Two Live Polls/Enquetes! -closed

After the success of our “SG Conscience Survey”, the results of which are on display in the Aula entrance hall this month (September), we’ve concocted a few fresh polls for you to fill in.

Both are related to upcoming events: the lecture by Rutger Bregman, Gratis geld voor iedereen, and the Delta debate “Making Room for Religion on Campus?”

The polls are anonymous, and the results will be shared online and discussed at the events. We’d love to hear your opinion too! Time to complete: no more than 2 minutes.

(In Dutch): Enquete “Gratis geld voor iedereen”

Poll: Making Room for Religion on Campus?

Making room for religionrutger bregman




Van Hasselt lecture 2015: The Future of Peace, Weapons and War

The Future of Peace, Weapons, and War

Mary Ellen O’Connell

It is an honor to deliver this lecture named for Frans van Hasselt, who in 1940 spoke out in protest of the injustices of the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands while at the Deflt University of Technology. He paid for his words with his life. Yet, his example lives on and is rightly commemorated on the day when 70 years ago peace returned to The Netherlands and with it, the hope of justice. These remarks call for the return of peace again—the return of the idea that peace is as possible as it is necessary for justice to flourish.

This plea for peace is necessitated by a growing perception that security demands constant war. In March 2015, Georgetown University law professor Rosa Brooks published an essay in the influential journal, Foreign Policy, titled, “There’s No Such Thing as Peacetime”. In it she argues that we should abandon “the Sisyphean effort to ‘end’ war and instead focus on developing norms and institutions that support rights and the rule of law … not premised … on a distinction between war and peace.” She is not alone in imagining no future for peace.

These remarks argue the opposite. They draw on two 17th-century thinkers, who have come to personify today’s competing characterizations of our world as a place where war has become the normal situation and peace the exception or where peace remains the norm and war is the exception. The hero of the war camp is the Englishman, Thomas Hobbes; the hero of peace is the Dutchman, Hugo Grotius.

Hobbes included in his famous book, Leviathan, published in 1651, the belief that outside of nation-states ruled by governments is the state of nature, where people are prone to engage in constant war–wars of all against all. Hobbes describes humanity as being, in the words of Sir Hersch Lauterpacht, “essentially selfish, anti-social, and unable to learn from experience … the basis of political obligation is interest pure and simple; the idea of a sense of moral duty rising supreme over desire and passion is a figment of imagination ….” [Hersch Lauterpacht, The Grotian Tradition in International Law, 23 BRIT. YBK. INT’L L. 1-53 (1946).]

Grotius, by contrast, saw the world and humanity very differently. His book, On the Law of War and Peace of 1625, was written to help to end the Thirty Years War between Catholics and Protestants in Western Europe. Grotius did not believe a world government is necessary to preserve the peace; he did believe world law is needed. According to Lauterpacht, Grotius developed his ideas out of his conviction that people are “intrinsically moved by a desire for social life, endowed with an ample measure of goodness, altruism, and morality, and capable of acting on general principle and of learning from experience.”3 Grotius affirmed the legal and moral unity of humanity and understood law to be necessary to all human societies from the local to the international. His views contrast starkly with those holding that national interest should be the overriding basis of state policy.

It has been fashionable since the end of the Cold War to take the Hobbesian view, which in contemporary terms means to extol military force. For twenty-five years we [ Id. at 24Hersch Lauterpacht, The Grotian Tradition in International Law, 23 BRIT. YBK. INT’L L. 1-53 (1946)] have been hearing of the utility and even morality of resort to war to achieve all sorts of desirable ends from advancing human rights, democracy, and self-determination to preventing terrorism and punishing the use of chemical weapons. Because the use of force for these purposes currently violates international law, we are also hearing arguments for expanding the legal right to use military force. The aim is to modify the United Nations Charter’s general prohibition on the resort to force to permit more exceptions. Currently the Charter provides only two express exceptions. One is for self-defense to a significant armed attack. The other is for the use of force with the authorization of the UN Security Council.

There is, however, a different perspective. It is based on the Grotian view of humanity and sees the possibility of greater peace under the international law than we have now. This view supports the current strict limits on resort to war and advocates expanding the restrictions. The Groatian view may sound to many contemporary ears platitudinous, unrealistic, and even dangerous. People have become convinced that it is a matter of kill or be killed. Such a conviction can be reversed once it is understood how the contemporary Hobbesian view became so dominant and how the Grotian view can be seen as the more compelling.

There are many reasons why Hobbesian realism has come to dominate Western thinking. Realist ideology helps to account for the growth of the massive military apparatus found in the United States, which has taken on a life of its own.4 Having such capacity seems to cry out to some people for using it. Just one aspect of this this phenomenon, new weapons technology, amply demonstrates how the possession of President Dwight Eisenhower waned of the “military-industrial complex” in 1961 [ available here:].

Here words were prophetic and unheeded certain weapons is associated with pressure to use them, regardless of the law. The computer revolution in military affairs has given the world the weaponized unmanned vehicle or drone, which is rapidly being developed into fully autonomous robotic weapons along with another computer dependent invention, so-called “cyber weapons.” [See generally, Mary Ellen O’Connell, 21st Century Arms Control Challenges: Drones, Cyber Weapons, Killer Robots, and WMDs, 13 WASH. U. GLOBAL STUD. L. REV. 515 (2014),]

For US leaders this new weapons technology has substantially lowered the political costs of killing with military force. The impression of low cost, especially in terms of personnel killed, has helped to bring about the result that the US now engages in militarized policing at home and abroad. More worrying is that prominent international law scholars, like Brooks, and philosophers, like Oxford’s Jeff McMahan, defend the policy to use force abroad regardless of current rules.[See McMahan’s view that the law against war in the UN Charter is “largely obsolete” in Jeff McMahan, Laws of War, in THE PHILOSOPHY OF INTERNATIONAL LAW 493, 496 (Samantha Besson & John Tasioulas eds., 2010)]

In responding in Grotian terms to these challengers of international law, new hope lies in aesthetic philosophy–the philosophy of beauty, which supports Grotius’s optimistic view of humanity; his view that our interest in others, our social nature and capacity for altruism are as true of us as self-interest. [ See Mary Ellen O’Connell, Drawing on Beauty, Aesthetics, Authority and International Law (in progress.)]

With a more balanced view of human capacity, the case for respecting international law, especially, the prohibition on the resort to military force, becomes attractive again. The philosophy of beauty adds persuasive weight to the Grotian response to Hobbes and can renew us in the desire to do the work that must be done for a future of peace.

I. From Hobbes to Brooks

The Hobbesian view can be seen clearly in Rosa Brooks’ essay: [Human] rights advocates are often inclined to dismiss the increasing blurriness of the boundaries between war and peace as merely a product of disingenuous U.S. government rhetoric. They are wrong to do so. No question, there has been some disingenuous rhetoric, but recent decades have also seen real and significant changes in the geopolitical landscape: Revolutionary technological changes have reduced the salience of state borders and physical territory and have increased the lethality and disruptive capabilities of non-state actors and even individuals. The nature of modern security threats makes it virtually impossible to draw neat lines between war and peace, foreign, and domestic, emergency and normality.

