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The moral philosophy behind legal systems

Get to the core of modern legal systems

Philosophy sits at the very core of modern legal systems, and in this programme you’ll learn to assess those legal systems against the ethical standards that have been discussed by philosophers for centuries. You’ll study the philosophy of science, normative ethics, ancient and medieval philosophy, modern philosophy, and how to read philosophical texts.

The programme is highly interdisciplinary, consisting of introductory philosophy courses, courses in philosophy of law, and your own choice of law courses that you can tailor to your area of interest. You’ll also write a Master’s thesis on a legal issue of your choice – perhaps related to your research for your Master’s degree in Law. 

This is a small-scale programme, meaning you’ll work a lot in small groups and receive plenty of attention from the teaching staff. But you’ll also benefit from working with students and teachers whose backgrounds are in different disciplines. All students following a Philosophy specialisation take the core introductory philosophy courses, which means you’ll come into contact with people specialising in neuroscience or bioethics and health as well. 

The start date of this programme is September 1st.

Facts and figures

Year 1

In your first year, you’ll take four legal courses of your choice, four introductory philosophy courses, and two philosophy of law courses.
As well as studying a basic history of philosophy, from ancient times to modern day, you’ll learn about normative ethics – asking yourself how human beings can co-exist when we subscribe to different ethical theories, such as virtue ethics, utilitarianism, Kantian ethics and so on. You’ll also learn about the scientific method, finding out what makes knowledge scientific knowledge, and asking whether objective knowledge is possible.
In your legal philosophy courses, you’ll read an entire philosophical treatise on the philosophy of law – previous authors have included Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Plus, you’ll look at the challenges of migration and how these are affected by international law.

Year 2

Your second year continues with several legal and philosophical courses, but also involves writing your Master’s thesis. A couple of courses help you come up with your research question and prepare you to write a philosophical thesis. Many students choose a topic that complements their Law Master’s thesis.
In parallel, during the Bioethics, Technology and Law course, you’ll examine socially relevant ethical questions relating to care in medicine – like abortion, euthanasia and organ trade. You’ll also read and discuss a classic treatise, like Kant’s "Doctrine of Right” – the first part of his Metaphysics of Morals.

Rein Tijm

Rein Tijm

"After (and during) my bachelor programme in law – which almost exclusively involved the application of existing law – I wanted to find out more about the mechanisms and motivations operating in the background process of law creation. The master’s programme Philosophy of Law and Governance turned out to be the perfect answer. And, because you normally combine this master with a legal master, you can earn two complementary degrees in two years!"

Change your future with the Philosophy of Law and Governance programme

Change your future with the Philosophy of Law and Governance programme

Having completed your Master’s in Philosophy of Law and Governance, your career can go in many different directions – both legal and philosophical. As a graduate in both law and philosophy, you can continue your academic career or pursue a legal career as a judge, barrister or any other kind of lawyer. You could even become a legislator or policymaker for a government agency.

Explore your future prospects
 Demonstrating crowd

Want to know more?

For information on courses and the study programme

Send an e-mail to dr. A.J. Wolthuis via a.j.wolthuis@vu.nl