Universiteit Leiden

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Research programme

Normativity and its sources: Agency, interaction and conflict in a globalizing world

Are there general principles or values that should govern our actions as moral agents and/or as political subjects?

Our research is focused on fundamental questions of normativity and its sources. In general terms the research of the practical philosophy cluster focuses on the theme of agency and interaction. We conduct research into the status of universalist moral and political principles with an emphasis on philosophical conceptualizations of world citizenship, human rights and global distributive justice; democratic theory and its relation to conflict; and conceptions of legitimacy and authority within both political theory and moral philosophy broadly conceived.

However, in the future more attention will be given to the descriptive task of practical philosophy: to understand the realities that confront us as world citizens, as state citizens and as individual moral agents, so as to conceptualize the modes of engagement that are open to us in the different domains of practical life. 

In addition we will put greater emphasis on interdisciplinarity: the connections between political and social philosophy and disciplines like political science, history, economics, the social sciences, psychology and philosophy of language. In this context there is more room for interaction with the institute's other research programme, which has a parallel interest in e.g. the relation between philosophical questions and empirical studies in psychology. Part of the work of Dr. Van der Schaar (tolerance, judgement) and Prof.dr. De Haas (moral psychology and ethics of belief) may be regarded as bridging the two programmes.

The programme has two ideal platforms at its disposal for these interdisciplinary interactions: the recently launched Centre for Political Philosophy (in collaboration with colleagues in Political Science); the University Research Profile Political legitimacy: institutions and identities; and the University Research Profile Global interaction of people, culture and power through the ages. Much of our work will be conducted within these three forums.

Research questions

In general terms we ask the following questions:

  • Are there general principles or values that should govern our actions as moral agents and/or as political subjects?

  • What is the role of reason in answering questions regarding the most fundamental normative requirements governing moral and political action (including the question of whether there are any such requirements)?

  • How should we deal with conflicts regarding these matters? Should we aim to solve all conflicts concerning moral and or political principles and values, or should we regard conflict as essential to human social life and as valuable and productive?

  • How should we conceive of political life?

  • This includes research into cultural identity in a pluriverse of cultures and its relation to the global realities of cross-border migrations and culture-clashes on one side, and the ideal of a cosmopolitan rule of law on the other, as well as research into political identity that addresses contemporary forms of pluralism, where collective identities are often fugitive and conflict with other identities that command an individual’s allegiance.

Related research

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