She may be correct that it is more difficult today to draw “neat lines between war and peace.” She begs the question of whether it was ever “easy”, but in the era of human rights if it is difficult to distinguish war from peace, our legal and ethical principles tell us when in doubt characterize situations as peace and apply the law of peace. Defaulting to war conflicts with the priority these principles demand that we give to human rights. In the emergency situation of war, international law permits limitations on human rights. Most significantly, during armed conflict lawful combatants will not face criminal charges for intentionally killing enemy fighters even if those fighters do not pose any immediate threat, so long as the restrictions in the Geneva Conventions and other international humanitarian law are followed.

Brooks is plainly aware of this limitation on the right to life during armed conflict and the current international legal definition of armed conflict. She recognizes that two US presidential administrations have claimed the right to kill with military force far from actual combat zones. Yet, she is willing to support these because of what she sees as new security threats that fall outside existing legal categories. In her words: “In a war against a geographically diffuse terrorist network, the spatial boundaries are necessarily arbitrary.”

But the decision to intentionally kill outside armed conflict zones or outside a zone of uncertainty is a choice. There is nothing inevitable or dictated by nature in the concept of a boundary or characterizations of what is inside the boundary, outside, or uncertain in location. Spatial boundaries are ideas. They are lines with no width; concepts of geometry that we imagine. If boundaries are arbitrary for Brooks it is because she has chosen to conceive of boundaries as far more abstract than someone who associates boundaries with real people and the places where they live, work, and die. It is a choice to conceive of boundaries as arbitrary. It is clearly a choice to decide that killing is lawful and moral in zones of uncertainty. Current international law rejects these choices when it comes to killing.

Brooks’ argument against boundaries is consistent with her call for “perpetual war”. While she has criticized some drone strikes, she also finds fault with current international law, believing like McMahan that it is obsolete. She served as a political appointee for two years in the Obama Pentagon and shares the now prevailing view in U.S. military, legal and philosophical circles that circumstances have so changed that international law should be interpreted or changed to allow a greater legal right to use military force.

This development did not begin with 9/11. It really started when the first Clinton administration took office in 1992 and has spread in the international law and philosophy literature from the United States to NATO countries and Australia. The French philosopher Grégoire Chamayou has recently written: [L]arge-scale intellectual maneuvers are in the offing and semantic coups are being plotted. In fact, a whole collection of theoretical offensives are being launched with the aim of appropriating, twisting, and redefining concepts that, by naming and theorizing violence, allow it to be legitimately exercised … Bringing about this moral conversion and transmutation of values is the task to which philosophers working within the confined field of military ethics today devote themselves … But the offensive is also and perhaps above all pushing into the field of legal theory. “Warfare without risk,” in which the drone is probably the most effective instrument, critically undermines the meta-legal principles that underpin the right to kill in war. … The aim is to accommodate the right to “targeted assassination”.[ GRÉGOIRE CHAMAYOU, A THEORY OF THE DRONE 17 (2013).]

For Chamayou, we in the West had a better understanding of the need for restrictions on war when we conceived that the risks were reciprocal. If our populations and soldiers faced death by the use of force, we wished to try to restrict that force by all available means, including legal and moral norms protecting the right to life. The drone has undermined that source of tangible awareness of the need for restrictions. Reciprocal risk is gone. Substantial evidence indicates that following almost a decade and a half lethal operations with drones, many view drone attacks as less serious than killing carried out by ground troops, piloted planes, manned naval vessels, or a CIA agent using a knife, all of which pose some level of risk to the one doing the killing. One U.S. official has observed: “People are a lot more comfortable with a Predator strike that kills many people than with a throat-slitting that kills one.”[Jane Mayer, The Predator War, What are the Risks of the C.I.A.‘s Covert Drone Program?, THE NEW YORKER (online), 26 October 2009,]

The possession of technology lowers the political and psychological barriers to killing, making it easier to overlook the legal, policy and ethical limits as well.

Several years ago, a UK military report on the psychological effect of drones, observed: [O]ne of the contributory factors in controlling and limiting aggressive policy is the risk to one’s own forces. … For example, the recent extensive use of unmanned aircraft over Pakistan and Yemen may already herald a new era. That these activities are exclusively carried out by unmanned aircraft, even though very capable manned aircraft are available, and that the use of ground troops in harm’s way has been avoided, suggests that the use of force is totally a function of the existence of an unmanned capability—it is unlikely a similar scale of force would be used if this capability were not available. [United Kingdom Ministry of Defence, Joint Doctrine Note 2/11, The UK Approach to Unmanned Aircraft Systems, (30 March 2011) Ministry of Defence, [502],, pp. 5.8-5.9.]

A national leader knows he can deploy drones without his own citizens coming home in body bags. This fact plainly makes the decision to kill easier for political reasons, especially in the United States where the body bag count that went on for years during the Vietnam War still haunts politicians and citizens alike. [ See, See Mary Ellen O’Connell, Seductive Drones: Learning from a Decade of Lethal Operations, 21 J. INFO. L. & SCI., 116 (2012), available at]

For the 2011 intervention in the Libya civil war, President Obama moved away from manned aircraft to drones entirely. He had promised that the US would only be using military force in Libya for a few days. As those few days stretched into weeks, he shifted from manned aircraft to drones. With drones he could still assure US Allies that the US was making a major military commitment while at the same time assuring the American people that the US was not really involved in another armed conflict. In a debate about whether Mr. Obama was exceeding his legal authority in Libya, a Congressman asked: ‘“Could one argue that periodic drone strikes do not constitute introducing forces into hostilities since the strikes are infrequent” and “there are no boots on the ground?”’ [ Charlie Savage, Libya Effort is Called a Violation of War Act, N.Y.TIMES, May 25, 2011, available at]

This last point, no boots on the ground, has been a significant political factor in the use of drones in Pakistan. Pakistan’s government has restricted the US military presence on its territory to a small number of military trainers. To comply with this mandate, the US’s drone attacks in Pakistan have been the CIA’s responsibility.

Ironically, in Yemen, the request was the other way around. In reporting on the 2002 CIA drone strike that killed six persons in Yemen, the media related that Yemen’s President Saleh had acquiesced in the strike. We now know from Wikileaks, Saleh banned further drone attacks but permitted manned vehicle strikes. Saleh could claim that Yemen itself had carried out the attacks. The choice of launch vehicle was tied to the fact that Yemen did not possess armed drones.
Related to the political reasons for killing with drones are the psychological factors. We know that technological distance from a victim makes the decision to kill easier for the person actually controlling the weapon. Distance may ease the decision for those in the operator’s chain of command, as well, if they know they are not risking their own nationals’ lives along with the enemies’.

