Philosophy Courses in English 

Winter Term 2017 / 2018

Theories about territorial rights: Why may states control land and the people on it?

Introductory Seminar

Kerstin Reibold


25. / 26.11.2017 + 2. / 3. 12.2017, 10.00 - 16.00, EW 169

Preliminary meeting: 17.11.2017, 17.00 - 18.30 pm, EW 169


Why may states claim land as their territory and who decides in territorial conflicts which party has a right to land and where the borders of each country should be? These questions become important in a variety of cases: We might ask what a fair solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine would be; whether the Catalans have a right to secede from Spain; or how borders should be drawn after a violent conflict. Different theories about territorial rights give different answers to these questions. Some argue that the historical and cultural attachment of a group justifies their claim to a certain territory. Others concentrate on the tasks of a state such a protecting peace and human rights and then justify territorial rights as a precondition for fulfilling these tasks. A third group justify individual ownership of land first and interpret the state's right to a territory as an accumulation of its citizen's property rights in land.

In the seminar we will first get to know these theories and their advantages and drawbacks. In a next step we will then use them to discuss real-world cases of territorial conflicts and the solutions each theory offers. The aim is to gain a deeper understanding of what justifies territorial rights of states and how these theories relate to border conflicts, secession, and cases of conquest. By the end of this course you should be able to hold an informed opinion about state's rights and understand the implications of each theory on our judgment of territorial conflicts.
You will be expected to attend class regularly, participate in the seminar discussions and to write an essay in order to get credits for the course.


- Margaret Moore, A Political Theory of Territory, Oxford University Press
- David Miller, Territorial Rights: Concept and Justification.
- Anna Stilz, Nations, States, and Territory.


John L. Mackie: Ethics. Inventing Right and Wrong.

Advanced Seminar

Dr. Christian Wendelborn


Monday, 10.15 - 11.45, EO 242


This seminar explores various questions about the metaethical position that is introduced in John L. Mackie's influential book Ethics. Inventing Right and Wrong. We will constrain our discussion to the first, metaethical part of the book. In that part, Mackie argues for his so called error theory, which is now a serious contender in the contemporary metaethical landscape. According to this theory, moral judgments are beliefs that ascribe moral properties, even though such properties do not exist, and therefore all (substantial) moral judgements are false. Mackie develops his theory by way of introducing a wide range of topics and arguments concerning semantic, ontological and epistemological issues within the debate about Moral Realism, Naturalism and Non-Cognitivism.

A large part of the seminar will focus on Mackie's own arguments and his discernment of different issues in semantics and ontology. In particular, we will investigate the structure and presuppositions of the error theory and the main arguments for this position. In the second part of the course, the focus will be on Mackie's critics: What responses are available for or in fact have been given by Moral Realists, Non-Cognitivists or Relativists? How persuasive is Mackie's Argument from Queerness and his Argument from Relativity respectively?

Basic knowledge in metaethics is of importance to participate in the discussion. The reading assignments and the discussion will be in English.


The main readings will come from Mackie's book. The other readings will be papers by different philosophers. All texts will be provided via ILIAS.


  1. You are required to do the assigned readings before the seminar each week. The seminars will be based on discussions, so you are required to prepare the texts in order to participate in these discussions.

  2. There are two short essays (2-3 pages): The task is to explain the main argument of a chosen passage from Mackie's book to the readers of your own (ficticious or not) philosophy blog. You are required to write these two blog entries during the lecture period.

  3. There is, finally, an argumentative essay (5-8 pages) due at the end of the semester (30 January). The topic is of your choosing. The essay must deal argumentatively with a controversy about one of Mackie's arguments or theses.


SpringTerm 2017

Population Ethics

Advanced Seminar 

Martin Brecher, M.A., M.Litt.  /  Dr. Helge Rückert

Tuesday, 17:15 - 18:45 pm


Population ethics deals with questions like the following: How many people ought there to be? Can we have duties to bring people into existence? Under which conditions are we obliged to refrain from reproducing? Can there be overpopulation? Does a person's existence ever constitute a benefit (or a harm) to her? How should we compare a state in which some people enjoy lives of a very high quality with a state in which considerably more people live great, but slightly worse lives?

