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Example courses

PPLE books

Law, Justice and Morality

It is often assumed that law, justice, and morality are straightforward, one-dimensional concepts that are inseparably intertwined. The popular media often suggests, for example, that a constitutional state equals just institutions and that legal procedures, if they function properly, lead to outcomes that are fair from a moral point of view. However, contrary to these popular views, law, justice and morality are often not at all aligned. For one thing, there are a myriad of theories of justice, each proposing different ways of organizing law and the institutions of the state. Moreover, legal theory tends to emphasize that even unjust law can, in specific instances be legally valid. Finally, Western societies are characterized by a plurality of (religious and secular) ideas of the good life (moralities). The question is how law can offer just and effective solutions when such moralities conflict.

In this course, we will take a closer look at the concepts of law, justice, and morality, and how these concepts are interrelated. The course revolves around a discussion of dominant philosophies of law, – legal positivism and natural rights theories – and theories of justice and morality – utilitarianism, libertarianism, deontology, egalitarian liberalism, and communitarianism. From these various philosophical approaches, several issues concerning the interrelation between law, justice and morality are discussed, including the following:

  • To what extent does law as a system of rules in an actual society reflect ideas about justice and morality and when may specific legal principles demand a deviation from such convictions?
  • How does the idea of a just society (justice) relate to various ideas of the good life (morality)?
  • How should a just society deal with conflicting versions of morality in a pluralist society?

These discussions start from actual political and legal controversies and issues.

Decision making

The course will first describe the traditional models of human decision-making that emphasize conscious and deliberate processes. Empirical evidence showing that this rational viewpoint is incomplete will be presented in three clusters. First it will be shown that decision-making is often not guided by conscious deliberation but by intuitive and unconscious processes with a primary role for automatic affective responses. Second, evidence will be presented that indicates that even when decisions are made deliberately and consciously, people are often not that good at making them rationally. In the third and final set of challenges to the traditional model of decision-making it will be shown that decisions are taken within a social reality. Socially shared norms about for example fairness and morality have a considerable impact on how individuals and groups make decisions.

Throughout the course these insights will be tied to various kinds of decision-making in modern society that relate to economics (e.g. consumer and organizational decision-making), politics (e.g. governance, voting behavior) and law (e.g. judicial decision-making, the psychology of law compliance). In this course there will be various guest lectures by scientists, policy makers, corporate leaders and other experts to further facilitate students’ ability to apply the insights from this course to a diverse array of societal phenomena. Moreover, students will apply insights into the social aspects of decision-making and practice advocating their position within a group that strives for a consensual decision.

Economics Markets and Organisations

The course offers a thorough introduction to the fundamental concepts of micro- and macroeconomics. The following topics will be covered: demand and supply, price formation on goods and services markets, price and demand elasticities, behaviour of consumers and producers, different market structures, production and growth, saving and investment, money and prices, unemployment, business cycles, IS-LM model, AD-AS model, trade policy and political-economy influences, governmental interventions in the presence of externalities and market failures.

After completing the course, the students have acquired a thorough introduction to the fundamental concepts of micro- and macroeconomics. This knowledge will be applied to various interdisciplinary relevant discussions (taking account of political economy, psychological influences, etc). The student thus obtains the essential knowledge to understand the economist’s view on societal developments and required policies. Moreover, the student will be able to critically assess reporting in the theoretical literature as well as in the press, which should allow the student also to creatively report and discuss current developments.

Integrative seminar on Solidarity

Life is full of examples in which behavior of individuals seems not only motivated by self-interest, i.e. when solidarity towards other human being across geography and time is at stake. For instance, self-interest cannot properly explain modes of intergenerational solidarity or support for African farmers by Western citizens buying Fair-trade produce. Individuals are nonetheless often not motivated to be solidary (i.e. progressive taxes, support for debt cancellation) and both economics and psychology often provide possible grounds for even doubting the value and existence of solidarity (market inefficiency, reciprocity and self interest). The goal of this course is to provide insight into how individual preferences and societal preferences can be aligned by encouraging the individual towards acknowledging and incorporating the desirable societal and/or long-term goal. In doing so, students will continuously evaluate the desirability of solidarity, the limits to solidarity and the extent to which solidarity is in fact disguised self-interest. Thus students are encouraged to think independently and critically about this challenge.