Without the risk to U.S. nationals and the ability to check off names on a kill list, the pressure has been on US officials to show the program is not only politically acceptable but also laudable in law and ethics. Former CIA Director Leon Panetta has emphasized that using drones is lawful because they are ‘precise’. He apparently did not address whether resorting to drones in the first place is lawful. “[V]ery frankly,” he said, “it’s the only game in town in terms of confronting and trying to disrupt the al-Qaida leadership.”’13

The US administration measures the game’s success by the number of “militants” killed with each drone strike. This feature of the drone wars is again reminiscent of the American experience in Vietnam. Year after year, US officials provided statistics of the number of enemy persons killed. The war, however, was never won. Judging by the situations in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and to some extent Pakistan today, drone strikes have helped create far more dangerous situations than prior to their use. [Noah Shachtman, CIA Chief: Drones ‘Only Game in Town’ for Stopping Al Qaeda, WIRED, May 19, 2009, available at]

The wide acceptance of using drones to kill in far off countries tracks the findings of Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman in his 1996 book, On Killing, that distance from a victim makes the decision to kill easier or more acceptable. For Grossman, “distance from the victim” includes various concepts of distance, including physical, emotional, social, cultural, moral, and mechanical. These factors seemed to be at play in a tragic incident that occurred in Afghanistan in February 2010, in which 23 Afghan civilians were killed and another 12 injured. “[I]n his desire to support the ground forces, … the [drone] pilot ‘had a strong desire to find weapons,’ and this ‘colored — both consciously and unconsciously — his reporting of weapons and children.’”[ See the investigation into a drone strike in February 2010 that resulted in the deaths of a number of civilians. Christopher Drew, Study Cites Drone Crew in Attack on Afghans, N.Y.TIMES, Sept. 10, 2010, available at (The Pentagon report found the Predator crew exercised “poor judgment”.]

Grossman focuses on the person who actually pulls the trigger or uses the joystick to fire the missile. Yet, the distance factor could impact everyone involved in the kill decision, including a whole society that supports such killing. By 2015, drone killing has reached a very high level of acceptance in the United States. It dipped somewhat when the media revealed several American citizens had been killed intentionally and unintentionally. Yet, with the rise of the militant group calling itself the “Islamic State”, attacking abroad has regained high levels of popularity. [See Ken Dilanian and Emily Swanson, AP-GfK Poll: Americans Approve of Drone Strikes on Terrorists, May 1, 2015,]

Indeed, the acceptance is so high that Americans joke about killing with drones in a way they would not, presumably, about killing with a bayonet or a cruise missile. In May 2010, at an annual dinner for journalists, politicians, and celebrities in which invited guests are expected to tell jokes, President Obama quipped about his two young daughters being fans of a band called The Jonas Brothers. Members of the group were in the audience and the president said, ‘“Boys, don’t get any ideas. I have two words for you – Predator drones…You will never see [them] coming.”’ [Adam Entous, How the White House Learned to Love the Drone, REUTERS, May 18, 2010, available at]

The Bush and Obama administrations have presented killing with drones as precise and imperative, and, therefore, so morally unproblematic we can joke about it. Chamayou argues that drones have altered the very relationship of the state to deadly force. He quotes the German political and legal theorist, Carl Schmitt, saying that Schmitt accurately pinpointed the effects of airpower on the juridical and political categorization of the enemy”. Schmitt’s analysis of the effects of ‘autonomous aerial warfare,’ in which ‘the lack of relation between military personnel in the air and the earth below, as well as with inhabitants thereon, is absolute,’ is still applicable today to the armed drone: ‘… Given the fact that war has been transformed into a police action against troublemakers, criminals, and pests, justification of the methods of this ‘police bombing’ must be intensified. Thus, one is compelled to push the discrimination of the opponent into the abyss.’ … He is no longer positioned, in any sense of the term, on the same ground as oneself. [Chamayou, supra n. 8, at 165-66.]

More worrying is Chamayou’s account of how populations will lose their critical attitude to war as a result of needing to make no personal sacrifice. Recall the widespread reaction in the United States to the Vietnam War once college students lost their exemption and began to be drafted. That was the beginning of the end of a thirty-year engagement.
The moral and legal cover being provided to political leaders to use drones has helped smooth the way for creating weapons with even lower political costs: fully autonomous robotic weapons and cyber weapons. [See O’Connell, 21st Century Arms Control Challenges, supra n. ]

Leaders in the United States and Israel boasted about a computer worm that infected Iranian computers associated with its nuclear program. The International Atomic Energy Agency discovered that, in 2009, highly sophisticated malware infiltrated the Iranian computers running the centrifuges along with computers across the world. US and Israeli politicians denied direct responsibility.

It soon became clear that in response to the attack, Iran began recruiting its own team of elite hackers, their goal being to prevent another attack and to gain the capacity to retaliate. Something like a world arms race for cyber weapons may now be underway. An adaptation of Stuxnet known as DuQu has already been created.

The negative consequences of Stuxnet have not, apparently, deterred the United States. In 2012, another virus was detected, known as “Flame,” which appears to be a part of the same campaign as Stuxnet. A researcher at Kaspersky Labs, who brought Flame’s existence to public light, said, “We believe Flame was written by a different team of programmers but commissioned by the same larger entity.” Like DuQu, Flame is an espionage tool. Virkram Thakur, a Symantec researcher, said, “This is the third such virus we’ve seen in the past three years. It’s larger than all of them. The question we should be asking now is: How many more such campaigns are going on that we don’t know about?”


The Stuxnet virus was intended to target facilities with a specific layout. However, it was spread using USB flash drives and other means which have reached across the globe. As one expert said, “[Stuxnet] spun out of control. Although it was intended to stop the progress of Iran’s nuclear program, it also damaged 100,000 computers all over Europe. There was a need to stop it. Cyberwars act like boomerangs . . . . So it would be advisable for governments not to enter cyber-wars because in a boomerang war there are no winners.” []

International law raises substantial barriers to both using cyber weapons and defending cyberspace from cyber attacks through the use of military force. In general, international law supports regulating cyberspace as an economic and communications sphere. The same sort of coercive measures that are lawful to use against economic wrongs and violations of arms control treaties will generally be lawful to use in the case of a cyber attack.

Despite the availability of these alternatives to the use of military force, it is important to reiterate that protecting cyberspace—keeping it viable for economic and communication uses—will generally require defensive measures, not offensive ones.

Rather than put the major emphasis on cyber security and protecting cyberspace for communications and commerce, the United States, in particular, is building capacity and developing strategies that make the Department of Defense the major player in Internet use and protection. The Pentagon conceives of cyber space as it does conventional space, with war fighting in mind. The principal U.S. activity regarding cooperation over Internet protection is within the auspices of NATO, not the UN specialized agency with Internet oversight, the International Telecommunications Union.

US military researchers are also now hard at work on artificial intelligence toward robots that once constructed and programmed will be able to make the decision to attack without additional human intervention. Such an attack could occur years after the robot is programed. The parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons began a process in 2013 to study fully autonomous robotic weapons as the first step toward a new protocol controlling or prohibiting such weapons. In April 2013, UN Special Rapporteur Christof Heyns called for a moratorium on moving beyond the design stage in the development of fully autonomous weapons pending the formation of a panel of experts to create a policy. Delft’s Jeroen Van Den Hoven and his co-authors recently presented to the experts a position that captures the way forward that I am advocating here today: “[W]e have to learn how to design for responsibility and accountability in weapon systems to make them demonstrably compliant with the fundamental moral principles underlying IHL and Human Rights Law.” [21 Jeroen van den Hoven, et al., Why the Future Needs Us Today, Moral Responsibility and Engineering Autonomous Weapons Systems, April 2015,$file/2015_LAWS_MX_VanDenHoven.pdf.] And I would add international law in general.

