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Why We Rule the World, and How


Admission requirements

This course is available for students of the Humanities Lab
If you have received your propaedeutic diploma within one academic year, your academic results are good and you are a very motivated student, you may apply for a place in the Humanities Lab.


People mould the world according to the categories and norms they impose upon it. Morality, law, science, philosophy, myth, religion, and language are just as many examples of this. Whereas these categories and norms are sometimes explicit (as in law or morality), sometimes they are hardly perceptible, if at all. In the latter case, we simply think that this is the way things are.

Rather than teach what, in fact, things are, this class will focus on some major patterns according to which ‘reality’ is constructed. It will do this by studying three fields: 1) the mythical world order of ‘primitive’ people, 2) the precision achievable in science and philosophy, and 3) language as an over-all category of organization and norm-giving. Interestingly, the fields of myth, science/philosophy, and language, rather than being consequent or subsequent upon each other, overlap.

Course objectives

  1. Familiarize students with different theoretical approaches to normativity (models, norms, standards, rules, practices, habits), both inside and outside Humanities.
  2. Introduce students to key problems concerning the concept of normativity, including questions about the reality-formative character of myth, science, language, etc.
  3. Present students with a number of tools (case studies, thought-experiments, new concepts) for critical thinking.
  4. Train students in applying insights from the Humanities to problems of topical interest in science and society.


Courses of the Humanities Lab are scheduled on Friday afternoon from 13.00 to 17.00. For the exact timetable, please visit the following website for the first semester and the second semester

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Seminar meetings 6 × 4 = 24 hours
Readings, ca. 400 pages = 80 hours
Individual assignment = 4 hours
Conclusive paper 32 hours
Total course load 5 EC 140 hours

Assessment method

  • Active participation (20%)

  • Individual assignment (40%)

  • Conclusive paper (40%)
    If the final grade is insufficient (lower than a 6), there is the possibility of retaking the final assignment . Contact the course lecturer for more information.
    Weekly attendance is mandatory.


Attendance is compulsory for all meetings (lectures, seminars, excursion). If you are unable to attend due to circumstances beyond your control, notify the Humanities Lab office in advance, providing a valid reason for your absence, and hand in your weekly assignment in writing to the lecturer (if applicable). Being absent without notification and valid reason may result in lower grades or exclusion from the course.


Required readings will be made available through Blackboard or on the Library’s course reserve shelf.

Reading list

If desired students can purchase one or more of the following titles:

  • Henri Bergson, La pensée et le mouvant, Paris, Alcan, 1934f (trans. The Creative Mind: An Introduction to Metaphysics, Dover Publications 2010)

  • H.-G. Gadamer, Wahrheit und Methode. Grundzüge einer philosophischen Hermeneutik, Tübingen, Mohr/Siebeck, 1960f. (trans. Truth and Method, Bloomsbury Academic 2004)

  • L. Lévy-Brühl, Les fonctions mentales dans les sociétés inférieures, Paris, Alcan, 1928 (trans. How Natives Think, G. Allen & Unwin ltd., 1926)


Students of the Humanities Lab will be registered via uSis by the administration of the Humanities Lab

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Lecturer: Dr H.W. Sneller
Humanities Lab office: e-mail


More information: website

If all participants of this course are Dutch native speakers, this course will be taught in Dutch.