We will read and discuss selected chapters and passages from the seminal work Reasons and Persons (1984) by Derek Parfit (who in 2014 received the prestigious Schock Prize in Logic and Philosophy). First, we will clarify basic concepts, problems and accounts in population ethics. Then, we will focus on possible solutions to three vexing problems of population ethics: the Non-Identity Problem, the Mere Addition Paradox, and the Repugnant Conclusion.


- Parfit, Derek (1984): Reasons and Persons. Oxford: Clarendon Press.


Multiculturalism and the challenge of illiberal groups

Introductory Seminar

Kerstin Reibold

Seminar dates:

10.4.2017-13.4.2017: 10:00am - 4pm


Today's societies are increasingly multicultural. This means that the liberal democratic state is increasingly challenged to equally represent, consider, accommodate, and reconcile different ways of living and diverse conceptions of the good in one political system. In this seminar we will first learn which groups make what kind of claims. We will look at ethnic and religious groups as well as immigrants and their respective calls to be exempted from certain general regulations or their wishes to be granted "special" rights. We will then analyze whether and how such accommodations can be justified by asking such questions as: Do minority rights increase or threaten the equality of all citizens in a state regardless of their culture and religion? Will minority rights strengthen or disintegrate the state's civil society and citizen's solidarity with each other? Can rights for groups be reconciled with the protection of individual rights guaranteed by the liberal state?

We will then focus on how multiculturalism should be put into practice and how a liberal state should deal with demands by illiberal groups that not only contradict liberal principles but also potentially hurt or oppress vulnerable members of such groups. We will discuss the merits and disadvantages of laissez-faire, deliberative and legal a priori approaches and their applicability and feasibility for different kinds of illiberal groups and claims.

If you have been admitted to this class, please check your ILIAS mailbox regularly as the reading list, the syllabus, and any other information regarding the course will be announced there. You will be expected to have read the assigned readings before the start of the seminar.


Monique Deveaux: Gender and Justice in Multicultural Liberal States

Chandran Kukathas: The Liberal Archipelago

Will Kymlicka: Multicultural Citizenship

Jeff Spinner: The Boundaries of Citizenship

Fall Term 2016 

Rawls, A Theory of Justice

Introductory Seminar

Martin Brecher, M.A., M.Litt.

Wednesdays 5:15pm - 6:45pm
Offical start: 7 September 2016 
Due to the prolonged enrolment period, all weekly philosophy courses will start in the second week of the lecture period. Accordingly, the first course session will take place on the 14th of September 2016. 

Course description: 

John Rawls's (1921-2002) magnum opus A Theory of Justice (1971) is undoubtedly one of the most important works in 20th century political philosophy and is commonly credited with reviving interest in normative inquiry within practical philosophy.

The aim of the book is to develop an account of distributive justice. Rawls argues for a conception of justice he calls "Justice as Fairness" that is meant to reconciliate demands for liberty on the one hand and equality (in the distribution of goods) on the other. In order to defend this conception of justice, Rawls employs a thought-experiment (the "original position") that combines elements of social contract theory and rational-choice theory.

In the seminar, we will focus on the fundamentals of Rawls's theory: the idea of justice as fairness, the original position, the idea of a reflective equilibrium, Rawls's two principles of justice, and Rawls's criticism of Utilitarianism. We will base our discussion of the revised edition of A Theory of Justice (published in English in 1999).
In order to get credit points for this course, the participants are required (i) to closely read the texts for each session, (ii) to actively take part in the seminar discussion, (iii) to write a term paper (Hausarbeit; optionally in the form of shorter papers). Further details will be given in the first session.