II. Back to Grotius

Prior to the advent of new weapons, legal scholars and moral philosophers taught that the taking of human life is only justified to protect human life. In other words, the exceptional right to resort to lethal force rests squarely on a moral justification of necessity. In armed conflict hostilities, the necessity to kill is presumed. Away from such hostilities the necessity to kill must be related to an immediate threat to life. International law on killing was built on these fundamental moral insights.

Given the political and psychological lures to killing and destroying with new technology weapons international law specialists should be alert to whether the current law on lethal operations is adequate. Rather than urge the loosening of rules as appears to be the trend today, the argument here is that the rules should be strictly applied to counter-balance the seductive attraction of killing without risk. Returning to close compliance with the rules will likely require a rejection of the realist motive of killing to project power. Killing to send a message of strength or for retribution should be seen as neither moral nor lawful.

The philosopher Jeremy Waldron has published a highly persuasive philosophical analysis rejecting arguments to loosen the law against killing, supporting every reason to strengthen it.

It seems that our first instinct is to search for areas where killing is already “alright”—killing in self-defence … or killing of combatants in wartime … and then to see if we can concoct analogies between whatever moral reasons we can associate with such licenses and the new areas of homicide we want to explore. In my view, that is how a norm against murder unravels. And it unravels in our moral repertoire largely because we have forgotten how deeply such a norm must be anchored in light of the temptations it faces and how grudging, cautious, and conservative we need to be—in order to secure that anchorage—with such existing licenses to kill as we have already issued.[22 Jeremy Waldron, Justifying Targeted Killing with a Neutral Principle? Three Possible Models in TARGETED KILLINGS, LAW AND MORALITY IN AN ASSYMMETRICAL WORLD (C. Finklestein et al. eds., 2012).]

Part of the reason that Hobbesian arguments against this view have arisen has to do with our loss of the anchor for current moral and legal norms. International law, like all law, arose out of religious beliefs. Our respect for law today can be described as an inheritance from an age when belief in the divine was widespread. Hugo Grotius exemplifies this thinking when he said, “What God has shown to be his Will, that is law.” “God determines the full and exact content of all normative categories—justice, goodness and so forth.”[ HUGO GROTIUS, COMMENTARY ON THE LAW OF PRIZE AND BOOTY (1604).]

It was Grotius himself, however, who began the undermining of the anchor or foundation on which our belief in law began. In order to win the adherence of both Protestants and Catholics to one common law above them, he famously wrote in the LAW OF WAR AND PEACE (1625), “What we have been saying [about law] would have a degree of validity even if we should concede that which cannot be conceded without the utmost wickedness, that there is no God, or that the affairs of men are of no concern to him.” It was this new concept that began the process of eliminating the divine basis of legal authority in the West. Grotius’s proposition helped him avoid theological disputes in winning adherents to his legal arguments in the short term. For many decades, the Western European conception of law continued to benefit from the centuries of association with belief in divine authority. That inheritance seems more or less depleted today.

In more recent times we see law, including international law spoken of as a substitute for religious belief. The Finnish international law scholar Martti Koskenniemi has written: International law increasingly appears as that which resists being reduced to a technique of governance. When international lawyers are interviewed on the Iraqi war, or on torture, or on trade and environment, on poverty and disease in Africa – as they increasingly are – they are not expected to engage in hair-splitting technical analyses. Instead, they are called upon to soothe anxious souls, to give voice to frustration and outrage. Moral pathos and religion frequently fail as vocabularies of engagement, providers of ‘empty signifiers’ for expressing commitment and solidarity. Foreign policy may connote party rule. This is why international law may often appear as the only available surface over which managerial governance may be challenged, the sole vocabulary with a horizon of transcendence … I often think of international law as a kind of secular faith.[ Martti Koskenniemi, The Fate of Public International Law: Between Technique and Politics, 70 MOD. L. REV. 1, 30 (2007).]

Yet how can humanity have faith in something invented by them? Hobbes based his views on what he believed could be proven materially, the selfish nature of human beings. Once belief in things outsides ourselves waned, this material fact seemed all that was left. It is no wonder that wealth maximization, the theory of so-called “rational choice” is the dominant philosophical principle underlying today’s legal scholarship in the United States, a scholarly view that is sweeping Western Europe as well. Rational choice is a form of realism that easily co-exists with Hobbesian realist ideas about international relations and international law.

In the past, law was respected because, as one legal scholar put it, “[E]very human or positive law derive[d] from the “eternal law,” which is the divinely ordained order governing the universe, and positive law gains its status as law by virtue of participating in that order….” Rational choice theory is no substitute for this concept of law. While many of us in the world have not lost our religious belief, many have. Some of us have tried to substitute the history of belief for belief itself in by explaining the binding authority of law. We have tried to anchor law in tradition.

Like Waldron, however, I am no longer persuaded that approaching the problem of legal authority through history is promising. Unlike him, I doubt that a return to religion per se will be persuasive enough to the international community. We have an area of human thought that does hold persuasive promise: Aesthetic theory provides an alternative answer to the question of why obey the law. In this ancient branch of philosophy, we can find an argument for social life, for interest beyond self-interest. It provides an argument for why equality, fairness, and justice should form the core principles of law. Aesthetic theory provides a proof for law that appeals equally to believers and non-believers.

The German philosopher, Hannah Arendt has argued that while Immanuel Kant never wrote a theory or philosophy of politics or law, he provided the basis for a political theory in his work on aesthetics, Critique of Judgment. [HANNAH ARENDT, LECTURES ON KANT’S POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY 7-8 (Ronald Beiner ed., 1992).]

That basis is a new grounding for law as well. Central to Arendt’s understanding of Kant’s political philosophy is what he says about beauty. He wrote that a human being’s happiness does not depend on experiencing self-interested pleasure alone. We perceive beauty and experience pleasure outside of ourselves: “‘The fact that man is affected by the sheer beauty of nature proves that he is made for and fits into this world … ’”26 Our pleasure in beauty creates the opposite sense to that of alienation from the world, and is, therefore, a reason to be open to society [Id., at 30. HANNAH ARENDT, LECTURES ON KANT’S POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY 7-8 (Ronald Beiner ed., 1992).]

Our pleasure in beauty creates the opposite sense to that of alienation from the world, and is, therefore, a reason to be open to society. Kant’s real interest in beauty was even more directed to what it tells us about “disinterest” or interest in the other. Many beautiful things exist solely for their beauty and not because they have any usefulness for us. Thus, the pleasure is owing to the thing’s mere existence and not for any gain. Arendt tells us that Kant wrote in a notebook, “‘the Beautiful teaches us to love without self-interest.’”[Id., at 73. HANNAH ARENDT, LECTURES ON KANT’S POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY 7-8 (Ronald Beiner ed., 1992).]

The beautiful and the disinterested pleasure experienced leads to a desire to communicate, which, in requires the ability to stand in the shoes of another, to have the enlarged mentality that reaches to the consideration of all of humanity.
The experience of beauty is different from the experience of seeing something that is simply pleasant or interesting in an object. It is a universal experience, not something that is experienced differentially depending on an individual’s personal taste. When we call something beautiful we think that everyone must recognize it as such. Kant equates judging something to be beautiful means that the thing has the aesthetic quality of universality. Terry Eagleton explains “we can experience our shared humanity with all the immediacy of our response to a fine painting or a magnificent symphony. Paradoxically, it is in the apparently most private, frail and intangible aspects of our lives that we blend most harmoniously with one another.”[28 SIMON SWIFT, HANNAH ARENDT 77 (2009), citing Eagleton 1990, p. 76.]

