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Philosophy of Law: The Ethics of Immigration and the Right to Exclude

Vak 2015-2016

Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to students enrolled in the MA Philosophy 120 EC, specialisation Philosophy of Law or Philosophy of Political Science, and to students enrolled in the MA Philosophy 60 EC, specialisation Ethics and Politics.

Description

Immigration is as old as humanity itself. In search for wealth, happiness, and a better life, individuals move all over the world. Think, for instance, of Tunisians and Libyans who, as a consequence of the political upheaval in Northern Africa, cross the Mediterranean Sea aboard unseaworthy craft in order to flee to Europe; or of Eastern Europeans who work in Western Europe’s agricultural sector; of Asian ‘whiz kids’ who fill labor shortages of highly educated employees in the United States; and of individuals who wish to be united with their loved ones.

Although individuals may have the desire to immigrate for all kinds of reasons, their ability actually to realize that desire is dependent on the cooperation of the state in which they would like to settle. States as well as larger political entities, such as the European Union, typically claim to have the right – the legally enshrined right indeed! – to control their borders by adopting and imposing unilaterally certain immigration laws and policies on would-be immigrants. In addition, states frequently argue that their immigration laws are legitimate from a liberal-democratic point of view; after all, they develop, implement, and enforce their laws exclusively in the name of their own citizens, whose interests they seek to look after.

However, one might question the soundness of these claims to legal and liberal-democratic legitimacy. In this course, we shall ask the question what, if anything, gives a state the moral right to control its borders unilaterally (for instance, by closing them altogether or with respect to certain groups of people). We shall investigate a number of major contemporary liberal and democratic approaches to the ethics of immigration. Each of these approaches offers arguments for and against closed borders as well as reasons to support or reject the state’s self-proclaimed right to unilaterally control its borders. Furthermore, we shall discuss the practical implications of these approaches by asking the question what a just or legitimate (morally speaking) regime of border control has to look like. Finally, we shall explore the resulting tension between the (apparently utopian) demands of these idealistic approaches to the ethics of immigration and the (seemingly insurmountable) limits imposed by the non-ideal political and legal reality in which we live.

Course objectives

This course aims at the cross-fertilization between normative political philosophy and the philosophy of law in relation to the academic debate concerning the ethics of immigration and the state’s alleged right to unilaterally control its borders. This will be done with the help of a selection of primary texts. The course’s objective is to inculcate in students an understanding of the major contemporary liberal and democratic approaches to the ethics of immigration. In addition, students will be trained in their ability to formulate, both orally and in writing, a critical perspective of their own regarding this topic.

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

  • the major contemporary liberal and democratic approaches to the ethics of immigration (in terms of their content, practical implications and idealistic/realistic character);
  • how these approaches are related.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • describe, distinguish and compare the major contemporary liberal and democratic approaches to the ethics of immigration;
  • spell out the practical implications of these approaches;
  • locate each of these approaches within the broader philosophical debate over ideal and non-ideal theory;
  • evaluate and criticize, both orally and in writing, these approaches;
  • write, present and critically review an essay in which a reasoned perspective is defended regarding a specific topic discussed during the course.

Timetable

See Timetables MA Philosophy 2015-2016

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course Load

Total course load (10 ECTS credits x 28 hours): 280 hours.

  • Attending seminars: 42 hours.
  • Time for studying the compulsory literature: 90 hours.
  • Time for making assignments in preparation for seminars: 48 hours.
  • Time to write individual final paper (including reading/research): 100 hours.

Assessment method

  • Participation during course meetings: affects the final grade by a maximum of 1 point (positively or negatively).
  • Weekly critical notes on course literature: counts for 15% towards the final grade.
  • Individual presentations and critical reviews during the final conference: counts for 15% towards the final grade.
  • Individual paper: counts for 70% towards the final grade.

Blackboard

Blackboard will be used by the instructor in order to provide course information, place announcements for students, and possibly to collect assignments made by students.

Reading list

To be announced.

Registration

Please register for this course via Study administration system uSis
See also Registration for lectures and tests

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

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.

Contact

Dr. M. Verschoor

Remarks