Primary source:

- Rawls, John. A Theory of Justice. Revised Edition. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press 1999. [ISBN: 978-0674000780]

Introductory reading:

- Audard, Catherine. John Rawls. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press 2007.
- Freeman, Samuel. Rawls. Oxford: Routledge 2007.
- Pogge, Thomas. John Rawls: His Life and Theory of Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2007.
- Wenar, Leif. "John Rawls". In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Winter 2013 Edition. Ed. Edward N. Zalta.
URL: http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2013/entries/rawls/

Further secondary literature (selection):

- Freeman, Samuel. "Original Position". In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Fall 2014 Edition. Ed. Edward N. Zalta.
URL: http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2014/entries/original-position/
- Freeman, Samuel (ed.). The Cambridge Companion to John Rawls. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2003.
- Daniels, Norman (ed.). Reading Rawls: Critical Studies on John Rawls' A Theory of Justice. New York: Basic Books 1975. 2nd edition 1989.
- Daniels, Norman. "Reflective Equilibrium". In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Winter 2013 Edition. Ed. Edward N. Zalta.
URL: http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2013/entries/reflective-equilibrium/
- Höffe, Otfried (ed.). John Rawls. Eine Theorie der Gerechtigkeit. Berlin: Akademie Verlag 1997. 2nd edition 2006. [NB. most contributions are in German.]
- Lovett, Frank. Rawls's A Theory of Justice: A Reader's Guide. London: Continuum 2011.
- Maffettone, Sebastiano. Rawls: An Introduction. London: Polity 2011.
- Mandle, Jon. Rawls's A Theory of Justice. An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2009.
- Richardson, Henry/Weithman, Paul (eds.). The Philosophy of Rawls: A Collection of Essays. 5 vols. New York: Garland 1999.

Philosophical Questions Concerning Death

Introductory Seminar

Dr. Tatjana Visak

Wednesdays 10:15am - 11:45am
official start: 7 September 2016

Due to the prolonged enrolment period, all weekly philosophy courses will start in the second week of the lecture period. Accordingly, the first course session will take place on the 14th of September 2016. 

What is death? Can death be good or bad for me and, if so, why? Is there a soul that survives the death of my body? Is it reasonable to fear death? Can suicide by justified? How should I live in the face of my mortality? Would it be better to be immortal? This seminar addresses these and other questions concerning death and thereby offers an introduction to philosophy for non-philosophers.
The seminar introduces various branches of philosophy, such as ontology, epistemology, history of philosophy, value theory, normative and applied ethics, and argumentation theory. Participants will be invited to think for themselves about various questions concerning death in a philosophical way. Each participant will give an oral presentation in preparation of his/ her paper.

Participants will read Shelly Kagan's book Death, which is very accessible even for non-philosophers. Participants should make sure that they have a copy of the book at the beginning of the seminar. The seminar will be in English. Participants can write their paper either in English or in German.

Primary source:
- Shelly Kagan. Death. London: Yale University Press, 2012. 376 pp.

Early Analytic Philosophy of Language

Advanced Seminar 

Prof. Kai F. Wehmeier 
Guest Professor

8-9 October 
15-16 October 
22-23 October 

[weekend block seminar]

This seminar will be devoted to reading and discussing seminal texts that played a crucial defining role in the early history of analytic philosophy, as well as a selection of papers that directly engage those original contributions. Seminar sessions will consist of a combination of lecture, student presentations, and discussions. Students are expected to submit ahead of time brief (1-2 pages) response papers to one of the primary texts to be discussed on any given day; they will develop one of these response papers into a longer term paper. In addition, we will have at least one student presentation at each of our sessions. Final grades will be determined on the basis of response papers, contributions to seminar discussion, in-class presentations, and term paper. Students enrolled in this seminar must be able to read and communicate effectively in English.

For the first six seminar meetings we will read and discuss work by Gottlob Frege (1848-1925), who developed modern quantificational logic and is perhaps the single most significant figure in early analytic philosophy of language. Specifically, the readings for the first six meetings are as follows (all texts by Frege can be found in Michael Beaney, The Frege Reader, Oxford: Blackwell 1997):

8 October: Early Frege
AM: Frege, Begriffsschrift: A Formula Language of Pure Thought Modelled on that of Arithmetic (1879): Preface and Part I
PM: Frege, The Foundations of Arithmetic (1884): Selections
9 October: Mature Frege
AM: Frege, "Function and Concept" (1891) and "On Concept and Object" (1892)
PM: Frege, "On Sense and Reference" (1892)
15 October: Late Frege
AM: Frege, "Thought" (1918)
PM: Robert May, "Frege on Indexicals," Philosophical Review 115 (4): 487-516 (2006).