This understanding of shared humanity founds social life, and, therefore, political life. Social and political life being aspects of law, Arendt’s insight can be extended to the reason for law. Law supports social peace, harmony, and order. Arendt quotes Kant but uses as many of her own words in saying, “if everyone expects and requires from everyone else this reference to general communication [of pleasure, of disinterested delight, then we have reached a point where it is as if there existed] an original compact, dictated by mankind itself.”[29 ARENDT, supra n. 25, at 74.]

On the basis of this compact a political system and law to support it may be established—in the world community and in smaller ones. Without law, human beings are left with brute force or unregulated violence to resolve disputes. Violence is the anti-thesis of social life, certainly social life based on the need to communicate. Non-violent, peaceful resolution of disputes through law fosters harmony, Augustine’s “tranquility in order.” The rules that foster peace and suppress violence reflect the equality, fairness, and justice that form the heart of the law as validated through the insights of aesthetics.

Our perception of beauty indicates a yet more important empirical fact. The experience is common to people. All human beings experience this pleasure, which has no apparent purpose. The blind experience it through music or imagination. It is a pure aspect of our common humanity, which supplies a far more tangible basis for empathy, for seeing the other as us, than the religious concepts of human dignity or the existence of a soul, or the natural law fact of common needs. The pleasure in experiencing beauty is a universal, harmonious, and non-competitive aspect of humanity. People can have the common experience of pleasure in a rose in first bloom, a sunset, or Vermeer’s painting, View of Delft. Kant and Arendt see in the perception of beauty the truth of social life as integral to human existence. Why else have the experience of beauty?

We have largely lost this aesthetic vocabulary and understanding from our political and jurisprudential thought. By this point, some of you may be seriously questioning the value of bringing it back. You may doubt that there really is a common experience of beauty (you are thinking, isn’t beauty is in the eye of the beholder?) or even if there a common experience, how can it do all that I am claiming: winning law and morality back from Hobbesian realism?

It is true that taste differs among people. Someone credited with “good taste” often has a combination of talent and training and may therefore have a more profound experience of beauty. The intensity of the experience of beauty differs. That fact does not, however, diminish the common ability of all people to experience some level of disinterested pleasure in beauty. Pointless pleasure is an extraordinary thing to have in common, and for those still skeptical, there is a wealth of scientific evidence to support what Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas concluded without brain scans or surveys.

Contemplation of beauty reveals a common fact of human experience, which is an experience of disinterested pleasure. This is not a revelation about human nature as much as a revelation of a human capacity, an intuition or reaction of the senses.

The Oxford philosopher Iris Murdoch would agree with Hobbes that human beings are naturally selfish. Murdoch, however, builds moral philosophy around antidotes for selfishness. She writes that “Following a hint in Plato (Phaedrus 250) I shall start by speaking of what is perhaps the most obvious thing in our surroundings which is an occasion for ‘unselfing’, and that is what is popularly called beauty.” [IRIS MURDOCH, THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOOD 78 (1970).]

“Plato pointed out, beauty is the only spiritual thing which we love by instinct.”31 [31 Id. at 84.] Murdoch offers a gloss on Kant’s observation of disinterested pleasure in contemplation of the beautiful. She accepts that this experience may be produced through contemplation of good art. The surer object for the experience of unselfish pleasure, however, is nature. “[W]e take a self-forgetful pleasure in the sheer alien pointless independent existence of animals, birds, stones and trees. ‘Not how the world is, but that it is is the mystical.’” [Id. at 85.]

The good life is the unselfish life. This is known through the unselfish pleasure experienced in the contemplation of beauty, especially in nature. “The self, the place where we live, is a place of illusion. Goodness is connected with the attempt to see the unself, to see and to respond to the real world in the light of a virtuous consciousness.”

Plato, Dante, Kant, Simone Weil, Arendt, Murdoch and others, see the perception of beauty having the impact of drawing us from the contemplation of a particular beautiful thing to the general, the universal. Care for, caring about, one thing of beauty leads to care and concern for the world.

The legal scholar Costas Douzinas reminds us that the connection between beauty and law was once well known and continues to be represented in the attractive, blindfolded statues of justice, such as the one standing over the main square of Delft holding her balance and sword. Douzinas points to “the inner relationship between the beautiful and the good”, noting the pre-Reformation “link between law, order, and harmony, or between justice and beauty forms a consistent theme in the writings of the humanist lawyers both in England and continental Europe.” [Costas Douzinas, Prosopon and Antiprosopon: Prolegomena for a Legal Iconology, LAW AND THE IMAGE: THE AUTHORITY OF ART AND THE AESTHETICS OF LAW 53 (Costas Douzinas and Lynda Nead eds, 1999).]

Aesthetic theory’s answer to the basis of legal authority is consistent with both religious and secular reasoning. It helps to answer the question, why obey law, even when Hobbesian realism says to disobey. It supports our respect for the right to life of others even when it seems in our self-interest to kill others when killing them holds no risk for us.


Rosa Brooks concludes her essay on perpetual war by asking what implications might follow from replacing peace with perpetual war. She says she does not know, that it will take many minds and many years “to prevent [the] arbitrariness, mistake, and abuse in targeted killings” that we see today. Let us forgo all of this hard work, which is really the work of destroying the international law of today. Instead, join me in imagining a world in which intentional killing with military force is restricted to ever smaller zones, increasingly disappearing with our desire to see the expansion of the zones of peace.

Those of you in the world of design and engineering have a particular opportunity to create as part of your designs beauty at many levels, including the means to protect the lives of others. You can design the computer programs that keep the Internet a weapons free zone. And you can design the means that restrict autonomous robotic weapons from deciding to kill without a human conscience in the loop. The law follows our mental images and we are free to choose what they will be along with Hobbes, Brooks, Grotius, and me.

TU Delft Debating Club Competes at Tournaments

In the weekend of the 19th and 20th of February the TU Delft Debating Club proudly represented the TU Delft at the Erasmus Rotterdam Open debating competition. There were three teams debating, two judges and three spectators present. This shows we are growing as a debating club.

It was a long weekend, with no less than six debates on Saturday, a party afterwards, and – armed with a lack of sleep a last debate on Sunday. Unfortunately none of the teams made it to the finals; the competition was fierce with participants from all over the world. We did stay to watch the finals, and the debates were spectacular to watch! In the end everybody has learned a lot during the weekend and we are looking forward to our next competition!

