nl en

Thesis seminar Philosophy: War and peace: philosophical perspectives


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies who have succesfully completed the second year elective course.

The number of participants is limited to 12.


A bachelor’s thesis is the students’ largest and most important piece of work in the program. It is a research paper of substantial size, which to a considerable extent is the result of research and writing that is independently done. Collective supervision is provided in thesis seminars. The aim of the thesis seminar is to guide students through the process of designing a research question; collecting literature, sources, data, and other materials that are necessary for answering the question; bringing logic and persuasive order in the material and in the arguments supported by it; and designing appropriate research methods. In addition, attention is paid to the relevance of the students’ research to a wider academic or non-academic audience.

War and peace are inextricably intertwined. In this BA thesis seminar we will deal with their corresponding complexities. The focus will be not so much on political and polemological questions as on the intra-psychic, or even metaphysical resonance of war. Does warfare teach us something about a fundamental inner combat? Does it betray thorough ‘ontological’ tensions? How relevant is a gender perspective here, given the fact that wars are mostly waged and prepared by men, albeit sometimes for the sake of women (e.g. Helena, Cleopatra, Patma)? Can causes of war be derived from projective identifications invested with religious energy (e.g. Kosovo, ‘Palestine’, Jerusalem, Baghdad)? On what conditions can these questions be answered at all?
Starting with a reflection on the famous pre-combat conversation between Krishna and Arjuna in the Baghavad Gita, we will study several thinkers who connected war and destructivity to inner-human or even ontological tendencies: authors varying from psychoanalytical thinkers (Freud and Fromm) and existentialists (Gabriel Marcel), to a First World War combat soldier whose writings are renowned for having inspired Hitler (Ernst Jünger).
By discussing the war phenomenon within a psychological-metaphysical framework, this seminar aims at giving an alternative approach to this ineradicable tragedy of human history, called ‘war’.

English translations or substitutes are available, though German and French are highly recommended.

Course objectives

Based, and further elaborating on the knowledge and skills acquired, students will prove themselves to be able to:

  • work with research techniques that are current in the discipline(s) applied by them;

  • comprehend sophisticated academic debates;

  • report on their studies and research in good written English;

  • work and write under time-pressure, and deal with deadlines.

  • report on their studies and research in good spoken English;

  • participate in debates in an active, prepared and informed way, respecting other people’s convictions and emotions;

  • understand fundamental cultural differences and divisions.

The general academic skills covered by these aims are:

  • collect and select specialised literature using traditional and electronic methods and techniques;

  • analyse and evaluate this in terms of quality and reliability;

  • formulate a well-defined research problem based on this;

  • set up, under supervision, a study of limited size, taking into consideration the traditional and electronic methods and techniques relevant for the discipline;

  • formulate a reasoned conclusion on the basis of this;

  • explain research findings in a clear and well-argued way, both orally and in writing.


The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website.

Mode of instruction

Eight seminar meetings of two hours, spread over semester.

Course Load

Attendance: 16 hrs.
Collective presentation: 12 hrs.
Individual presentation: 8 hrs.
Literature review: 80 hrs.
Relevance note: 12 hrs.
Total: 140 hrs.

Assessment method

Common presentation: 10 %
Individual presentation 1: 10%
Individual presentation 2: 20%
Literature review, chapter 1: 40%
Relevance note: 20%


Blackboard will be used. For tutorial groups: please enroll in blackboard after your enrolment in uSis
Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list Although texts may be available on the internet, students may wish to procure one or more books themselves. For antiquarian books, see,, or These are the relevant titles :

o Bhagavad-Gita (many translations and editions available).
o Gabriel Marcel, Les hommes contre l’humain, Paris, Fayard, 1951. (trans. The Existential Background of Human Dignity, Harvard University Press, 1963). (Antiquarian, library).
o Erich Fromm, Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, Holt Paperbacks, 1992 (1973).


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


In addition to the thesis seminars, there will be individual supervision. However, no thesis can be submitted that has not been written in the context of a thesis seminar.

hr3. Contact
Dr H.W. Sneller, email