In this course, students will take a closer look at the concepts of law, justice, and morality, and how these concepts are interconnected.
It is often assumed that law, justice, and morality come together to form a single straightforward, coherent conception. 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 organising law and the institutions of the state. Moreover, legal theory tends to emphasise that even unjust law can, in specific instances be legally valid. Finally, Western societies are characterised by a plurality of (religious and secular) ideas of the good life (moralities). The question then becomes: how can law offer just and effective solutions when such moralities conflict?
The course revolves around a discussion of dominant philosophies of law, – legal positivism and natural rights theories – and theories of justice and morality – utilitarianism, virtue ethics, deontology, egalitarian liberalism, libertarianism, socialism and communitarianism. The basic question is aptly summarised by David Miller: how should the good and bad things in life be distributed among the members of a human society?
The course Mind, Behaviour and Society I discusses and explains various persuasion techniques. Examples include models on attitude change and behaviour, the influence of emotions on decisions, unconscious influence, the influence of norms etc. The course further investigates applications of these techniques. Here one can think of consumer behaviour: how do companies persuade consumers to do what they want? But also, other aspects of our daily lives are guided by persuasion. Think of techniques used by politicians, governments and non-profit organisations.
The field of economics provides us with concepts and theories to understand our economic system and to address societal challenges like improving living standards, inequality, and sustainability. This course combines lectures, group presentations, and exercise tutorials to build intuition and knowledge on a range of topics, including: the roots of technological progress, population growth, and economic growth; the logic of economic decision making in multi-actor systems; the role of institutions in balancing power, fairness, and efficiency in economic interactions; the foundations of property rights and firms; the mechanisms through which markets function; market failures and government interventions; and the dilemmas inherent in conserving our environment for future generations.
Life is full of examples of individuals or groups that act in ways that are beneficial for their partners, for strangers or for societies as a whole. It is represented in pro-social behaviour (psychology) and cooperation (economics), both of which are functional building blocks that allow society to operate. Paying taxes to secure social benefits for society, buying sustainably harvested products, or aiding schools and children in third world countries, are examples of situations in which individuals show their pro-social nature. However, there are many sources of solidarity, from the institutional environment down to the personal motives. In this course we will approach solidarity from psychological and economic perspectives and look at individual and situational determinants of solidarity. The goal of this course is to provide an insight into how individual and societal preferences can be aligned by encouraging the individual to acknowledge and incorporate the desirable societal and/or long-term goal. Using knowledge provided in the lectures and readings, the students will propose, describe, and analyse an issue of solidarity in one of three areas: the environment, the global market, or society.