Little impression of what the debate competition looked like can be seen in this aftermovie:

Anna Goense
TU Delft Debating Club

Maart: Maand van de Vrouw


Al ruim 100 jaar vinden, tijdens de Internationale Vrouwendag (8 maart), wereldwijd activiteiten plaats rondom de positie van de vrouw. Met thema’s als economische zelfstandigheid van vrouwen, empowerment, seksueel geweld, zorg en arbeid, discriminatie en racisme. Anno 2016 zijn deze thema’s actueler dan ooit. Hoe werkt dat in de praktijk?
Ontvoeringen en vrouwenhandel vinden bijna dagelijks plaats, vrouwen hebben in veel landen nog steeds geen stemrecht en worden als tweederangs burgers behandeld en zelfs in het rijke Westen lopen vrouwen gevaar niet als gelijkwaardig te worden gezien. Vrouwen in de wetenschap hebben nog dagelijks met vooroordelen te maken. Hoe komt het eigenlijk dat je de vrouwen in de geschiedenis van de filosofie met een zaklantaarn moet zoeken? Waarom was het voor vrouwen zo moeilijk om door te dringen tot het bolwerk van de grote denkers? Ook in de sport komen vrouwen vaak op de tweede plaats. Ooit een praatprogramma op tv over vrouwenvoetbal gezien?

Om aandacht te vragen voor de positie van vrouwen organiseren Studium Generale en Sport & Cultuur TU Delft gezamenlijk in de maand maart activiteiten vanuit een politieke, filosofische, wetenschappelijke of sportieve invalshoek. Ook cabaret zal niet ontbreken. Maart: maand van de vrouw, ook toegankelijk voor mannen!

Expositie: Vrouwenrechten Anno Nu


1 t/m 30 maart 2016

Het is honderd jaar geleden dat vrouwen streden voor hun recht om te kunnen stemmen. Er is gelukkig veel verbeterd, maar de rechten van vrouwen worden in grote delen van de wereld nog steeds ernstig geschonden. Hoe is het vandaag dan eigenlijk gesteld met de rechten van vrouwen?

De tentoonstelling verkent de huidige positie van vrouwen in de wereld met verhalen uit landen als China, Iran, Mexico, Zuid-Afrika of Ierland. Maar ook de kwetsbare positie van vrouwen in de huidige vluchtelingenstromen in Europa komt aan de orde. Aan de hand van ‘cases’ waarvoor actie wordt gevoerd door Amnesty International, ontmoeten we verschillende jonge vrouwen die strijden voor hun recht op informatie, onderwijs, vrijheid en het recht om over zichzelf en hun eigen lichaam te beschikken. Hun verhalen geven een levendig en dynamisch beeld van de wereld waarin vrouwen leven. De tentoonstelling stelt ook vragen bij de situatie in de westerse wereld. Zijn de gelijke rechten van vrouwen in onze cultuur wel zo goed verzekerd als we geneigd zijn te denken?

Women’s rights today


March 1-March 30, 2016

It’s one hundred years since women protested for their rights and demanded the right to vote. Much has changed since then, but in many parts of the world woman still play an inferior or submissive role. Where exactly do we stand, when it comes to the completion of equal rights for women?

This exhibition explores the current status of women in various parts of the world like China, Iran, South Africa or Ireland. Based on cases by Amnesty International we can meet all kinds of young women who stand up and fight for their rights on education, equality, freedom and the right to dispose of their own body and sexuality. Their stories give us a vibrant and dynamic view on various women’s rights topics. This exhibition also challenges us to rethink the current situation within the Western culture. Are women’s rights as well secured as we are inclined to think or take for granted?

Broodje Politiek: De vrouwen van het Kalifaat

Broodje Politiek

Het wordt hoog tijd om je als TU-student te verdiepen in de gebeurtenissen in de wereld. Niet alleen studeren is belangrijk, maar ook weten wat er om je heen speelt en je daar een mening over vormen.

In Broodje Politiek worden actuele thema’s aangesneden, waarover je in gesprek kunt gaan met de spreker/spreekster. De toegang is gratis. En niks “zal mijn tijd wel duren” of “ver van m’n bed show”, Studium Generale geeft je de kans om achter de ins en outs te komen van diverse politieke onderwerpen.

De vrouwen van het Kalifaat: slavinnen, moeders en jihadbruiden

Judit Neurink, als Trouw-correspondente werkzaam in Koerdisch Irak, sprak met een groot aantal door IS ontvoerde en vervolgens ontsnapte vrouwen, belde met vrouwen in IS-gebied en deed literatuuronderzoek. Dat haar bevindingen niet vrolijk stemmen is geen verrassing, de vrouwen leiden een slavinnenbestaan. IJzingwekkende verhalen.

Seven women in philosophy you should know (in Dutch)

School of LifeWomen in philosophy? You have to look very thoroughly and carefully to find out which women in philosophy were important. Why is that? Why was it so difficult for women to penetrate the stronghold of the great thinkers? Do women think differently? In the full three-part course of the series, the interesting women that everyone should know are covered.

At 1 March, we will dive into the whereabouts of Hannah Arendt. Hannah Arendt is an important political philosopher of the 20th century. She is well-known for her analysis of the totalitarian societies and the report of the Eichmann trial.

Arendt was born in 1906 in Hanover, and as a Jew, she fled to America in World War II. In 1951, she becomes famous for: ‘The Origins of Totalitarianism’, a study of the roots of totalitarianism. This has been awarded in every list of great books of the 20th century. Arendt argues inter alia that Nazism and Stalinism are two auctions of the same strain – an idea that is now generally accepted. Furthermore, Hannah Arendt’s has written the book ‘The Human Condition’ in which she defined the three human activities; labour, work and action with two mutually exclusive spheres: the political and everything else. See explicatory movie below.

As a celebration, Daan Rovers will bring an ode to Hannah Arendt, the most important woman in philosophy.

Daan Roovers, former editor of ‘Filosofie Magazine’, is a frequent discussion leader, interviewer and stand-up philosopher. She also teaches public philosophy at the University of Amsterdam. She has developed the month and night of the philosophy, was ‘Denker des Vaderlands’ and G8 Philosophy. Her main motive is investing in individual and collective brainpower and she is pleased that the public philosophy in the Netherlands is a great success. Roovers is one of the main lecturers in the series: ‘7 women in philosophy, you should know’.

Interview: Marianne Vos and elite athletes of the TU Delft

Marianne Vos – Cycling

Marianne Vos was born on 13 May 1987 in s-Hertogenbosch, Noord-Brabant in the Netherlands. Ever since she can remember she has had a love of sports, from ice speed-skating to rollerblading to cycling. She always wanted to compete! Marianne Vos first caught the cycling bug when she was 6, following her brother Anton to races had made her eager to jump on the bike and race as well. Marianne Vos got her first bike at the age of 6 and was racing by the time she was 8, it was meant to be!

When Marianne Vos won her first rainbow jersey in 2004, the thought of a career as professional cyclist first crossed her mind. Not many girls go professional on a full-time basis but she decided to give it a go and try her best. In 2008 Marianne Vos went to her first Olympics and came home with a Gold medal from the Points Race. According to Marianne Vos the Olympics is the pinnacle of sport and winning a gold medal there was “simply amazing”. In 2012 she returned to the Olympic games to win gold on the road race. The price she always wanted.

Marianne Vos’ dream is to make cycling more accessible and popular for women. Alongside the efforts and visions of many others, new and exciting initiatives such as La Course and the Women’s Tour of Britain have been launched.

