Social roles, the reasonable man and the law

Universiteit Utrecht logoThe Dutch Research School of Philosophy (OZSW), Utrecht University and Leiden University invite PhD candidates and 1st / 2nd year ReMa students in philosophy to register for the course Social roles, the reasonable man and the law to take place in 15-19 April, 2024.

Organizing university

Utrecht University and/or Leiden University


15-19 April 2024


Utrecht and/or Leiden

Type of activity

5 day springschool / course

Primary target group

PhD candidates, 1st / 2nd year ReMa students

If places available, also open to

1st / 2nd year ReMa students, postdocs, BA student

Application/registration deadline

The deadline for registration is 1st of April, 2024.

About the topic

This course focusses on the way prominent normative-ethical theories approach social roles, the reasonable man/person and the law. Social roles like employee, tenant, student, doctor, notary and patras familias and their appearance in the law will be examined in light of the abstraction “the reasonable man” from theoretical approaches such as virtue ethics, deontology, utilitarianism, ethics of care and feminism. Scholars like Christine Korsgaard, Seyla Benhabib en Bernard Williams will be read. Questions that will be central in the course are: how can we understand social roles in the law? What is the relationship between law, social roles and the reasonable man? In what way do role expectations relate to reasonableness, caution and impartiality? Is the reasonable man careful and rational? Should role obligations and/or duties related to close ones or to strangers be the same? How can we accommodate conflicting role expectations? Would integrity mean compartmentalization or abstraction from social roles? Can one act authentically within a certain social role?

Aim / objective

After following this course the student will have a general overview of the (significance of) social roles in the law and the analyses of this topic by leading scholars. Additionally, the student practiced to engage critically with the discussed literature.


Main Theme 1st timeslot
2nd timeslot



Setting the stage


Sayla Benhabib, “Introduction” and “In the Shadow of Aristotle and Hegel” in Situating the Self, Gender, Community, and Postmodernism in Contemporary Ethics, (Cambridge, Polity Press, 1992): 1-68.


Social roles, Roleconflict, Integrity and Identity


David Luban, “The Problem of Role Morality” and “The Structure of Role Morality”, in Lawyers and Justice, An ethical Study, (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1988): 104-148.


Robert Stern, “A Good Doctor but a Bad Person? A Puzzle for Role Ethics from Løngstrup” in The Ethics of Social Roles, Ed. By Alex Barber and Sean Cordell, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2023): 87-107.


Social roles, Utilitarianism and Virtue Ethics


Utilitarianism, Deontology, Virtue Ethics and Ethics of care


Justin Oakley and Dean Cocking, “The nature of virtue ethics” and “A virtue ethics approach to professional roles”, in Virtue Ethics and Professional Roles (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009): 7-38 and 74-95.

Bernard Williams, “Integrity”, in Utilitarianism, for and against (London: Cambridge University Press, 1975), 108-118 en Bernard Williams, “Theory and Prejudice”, in Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, (London: Routledge Classics, 2011), 103-133.


Social roles, Deontology and Ethics of care


Christine Korsgaard, “Integrity and Interaction” and “How to be a person”, in Self-constitution, agency, identity, and integrity, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009): 177-215

Christoph Bambauer, “Christine Korsgaard and the Normativity of Practical Identities” in Dimensions of Practical Necessity, Ed.Katharina Bauer, Somogy Varga and Corinna Mieth, (Springer Nature, 2017), 61-86


Sayla Benhabib, “The Generalized and the Concrete Other,” in Situating the Self, Gender, Community, and Postmodernism in Contemporary Ethics, (Cambridge, Polity Press, 1992): 148-178.

Young, Iris Marion, 1987. “Impartiality and the Civic Public: Some Implications of Feminist Critiques of Moral and Political Theory,” in Benhabib and Cornell (eds.) 1987: 56–76


Social roles and feminism


Feminism, the law and social roles


Kim Lane Scheppele, “The Reasonable Woman”, Philosophy of Law, 7th ed., ed. Joel Feinberg en Jules Coleman, (Belmont, CA : Thomson/Wadsworth, 2004): 456-460.

Catriona Mackenzie, “Relational Autonomy, Normative Authority and Perfectionism,” in Journal of Social Philosophy, 2008, 39(4): 512-533.


Renetta Bos

Key note speakers

Renetta Bos and TBA

Abstract submission

A motivation letter should be submitted of max. 350 words.

Required preparations

readings, participation

Last updated on 31 October, 2023.

Certificate / credit points

For this course participants can earn a certificate after successful completion. Please note, however, that the OZSW is not accredited to reward students with credits/ECTS directly. The study load is mentioned on the certificate, which can usually be exchanged for ‘real’ credits (ECTS) at your home university. The study load for this activity is: TBA.


free for OZSW and non-OZSW members

How to apply / register

Please click here to register.

If registration has been closed because the maximum amount of participants has been reached, you can submit your name to the waiting list by sending an email to Please also indicate whether you are a ReMa student or PhD candidate and whether you are a member of the OZSW or not.

Cancellation and registration policy

Contact info

Renetta Bos (lecturer), and/or Renetta Bos (PhD-candidate)