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English language courses in legal philosophy

"Though this be madness, yet there is method in it"
- Shakespeare, Hamlet, II, ii, 205

This page contains descriptions of courses in legal philosophy in the academic year 1999-2000 that will be offered in English. Of course, they will in the first place be of interest to students of law and/or philosophy. But they are open to all foreign or exchange students at the Erasmus University.

Law, ethics, and the struggle for recognition

In this course, the notion of legal subjectivity is being analyzed from two perspectives: that of intersubjectivity, and that of the rule of law. The intersubjective perspective emphasizes the relational nature of subjectivity. Interaction with others is essential for both the nature and the development of subjectivity. The perspective of the rule of law refers to the significance of rights and the framework of law for the constitution of legal subjectivity. Fusion of both perspectives is attempted through the (Hegelian) notion of recognition. This notion implies that legal subjectivity is the product of social and cultural confrontations that people engage in, because they want to be recognized in both their general and their specific human capacities. They want to understand themselves as both autonomous and authentic (unique) persons. Such an understanding, however, can only come about through engagement with others - who also desire recognition.
In this way, the course will chart the interrelatedness of law, identity and social relations. Attention will be given to insights from gender studies, developmental psychology, psychoanalysis, sociology and political theory.

Literature: Axel Honneth, Kampf um Anerkennung; Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1992 (English translation available: The struggle for recognition; Polity Press 1995. Spanish translation also available). For exact literature info, see the course listing
Purpose: Acquiring insight into the importance of the relational and confrontational dimension of the formation of subjectivity, and its relevance for moral and legal philsophy.
NB: active engagement of students in discussing the material is expected (and stimulated).
This course will be offered in the spring.

Psychoanalysis and law

Is law a fit subject for psychoanalysis? At first sight one might think not. Law is 'straight'; it has no desires, frustrations or fixations. And it is not a human subject. Law is, however, an expression of human relations and human subjectivity. Moreover, it is necessarily subject to human interpretation. Philosophers have pointed out that legal interpretation aims to make law conform to its own 'self-image'. Because there is always a tension between practice and self-image, in human subjects as well as in law, there is also always a need for mechanisms that reduce this tension (subjectively or objectively). In law as in life, this is done by hiding, repressing, or camouflaging unplesant or disturbing realities. Some of these mechanisms are recognized in law, for instance as canons of interpretation, or rules of argumentation. Others go unrecognized, and have to be brought out by (psycho-)analysis. Minorities, marginalized and 'alien' participants in the practice are the most likely to be negatively affected by the deceptive nature of law's self-image. The analysis will therefore take account of such phenomena as multiculturalism, sex and gender differences, and postcolonialism.

This course will be offered in the fall.
For the preliminary program, see the course listing.
>A reader of the texts will be made available.

For both English language courses, the following applies:

Credit points: 5 (but can be individualized)
Format: 2-hour weekly classes, for 15 weeks
Examination: oral, based on short paper by student.
Formal entry requirements: none. Some acquiantance with ethics and social philosophy is recommended.

For more info contact the instructor: Dr Gijs van Oenen, Department of Philosophy, Oostmaaslaan 950 (5 minutes from Woudestein campus), tel. 010.4088999 or 020.6860948.

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