Maxime Jonkers – Sports: Sailing, Study: Maritime Engineering

Maxime Jonkers started sailing an Optimist when she was only 6 years old. At the age of 12 she started competing in international contests. Since 2010 she is sailing a Laser 4.7 boat and in 2011 she became the European Champion in her class. Not only did she become European Champion, in the same years she also became European- and World Champion below 17 on the Laser Radial.

In 2011 she also started sailing at the Topzeilacademie in Scheveningen, where she trains with the Delta Lloyd Talent team. Maxime choose to study in Delft because of the close access to training facilities in Scheveningen. A study had to be chosen that was located close to The Hague.

Maxime now studies Maritime Engineering because of her interest in mathematics and physics. Combining study with her sport is hard. Maxime can be found on the water for about 4 days a week and she also trains 6 to 7 times in the gym a week.

While being abroad for training in winter it becomes very hard to combine study and sports. Luckily Collegerama makes it possible to check colleges online. During international events it is not possible for her to study at all. Studying takes up a lot of energy and tires her. For Maxime sailing is her top priority so studying will have to wait during international contests.

Sietske Visser – Sports: Archery, Study: Industrial Engineering

Sietske Visser started archery at the age of 16 years, about 7 years ago. She combines her Master Integrated Product Design at Industrial Engineering with Archery, which is not always easy. In her Bachelor she spends many evening hours training and studying, with little free time left. But for Sietske, it is worth it.

Her biggest challenge is to do everything what she wants to do, without crossing her own borders. Managing tasks and time takes a lot of energy and involves taking hard decisions. There is only a limited amount of energy you can divide between study, sports and free time.

Women’s Rights Today, featuring Maartje & Kine (in Dutch)

Part of the Celebration of International Women’s Day ’16 is the Amnesty International in-depth session about the exhibition on women’s rights. After this intriguing session, Maartje and Kine will play a compilation of their work ‘Goldberg Machine’. This compilation is Dutch spoken.

Maartje and Kine ( stormed theaters with their hugely successful debut program “Strange Folk” after their studies at the conservatory and TU Delft. This energetic, cheerful, endearing and sharp duo is like a fresh wind and toured around more than 120 cities.

In their second theatre play the “Goldberg Machine’, music and art are coming together in a comedy show about inventions, dreams and chain reactions. A dive into a world of scientists and inventive composers. Naturally wrapped in its own Maartje and Kine-style: humor, catchy Balkan beats, classic with a twist and virtuoso folk from all over the world. With a violin, accordion, banjo, ukulele, balalaika, trumpet, piano and many other instruments. A performance that ‘ll make you smile for 24 hours. A feast!

Maartje and Kine write a montly number for Giel 3FM and performed, among others at DWDD, the Top 2000, KunststofTV, Tijd voor Max, Lowlands, Oerol and the End Month Show of Martijn King on HumorTV. Maartje and Kine’s play: comedy and villainous.

(Maartje & Kine bij de Top 2000 a gogo)

(Vuurwerklied van Maartje & Kine)

Broodje Filosofie: Het leven is niet leuk als je je mond houdt

Broodje Filosofie

Viermaal per semester organiseert Studium Generale een Broodje Filosofie, waarbij we in de lunchpauze een korte en bondige filosofische bite behandelen. Kom dus voor de Grote Levensvragen langs in de HIVE in de TU Library.

Het leven is niet leuk als je je mond houdt

door Marli Huijer, geinterviewd door Frank Meester

Marli Huijer is Denker des Vaderlands. Zij is bijzonder hoogleraar Filosofie aan de Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam en Lector Filosofie en Beroepspraktijk aan de Haagse Hogeschool.

Marli is geen tegen-, geen mee-, maar een tussendenker, zij wil de stemmen van allerlei verschillende mensen laten klinken. Filosoof Frank Meester interviewt haar over een veelheid van onderwerpen, waarin Mali keer op keer benadrukt dat het belangrijk is je vrijmoedig uit te spreken.

5 Minute Survey: Engineers and their conscience

Everyone gets confronted with difficult decisions and responsibilities in life. Engineers however face especially impactful choices. Should you work on a drone, knowing that it can be used for spying or to kill people? Or on robots that take away millions of jobs; ships that end up polluting Asian beaches; GMO’s or pesticides that destroy ecosystems; or electronics that end up in African landfills?

In short, there is a shadow side to all technology, and SG is curious how you feel about your place in it. This small survey will help us get a little bit more insight into that. Of course, your answers will be processed anonymously.

Whether you are a student, alumnus, or a staff member, this survey is for you!


fb_header conscience


Refugees Welcome in TU Delft Free Zones – A Satire

When the TU Delft introduced the Free Zones on campus about a year ago, I have to admit my first thoughts were ragingly cynical.  This must be a joke, I thought: in order to improve the quality of life on campus, a team of grown up people spent a good deal of time (and $$) working out a plan where a patch of land is emblazoned with a large red FREE ZONE text and outfitted with wifi, water, and electricity, so that students can do fun stuff outside. Sounds great in theory, but in practice these patches of land come with all sorts of regulations. And bureaucratic procedures. So they’re not exactly free. And they’re hardly being used at all, at all. And of course it’s too cold and wet most of the year to use them anyway, and so on and so forth.

Not to mention the fact that naming them Free Zones is highly reminiscent of the “free speech zones” in the USA, where democratic protestors are corraled into fenced off areas where they are allowed to “safely” protest and exercise their democratic freedoms.

And not to forget the implication that everything outside the Free Zone is, somehow, Not Free. Did you consider that? You’re walking around or sitting in an implicitly unfree zone right now.

So much for my ragingly cynical first reaction. I don’t want to be a hater, or at least: I don’t want it to end there. Luckily, it turns out there are positive aspects to the Free Zone phenomenon as well. A way that they can be used for a greater purpose: namely, to house refugees on campus. The pamphlet below is a brilliant satirical piece by pseudonymous student Karel de Kleijne. Let us know your thoughts on the Free Zones and the refugee idea in the comment section below.

Column - Refugees Welcome - Karel de Kleijne - A3

India and Delft

In 2014, there were over four hundred Indian students at the TU Delft, second only in number to Chinese students in the ballooning population of internationals. There is an active student’s association, ISA, representing Indian students and organizing cultural activities and parties from Diwali to Holi. And now for the first time there has been a joint event organized by ISA, SG, and S4S, to highlight the cultural differences and similarities between engineering in Europe and in India.
And why not? Know thy neighbor, I always say (I don’t actually know my neighbors).

A university is a great place for cultural exchange. And with four hundred Indians walking around and working on this campus, it serves us as a community to get to know each other. And who better to facilitate that than those who know both cultures: students who have done projects abroad in India, and Indian students who have worked and studied at home as well as in Europe.

The “Indian Expedition” event, hosted by local celebrity student Nitant Shinde from Aerospace, introduced four speakers. First up was Maarten Duijnisveld, former chairman of S4S, who traveled to India in early 2014 to set up projects for Delft students through the Amrita University in southern India. Second was Mick, who with two fellow students is traveling to India in November this year to complete one of those projects. Specifically, they are going to use solar energy to give a much-needed boost to the local production of lemon grass oil in the rural south. The third speaker was Brian Baldassarre, an Industrial Design student who went to India in 2013 with his group to redesign the handlebars of the local rikshaws in Varanasi to offer more comfort to the drivers. Fourth and last was Vidyut Mohan, who together with his American partner went to the rural north of India to develop a biofuel industry, by turning pine needles into fuel through a process known as torrefaction. There is an enormous excess of pine needles in government-planted forests and a lack of jobs as well. So here’s to hitting two birds with one stone.

