nl en

Why We Rule the World, and How


Admission requirements

You have received your propaedeutic diploma within one academic year and your academic results are good (indication: 7,3 average). Students who meet the criteria may apply for a place in the Humanities Lab.


We ‘rule the world’ as we bend reality to comply with models and norms, with rules and regulations. This is true of human behaviour as it is made to fit in with social practices, but it is also true of services (education, health care), products (DIN, NEN, ISO), persons (IQ, DSM, CITO), animals and plants (cows, corn, GMOs), and many other aspects of social and physical reality.

The regiment of norms is sometimes made explicit in rules and regulations (laws, textbooks, grammars), but often remains largely implicit, hardly more than a set of factual practices (fashion, propriety, politeness). For rules to be effective they need to be interpreted in the light of factual circumstances; when factual practice changes, rules need to be revised to accommodate newly emerging norms.

In this module we will be exploring the twilight zone between rule and reality, between rational norm and brute fact. What are rules, and how do they work? Why do we need rules? Is normativity a good thing? What are the long-term consequences of ruling the world?

Course objectives

  1. Familiarize students with different theoretical approaches to normativity (models, norms, standards, rules, practices, habits), both inside and outside Humanities.
    1. Introduce students to key problems concerning the concept of normativity, including questions about possible effects of virtualization, globalization, and digitalization.
    2. Present students with a number of tools (case studies, thought-experiments, new concepts) for critical thinking.
    3. Train students in applying insights from 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.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Seminar meetings 6 × 4 24 hours Readings, ca. 400 pages 80 hours Individual assignment 16 hours Group assignment 16 hours Closing event 4 hours Total course load 5 EC 140 hours### Assessment method

  • Active participation (20%)

  • Individual assignment (40%): video pitch or written column

  • Group assignment (40%): conference presentation

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.


Required readings will be made available through Blackboard

Reading list

Required readings will be made available through Blackboard.


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


Instructor: Dhr. Dr. J.J.M. Sleutels

Humanities Lab:
Office: e-mail
Phone: 071-527 2228 or 071- 527 8039


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