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Contemporary Theories of Justice, Democracy and Human Rights


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to BA students in Philosophy, who have successfully completed their first year, and who have also completed at least 10 EC’s of the mandatory components of their second year, including Political Philosophy.


This course provides an advanced introduction to some of the central issues and approaches in contemporary political philosophy. It focuses on three broad themes: justice, (human) rights and democracy. Within each theme, we will first explore the prominent theoretical positions and then we will explore applications of the theoretical positions to some specific problems and issues in contemporary political life. We will explore questions including: What is social or distributive justice? Does justice apply to institutions or to individual behaviour or both? Which are the most promising theories of justice, human rights and democracy and what are the major critiques on those theories? What kinds of theoretical justification do these theories offer for the principles of justice and rights that they entail? How useful are these theories to study issues of injustices and rights-violations in the real world? Is there an internal connection between human rights and democracy? What forms of civil disobedience can be justified within democratic politics?

Course objectives

The course aims to give students an understanding of the central theoretical positions in the philosophical literature on justice, human rights and democracy.

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

  • contemporary theories of social and distributive justice, human rights and democracy;

  • strengths and limitations of different theoretical positions for the study of particular instances of injustice or inequality such as gender justice and global inequality;

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • develop critical and argumentative skills through seminar discussion and analysis of philosophical texts;

  • practice, refine and further develop oral argumentation and presentation skills in political philosophy;

  • critically compare and synthesize the theories and concepts of the authors discussed and to apply them to contemporary conceptual debates and problems in writing.


The timetable is available on the BA Filosofie website

  • BA Filosofie, BA3 – BA Plus-traject and Standaardtraject

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Attending seminars: 13 x 3 hrs = 39 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature: 128 hours

  • Essay proposal: 12 hours

  • Presentation: 16 hours

  • Additional readings: 25 hours

  • Final essay: 60 hours

Assessment method


  • Class presentation (20%)

  • Essay proposal (20%)

  • Final essay (60%)

BA students will choose from a set of research questions and use primary and secondary literature to answer the selected research question in a final essay with a word limit of 3,000 words.


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of several subtests. A subtest can be graded as unsatisfactory.
Note: attendance is required – without sufficient attendance students will be excluded from submitting a final paper.


The resit will consist of a written final paper. No separate resits will be offered for mid-term tests. The mark will replace all previously earned marks for subtests.

Class attendance amd participation is a mandatory requirement for taking the resit.
Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination(s) cannot take the resit.

Exam review

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.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • posting texts and other documents (syllabus, assessment criteria, etc.)

  • announcements

Reading list

Texts will be announced and/or distributed during the course.


Enrolment for courses and exams through uSis is mandatory.

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetables for courses and exams.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. S. Bagatur


Not applicable.