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Freedom, Norms and Democracy

Dates & location 28 - 29 January 2019, Groningen, the Netherlands
Level BA/MA/ReMA
Fee € 40
Academic coordinator Dr. Ryan D. Doody

After five very successful installments, the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Groningen will host its sixth yearly Winter School, aimed primarily at advanced undergraduate students and early-stage graduate students. The theme of the Winter School this year is Freedom, Norms, and Democracy. It will consist of 6 lecture tutorials where topics related to the theme will be discussed from different disciplinary viewpoints: Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE).

Liberal societies are under threat from the rise of authoritarian populism. Democracies in Russia, Turkey, and Egypt are giving way to electoral dictatorships; and right-wing populism continues to surge in Western Europe and the United States. Meanwhile, polling suggests that less than a third of millennials think it’s “essential” to live in a democracy. And trust in liberal institutions, such as fair elections and a free press, is eroding.

It’s with new urgency, then, that we are confronted with some age-old questions. What are liberal societies? And what, if anything, is valuable about them? How should a liberal society balance respect for individual rights against being responsive to the will of the people? By what system of laws or norms can we best sustain healthy democratic institutions? To what extent does democracy encourage or inhibit individual freedom? How much freedom is it reasonable to forgo in order to enjoy the benefits of living together peacefully? What role do social norms play in the functioning of a liberal democracy? Are social norms objectionably coercive? How much control can --- and should --- governments exert over informal, social norms? Are liberal societies worth fighting for?

To answer questions like these, the fast-growing field of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics - or ‘PPE’ for short - combines methods, ideas, and arguments from these three mutually complementary disciplines. This winter school consists of 6 lecture tutorials exploring topics related to freedom, norms, and democracy - both separately as well as the connections between them -  from different disciplinary perspectives.

Last modified:05 August 2019 2.24 p.m.