Master Class on doing research at the interface of international law and philosophy (UPDATED)


By Otto Spijkers

[Update. The programme has changed somewhat. See the website of Leiden University for the new programme.] 

In 1950, Hans Kelsen wrote in The Law of the United Nations that ‘[i]t is not superfluous to remind the lawyer that as a ‘jurist’ he is but a technician whose most important task is to assist the law-maker in the adequate formulation of the legal norms.’ One may wonder whether researchers of international law ought to restrict themselves to being just a ‘jurist.’ Are they not allowed to engage in ‘philosophizing’ as well? And, vice versa, one may wonder whether philosophers – and political scientists – may also act as jurists.

On Friday 28 August 2009, the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies (Leiden University), in cooperation with the Amsterdam Center for International Law (University of Amsterdam) and the Institute for Philosophy (Leiden University), will organize a Master Class on the challenges and opportunities of research at the interface of law and philosophy. The Master Class will provide interdisciplinary researchers a good opportunity to meet and share their views with colleagues. The location of the Master Class will be Campus The Hague, which is located at Lange Voorhout 44, The Hague.

Professor Larry May 

Special guest of the Master Class is Larry May who is currently W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Law at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tennessee (USA). Larry May is a philosopher who has worked on conceptual issues in collective and shared responsibility, as well as normative issues in international criminal law. He has also worked in professional ethics and the Just War tradition. Larry May has a Ph.D. from the New School for Social Research (New York), where he was Hannah Arendt’s last research assistant. He also has a JD in law. His writings have won various awards, and have been translated into French, German, Italian, Serbian, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. Professor May has also lectured extensively around the world. He is former president of the American section of the International Society for Philosophy of Law. In addition, he has occasionally taken a criminal appeals case, and has worked on several death penalty cases in the United States.

General Outline of the Programme

The Master Class will consist of three parts. First, Professor Larry May will tell the participants the story of his Werdegang. He will focus on the dilemmas that one faces when combining international law with philosophy. Since Professor May has extensive experience in both academia and practice, he will also speak about the oftentimes perilous relationship between theory and practice. Second, the participants have the opportunity to discuss a recent paper written by Professor May, which will be distributed beforehand. The third part of the programme consists of the actual Master Class, in which a restricted number of PhD students have the opportunity to discuss their work with Professor Larry May and the other participants. If you wish to present your research, please send us a brief CV, and a short description of your research. You may also choose to just listen to the presentations and participate in the discussion.

The Programme (provisional)

11.30 – 11.45 Arrival with coffee and tea

11.45 – 12.00 Welcome

12.00 – 12.30 Lecture by Professor Larry May

12.30 – 13.30 Lunch  

13.30 – 14.00 Discussion of Larry May’s paper  

14.00 – 16.00 Opportunity for PhD Students to present their research to Professor Larry May and their colleagues, and receive feedback

Registration and more information

The Master Class is organized by Wout Cornelissen (Institute of Philosophy, Leiden University), David Moszkowicz (Amsterdam Center for International Law, University of Amsterdam), and myself. For more information and to register, please send me an email: We look forward to seeing you in The Hague on 28 August 2009. See also the website of Leiden University.

2 thoughts on “Master Class on doing research at the interface of international law and philosophy (UPDATED)

  1. I forgot to mention the deadline for applications. That is the 15th of August. But we prefer, of course, that you do not wait until that day comes, and that you instead register as soon as you decide to participate.

    I look forward to welcoming you to the Master Class at the end of August!


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