Each of these projects met with different challenges, successes, and failures because of the cultural divide, as became clear in the stories these students shared. You can still get an impression of their stories from their presentations, which you can see by clicking on the images below.

Interesting fact: of the over four hundred Indian students in Delft, less than ten made it to this event. Why so few? Your theory is as good as mine, but it’s clearly something SG has to work on in the future.

DSC04105India smallS4S preso-14Vidyut

Synthetic Biology and the TUD iGEM Team

*Update* The TU Delft iGEM team won the overall prize of the competition this weekend (28 september 2015). Out of over 200 teams from universities across the world, congratulations!

What do you know about the future of synthetic biology? As for me, I’ll admit I’m no expert. Life sciences seem like a pandora’s box to me, waiting to completely disrupt all the biological systems on our planet. But maybe I’m just an optimist 🙂

Last August, a dozen students from across the TU got some hands-on experience in developing ideas and business plans for up and coming technology in this field. Led by the students of this year’s iGEM team (iGEM stands for International Genetically Engineered Machine), a workshop was held to spread knowledge and awareness about synthetic biology and to get feedback from, frankly, a bunch of (enthusiastic and capable) noobs.

SG helped sponsor and plan this workshop. Have a look below for a summary of the event, or open the pdf here!

iGEM Bio3Dimensions workshop august 2015-1

iGEM Bio3Dimensions workshop august 2015-2

iGEM Bio3Dimensions workshop august 2015-3

Bezoek SG op de OWEE infomarkt!

OWEE posterStudium Generale, onderdeel van de TU Delft, biedt verdiepende en geestverruimende activiteiten aan. Van bitcoins tot Einstein en van politiek tot filosofie. SG daagt je uit om jezelf niet alleen als ingenieur te ontwikkelen, maar ook als individu!

Bezoek onze lezingen, workshops, debatten, films en documentaires over de meest uiteenlopende onderwerpen met bekende en onbekende schrijvers, wetenschappers, journalisten of politici, vaak op de scheidslijn van techniek en maatschappij; soms controversieel maar altijd kritisch. Ook over jouw rol als ingenieur in de wereld. Onze activiteiten zijn vrij toegankelijk en (bijna) altijd gratis. Blijf op de hoogte van onze activiteiten, bekijk onze online lezingen en schrijf je in voor onze wekelijkse nieuwsbrief.

Nu online! Joris Luyendijk – Dit kan niet waar zijn

Recording: Joris Luyendijk: Dit Kan Niet Waar Zijn

Onder de titel ‘dit kan niet waar zijn’ sprak Joris Luyendijk op woensdag 25 maart jl. in de Aula van de TU Delft tegenover 1800 (!!) zeer uitgelaten mensen, over het bancaire systeem van deze wereld. De grote zaal van 1000 man zat afgeladen vol en alle extra toeschouwers moesten naar de tegenoverliggende collegezalen, uitgerust met een videoverbinding met de grote zaal, waar zij bijna twee uur lang Joris verhaal over de bancaire wereld konden horen. Het werd steeds warmer.

Met de nodig humor, en na vier jaar UK ook met het zo typische gevoel voor Engels ‘understatement’ kwam er een snoeihard, duidelijk en zeer begrijpelijk verhaal over hoe onze wereld zich van de ene naar de andere crisis sleept. Het meest verrassende, en ook de reden voor de titel van zijn boek, is dat het iedere dag opnieuw kan gebeuren. Want hoewel het gaat over mondiale systemen, die systemen worden door mensen gevuld. En het hele pallet aan mensen in diverse monetaire, bancaire en andere aires kwam voorbij – anoniem, want bang voor op staande voet ontslag vanwege het spreken over het systeem waar zij inzitten met derden – en het werd er maar niet beter van.

De grote toestroom, ook van jongeren, laat zien dat mensen genoeg hebben van weer een volgend bericht over het verhogen van de salarissen en bonussen van topbankiers en politici die er bij staan en er naar kijken. In het licht van verhoogde collegegelden, studentenleningen, belastingen, opcenten, WOzetten, verhoging van de AOW en pensioenleeftijden en alles waarmee jong en oud iedere dag mee geknipt en geschoren wordt, wordt het kennelijk tijd voor een drastische systeemherziening. Hoe die er uitziet vertelt Luyendijk niet, en eerlijk is eerlijk, dat is zijn taak ook niet. De eerste stap is bewustwording en de tweede is …… ja wat eigenijk?

Wie moet waar iets aan doen? Komen de verandering van onze politici? Dat lijkt er niet op. Inmiddels 7 jaar verder in de crisis en diverse kabinetten verder kunnen we alleen maar concluderen dat het aantal opstappende corrupte bestuurders is toegenomen. Voor de rest is het business as usual. Komt de verandering vanuit het zelfreinigend vermogen van de sector zelf? Keep joking. Een van de steekwonden van de avond was ‘perverse prikkel’. Moet er dan eerst een mega crisis ontstaan?

Luyendijk kreeg te horen dat toen Lehman Brothers viel in 2008, de insiders – bankiers – hun moeders en vrouwen belden met de mededeling dat er meteen gehamsterd moest worden, de auto moest worden afgetankt, het geld van de rekening gehaald, goud uit de kluis, de koffers klaargezet…. Een mondiale financiële meltdown – bijvoorbeeld als de vele triljarden in derivaten niets meer waard zouden blijken te zijn, immers digitaal geld is vooral ‘vertrouwen’ – leidt tot het op slag stilvallen van computers, handel, pinautomaten, cashmachines etc. etc. Dit kon goed worden gezien in IJsland – een land vergelijkbaar met een middelgrote stad in Nederland – waar in een paar uur de schappen van de supermarkten leeg waren en niet meer werden gevuld. IJsland is trouwens het enige land in de wereld dat wel zijn bankiers in de gevangenis heeft gestopt en waar de problemen fundamenteel zijn aangepakt en opgelost….

Voorlopig blijft het nog even de kat uit de boom kijken. Experts zijn ijselijk wantrouwig en zien inderdaad maar een uitweg. Een nieuwe, definitieve crisis. Maarja wat dat zal brengen… ?

Intussen wil (en kan) de politiek geen verandering realiseren en beginnen de burgers dan maar zelf initiatieven: Onsgeld: met de Verleiders die volle zalen trekken en bijvoorbeeld de Peuro Nog steeds een groeiend aantal burgers ondertekent deze initiatieven en er zullen er ongetwijfeld meer volgen als weer de volgende staatsbank zijn topmensen nog rianter beloont en voor de baliemedewerkers een volgende ontslagronde aankondigt.

Misschien wordt het tijd voor een paar simpele oplossingen: Basisinkomen? Of misschien wel helemaal van het geld af? De toekomst zal het leren. Belangrijk voor nu is stil te staan bij de vele signalen die klinken zoals die van Joris Luyendijk. Een fijn boek om te lezen. Misschien wel omdat we er zelf middenin zitten…