Philosophy of International Law
Course infoSchedule
Course moduleJUR-4SYSRF
Credits (ECTS)7
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byRadboud University; Faculty of Law; Rechtsfilosofie;
PreviousNext 1
dr. W.W.H. Cornelissen
Other course modules lecturer
dr. W.W.H. Cornelissen
Other course modules lecturer
dr. W.W.H. Cornelissen
Other course modules lecturer
dr. T.F. Rector
Other course modules lecturer
dr. T.F. Rector
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2023
MSEM1  (04/09/2023 to 28/01/2024)
Starting block
Course mode
Registration using OSIRISYes
Course open to students from other facultiesYes
Waiting listNo
Placement procedure-
On successful completion of this course, you will be able to: 
  • explain different philosophical approaches to human rights; 
  • explain the strengths and weaknesses of the various foundations of and challenges to human rights;
  • relate philosophical debates on human rights to current issues in human rights law;
  • form an opinion on a current human rights issue, using philosophical approaches to human rights.
Human rights are nowadays firmly established in international law and in national jurisdictions throughout the world. Many activists appeal to human rights, and various groups seek legal recognition for new human rights, such as rights of the peasants, disability-rights and LGBTI-rights. At the same time, though, the value of human rights is contested by various scholars and activists. Marxists, feminists and postcolonial thinkers have argued that human rights are not universal, but that these rights encourage an individualist and market-driven way of life. Others warn that human rights are easily manipulated by powerful actors, and, in practice, often an instrument for domination. These critics disagree on the possibility to improve human rights: some assert that human rights can be rescued or redeemed by, for instance, a cross-cultural dialogue, but others argue that we need to develop alternatives to the human rights framework.

These debates raise all sorts of pressing questions: is it possible to develop an universal foundation for human rights? Are human rights truly a defense against oppression or might human rights also deepen injustice? And if human rights are too compromised, what alternatives exist to address injustice?

The focus will be on contemporary political and legal philosophy, but we may also discuss a few classic texts. The philosophical debates on human rights will be linked to various case studies.
Master level
Presumed foreknowledge
Bachelor in Law, Bachelor in Philosophy, or equivalent degree.
Test information
Written exam

You are not automatically registered for the resit. You have to register by sending a request by email to the International Office (internationaloffice@jur.ru.nlPlease note: You have to register for the resit ultimately six working days prior to the resit. Are you too late to sign up? Then you can’t participate in the exam. Sign up in time!
Please note: if you are following the Master after having completed the pre-master (after HBO Law), you can only take this course as an extra-curricular course. Therefore this course does not count towards the obligatory 42 EC of Master courses.

Contact information

Secretary: mrs. P. (Petra) van Valkenburg, Montessorilaan 10, room 03.098, tel. +31 24 3612186, e-mail: rechtsfilosofie@jur.ru.nl.
Required materials
Compulsory texts will be uploaded to Brightspace.

Instructional modes
Working group
Attendance MandatoryYes
Type of instructional modeWorking group

No Weblectures.

Test weight1
Test typeDigital exam with CIRRUS
OpportunitiesBlock MSEM1, Block MSEM1