 hours
Time for completing weekly assignments: 90 hours
Research plan: 10 hours
Writing midterm paper: 15 hours
Comments: 8 hours
Writing final paper: 25 hours

Assessment method

  • Weekly assignments (30% of the final grade)

  • Detailed research plan (prerequisite for taking the exam)

  • Midterm paper (30% of the final grade)

  • Comments on research plan and midterm paper fellow student (prerequisite for taking the exam)

  • Expanded final paper, based on research plan, midterm paper and received comments (40% of the final grade)

One resit will be offered, consisting of the final paper. Any student who did not take the first examinations (assignments, midterm paper and final paper) cannot take the resit.

Deadlines research seminar Fall semester:

  • 15-11-2014: detailed research plan

  • 01-12-2014: midterm paper

  • 08-12-2014: comments on research plan and midterm paper fellow student

  • 26-01-2015: expanded final paper

Deadlines research seminar Spring semester:

  • 10-04-2015: detailed research plan

  • 24-04-2015: midterm paper

  • 01-05-2015: comments on research plan and midterm paper fellow student

  • 26-06-2015: expanded final paper


  • All secondary texts will be made available through Blackboard.

  • All assignments and all essays have to submitted through Blackboard.

  • All results for assignments and essays will be published through Blackboard (only the final grade will be submitted to USis).

Reading list

Students are expected to have:

  • Hobbes, Thomas. 1991. Leviathan. Edited by Richard Tuck. Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Hume, David, A Treatise of Human Nature. David Fate Norton & Mary J. Norton (eds.), Oxford Philosophical Texts, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

All other texts will be made available through Blackboard.


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.


Dr. B.J.E. Verbeek