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Social and political philosophy is part of a practical philosophy that aims to research fundamental questions regarding human society. Read more

Master's specialisation in Social and Political Philosophy (Research)

Social and political philosophy is part of a practical philosophy that aims to research fundamental questions regarding human society: What is a political order? How are new institutions formed? What are the differences between a community and a society? What is the ideal society like? What is justice? What is the relation between morality and politics?
In Nijmegen we focus on interpreting and critiquing classical texts that are part of the European political philosophy - from Plato to Habermas. Additionally, we engage in actual discussions on the crisis and conceptualisation of democracy. Also important are studies concerning spacial and metaphorical imaginations (city, garden, desert) in core political philosophical texts. Regarding these different fields, our research in Nijmegen takes a descriptive as well as a normative perspective.

Information for students of the Research Master

In Social and Political Philosophy you study ‘the political' as an essential but conflict-ridden aspect of the human condition, and politics as a way of coping with this. Spinoza, Hobbes, Kant, Schmitt, Arendt, Zizek and Foucault are central figures in this specialisation.
The point of departure for the research conducted within the department of Social and Political Philosophy is the idea that ‘the political' is a ubiquitous dimension of all social phenomena and relations: everything is political, but nothing is only political. There is no such thing as ‘pure politics', but at the same time everything societal is ‘political' in the sense of entailing an ineradicable aspect of contestability and of decision. The very existence of a politically ordered society, liberal democracies or a secular polities, rests upon a contestable decision. (Recent developments in both world and domestic politics demonstrate a tendency to ‘forgetfulness' with respect to such decisions). As a result, we conceive of social and political philosophy not only as a matter of reflection about existing politics or political systems, but also as an investigation of the nature of the social (designated by notions such as ‘society', ‘community', ‘civil society') and the political as such, and an awareness that the political is also present in philosophy itself. Today's world is marked by a clash not of civilisations (Huntington), but of conceptualisations - and philosophy necessarily plays a significant role in the latter.
Both our research and teaching revolve around this focal insight. In 2005/6, our research seminar analysed the ‘dividing line' between church/religion and state/politics and between public and private. In 2006/7, the topic was the "Neutralisation of the Political" in the many forms this neutralisation took in modern times, notably in the writing by Carl Schmitt, Max Weber, Chantal Mouffe and in the recently published debate between Robert Audi and Jonathan Wolterstorff.
The scholarly competence of this group lies in classical, medieval, early modern and modern social and political philosophy, with a particular emphasis on 19th and 20th century Anglo-Saxon and continental thought (notably including Russia/USSR). Key authors for us are, in alphabetical order, Arendt, Aristotle, Augustine, Bulgakov, Colas, Foucault, Frank, Gauchet, Hegel, Hobbes, Lefort, Leibniz, Luhmann, Machiavelli, Mamardashvili, Marx, Mouffe, Plato, Rawls, Schmitt, Solov'ëv, Soviet Marxism, Spinoza, Leo Strauss, Taylor, Walzer, Weber, and Zizek.
The work of the research group is directly linked to that of the research group on political theology Res Mixtae, to the Centre for Russian Humanities Studies, and to the Institute of Eastern Christian Studies.

See the website http://www.ru.nl/masters/philosophy/social

Career prospects

Philosophy has a unique role within contemporary society. Unlike other academic disciplines, its subject matter is not limited to one set of questions, or one domain of investigation. Philosophers delve into all aspects of science and society. In order to do this, they must possess essential skills, namely the ability to analyse complex issues logically and conceptually and the ability to document their conclusions in clear and persuasive language. Such skills are not innate, they require intensive training. The Research Master's programme in Philosophy constitutes the first professional step towards the acquisition of these skills.

Job positions

This programme has been designed for people with the ambition to do research. Graduates tend to fall into three groups. A majority of the students continue their research within academia by applying for a doctoral programme in the Netherlands or abroad. We take particular pride in the fact that more than 75 percent of our graduates manage to obtain a PhD position within two years of graduating. A second group goes on to teach philosophy at secondary schools. And a third group enter research-related professions outside of education. Our graduates are also represented in journalism, science policy, and politics.

Our approach to this field

Philosophy has a unique role within contemporary society. Unlike other academic disciplines, its subject matter is not limited to one set of questions, or one domain of investigation. Philosophers poke delve into all aspects of science and society. In order to do this, they must possess two essential skills, namely the ability to analyse complex issues logically and conceptually and the ability to document their conclusions in clear and persuasive language. Such skills are not innate. They require intensive training. The Research Master's programme in Philosophy constitutes the first professional step towards the acquisition of these skills.

See the website http://www.ru.nl/masters/philosophy/social

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