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Philosophy and Public Affairs

Colloquium organized by Beate Roessler and Henri Wijsbek. If not noted otherwise: Wednesdays, 4-6 pm, Department of Philosophy, Faculteitskamer, Oude Turfmarkt 147.

A common characteristic of many contemporary social problems is the uncertainty about the extent to which these problems are public affairs, and thus where, by whom and how they have to be dealt with in a liberal democracy. This is particularly pressing in questions about religious diversity and fundamentalism, biotechnology and modern medicine, to name but a few examples.  In spite of their obvious differences in content, problems in areas such as these jointly call for serious reconsideration of political, moral and ethical concepts. The principles of liberalism and democracy, distinctions like the ones between the private and the public, fact and value, science and politics, and between individual morality and the normative neutrality of liberal democracies have to be interpreted against the background of these new societal problems. To deal with public concerns, established institutions and practices need to be re-evaluated. These include the sovereignty of the national state, the autonomous individual as the basic unit in normative theory, the view that democratic politics is the execution of aggregated individual preferences, and the role of expertise in democracy.

With this series of seminars with prominent moral and political philosophers from both inside and outside the Netherlands, we want to shed light on different aspects of the broad problematic, from both more theoretically oriented as well as more concretely social and political perspectives.

Contact: Henri Wijsbek (

2019-2020 program:

11/9 Bruno Verbeek (Leiden University)

25/9 Matthew Longo (Leiden University)

9/10 Peter Paul Verbeek (Twente University)

23/10 Afsoun Afsahi (UvA)

6/11 Leire Urricelqui Ramos (UvA)

20/11 Linda Beatrice Louis, Center for Law and Digital Technologies, Leiden University

4/12 Charlotte Knowles (RUG)

18/12 Iris van Domselaar (UvA)