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Honoursmodule: Masters of Suspicion*

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* course also open for first year students


dr. Machiel Keestra

Entry requirements 

This course is accessible for 1st, 2nd and 3rd year honoursstudents.

Recommended prior knowledge

Sufficient academic English - both in writing and speaking; reading & writing skills at the VWO or intern. baccalaureate.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this module:

  • The student can give definitions of both skepticism and suspicion, and can explain the difference between the two.
  • The student is familiar with the basic ideas and insights of the four Masters of Suspicion; Freud, Marx, Nietzsche and Darwin, and is able to articulate a substantiated opinion on them.
  • The student can reflect on the ideals of the Enlightenment and is able to use these reflections in discussions regarding the status of scientific truths and knowledge.
  • The student is able to present and substantiate his/her opinion in a classroom discussion, essay and presentation.
  • The student is able to position his academic discipline in relation to other disciplines and to reflect on the borders of his/her own discipline within an interdisciplinary context.
  • The student is able to give a general outline of the 19th century and 20th century scientific worldview and to reflect critically on these.
  • The student is able to describe the continuities and discontinuities between the contributions of the Masters of Suspicion and contemporary thought like postmodernism.
  • The student is able to read and understand complex texts on these issues and can distinguish the main arguments from arguments of secondary importance.


After the Middle Ages, due to an increasing freedom for the individual and discoveries of scientists like Galilei and Newton, a firm belief arose in the progress of human knowledge, morals and society. This belief and trust reigned for some centuries. However, some 19th century scientists were able to shake the prevalent optimism: Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud. According to their theories, the confidence in mankind's rationality and autonomy was founded on illusions.

Lectures will shed light on the theories of these thinkers and the scientific and social consequences of their ideas. In addition, students will be challenged to develop their own ideas about science, truth and morals.

Class contents

Seminars, partly devoted to lectures by the professor, partly to student activities.


Participation, weekly assignments 10 % 
Group presentation 10 % 
Two take home exams 40 % 
Final Essay 40 %

Min/max participants



Check Datanose for the exact information.

Study material

Hyperlinks: gebruik de link-knop om hyperlinks naar on-line materiaal te creëren.


Registration is possible for students participating in an Honours programme via an online registration form which will be made available on December 1, 10 am till December 5, 11 pm on this website. 

Placement will be at random and within two weeks students will hear whether they are placed for a course. 

There is NO guarantee for placement if you register after December 5, so make sure you register on time! 

For questions about registration please email to: Honours-iis@uva.nl 


Facts & Figures
Mode Honours programme
Credits 6 ECTS, 15 weeks
Language of instruction English
Conditions for admission Open
Starts in February