We will then spend four meetings on Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), specifically his theory of descriptions, and influential reactions to it. 

16 October: Russell's Theory of Descriptions and its Aftermath
AM: Russell, "On Denoting," Mind N.S. 14 (56): 479-493 (1905).
PM: P.F. Strawson, "On Referring,"Mind N.S. 59 (235): 320-344 (1950).
22 October: Russell's Theory of Descriptions and its Aftermath
AM: Keith Donnellan, "Reference and Definite Descriptions," Philosophical Review 75 (3): 281-304 (1966).
PM: Saul Kripke: "Speaker's Reference and Semantic Reference," in P.A. French, T.E. Uehling and H.K. Wettstein (eds.), Studies in the Philosophy of Language, University of Minnesota Press, 255-296 (1977).

For the final two sessions we will be looking at two major themes of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), to wit, his picture theory of language and his rejection of the identity relation.

23 October: Early Wittgenstein
AM: Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, London: Kegan Paul (1922): Selections; and Peter Sullivan, "A Version of the Picture Theory," in W. Vossenkuhl (ed.), Ludwig Wittgenstein: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Berlin: Akademie-Verlag: 89-110 (2001).
PM: Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, London: Kegan Paul (1922): Selections; Roger White, "Wittgenstein on Identity," Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society N.S. 78: 157-174 (1977-78); Brian Rogers and Kai Wehmeier, "Tractarian First-Order Logic: Identity and the N-Operator," The Review of Symbolic Logic, 5 (4): 538-573 (2012).

Spring Term 2016 

Thomas Reid’s ethics and theory of action

Martin Brecher, M.A., M.Litt.
Wednesdays 5:15pm - 6:45pmEO 154, start: 17 February 2016 

Course description:

Thomas Reid (1710-1796) was an important figure of the Scottish Enlightenment and is regarded as the founder of the Scottish school of common sense philosophy. In general, his philosophical project aims at reconciliating philosophy and common sense; this enterprise shapes both Reid's inquiry into the 'intellectual powers' of the human mind responsible for our cognition of the world as well as his account of our 'active powers' responsible for action and in particular our moral agency.

Reid develops his moral philosophy as an alternative especially to the sentimentalist
accounts of morality (i.e., moral sense theories) of his time; his ethical system is founded on the notion of duty and draws on Stoicism and early-modern systems of natural law; finally, Reid argues for a strong, libertarian conception of free will, which he considers a necessary condition of moral obligation, and criticises contemporary determinist positions.
Main topics of the seminar will be Reid's defence of free will, his conception of practical rationality as well as his theory of moral judgement. Our primary textual basis will be Reid's Essays on the Active Powers of Man (published 1788).
In order to get credit points for this course, the participants are required (i) to closely read the texts for each session, (ii) to actively take part in the seminar discussion, (iii) to write a term paper (Hausarbeit; optionally in the form of shorter papers). Further details will be given in the first session.

Primary sources (details will be given in the first session):
- Thomas Reid. Essays on the Active Powers of Man (Edinburgh Edition of Thomas Reid). Eds. Knud Haakonssen/James A. Harris. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press 2010.
- Thomas Reid. "Of Power". Ed. John Haldane. The Philosophical Quarterly 51 (2001), 3-12.
- Thomas Reid. On Practical Ethics (Edinburgh Edition of Thomas Reid). Ed. Knud Haakonssen. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press 2007.

Introductory reading, available online:
Broadie, Alexander. "Scottish Philosophy in the 18th Century". In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Fall 2013 Edition. Ed. Edward N. Zalta. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2013/entries/scottish-18th/
- Cuneo, Terence. "Reid's Ethics". In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Spring 2011 Edition. Ed. Edward N. Zalta.
- Nichols, Ryan/Yaffe, Gideon. "Thomas Reid". In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Summer 2015 Edition. Ed. Edward N. Zalta. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2015/entries/reid/

LS Philosophie ILS Philosophie IILS Philosophie III/WirtschaftsethikStudiumInternationalEPGAK Philo