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Freedom, Justice, and Equality


Admission requirements

Admission to one of the following programmes is required:

  • MA Philosophy 60 EC: specialisation Philosophical Perspectives on Politics and the Economy

  • MA Philosophy 60 EC: specialisation Moral and Political Philosophy

  • MA Philosophy 120 EC: specialisation Philosophy of Law, Governance, and Politics


Why does equality have such a prominent role in the philosophical discourse? Can I be exploited and be free at the same time? Does justice need equality and in which sense? These will be some of the questions we will tackle on this course.

In the first section we will discuss justice as fairness and its critics, to then discuss justice in a cosmopolitan framework where abnormal justice seems to be the norm. Besides discussing justice in a distributive sense, we will also spend some time on a different form of justice: epistemic justice, as presented by Fricker.

In the second part of the course, we will explore the concept of freedom, trying to understand what it means to be free – is it to be non-dominated? Is it to be in a certain condition to act? – and whether freedom conflicts with equality. In this section, we will deal with questions of self-ownership and exploitation and how they fit in a discourse around freedom and justice.

The third section will be on equality. The central question will be whether equality holds a fundamental value in political theory and if so, why. The major theories that contest the primacy of equality will be presented and discussed. In particular, this section will ask whether equality has an intrinsic or instrumental value, and will test equality vis à vis priority, sufficiency and desert.

The readings of these sections will guide our final discussions on specific cases that will shed light on the relation between equality, freedom and justice and their different interpretations.

Course objectives

This course aims to:

  • give students a deep critical understanding of the philosophical concepts of freedom, justice and equality, their relationship, and their embedding in different political theories as core values and as principles guiding political action;

  • acquaint students with key writings on freedom, justice and equality, including but not limited to the treatment of these ideas by modern political philosophers.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • analyse and critically evaluate the use made of freedom, justice and equality in philosophical writing and in wider political contexts;

  • apply the concepts and arguments from the authors studied to better understand contemporary real world problems and debates.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Class attendance is required.

Assessment method


  • Presentation of one reading in class + active participation** (20%)

  • Written questions or discussion points about two additional readings, for different sessions (20%)

  • Final 3,500-word essay (60%)

** For active and informed participation I intend a participation that shows the student is familiar with the texts and is ready and willing to engage with them, asking relevant questions.

NB. If you need special adjustments, it is your right to receive them, please contact the instructor if that is the case to try and find the most appropriate for you.


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of several subtests (see above).


If the final mark is below sufficient, there is the possibility to re-write a paper. The new grade will replace the previous one for the final paper and so change the final mark. Only students who do participate in class can ask for rewriting their paper.

Students who have obtained a satisfactory overall grade for cannot ask to re-write their paper.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

To be announced on Brightspace.


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.