Siegfried Van Duffel was trained as a philosopher and completed a Ph.D. in law at Ghent University (Belgium). Before coming to Nazarbayev University, he taught ethics and Political Theory at the University of Groningen (the Netherlands) and the University of Hong Kong. He also held post-doc positions at the National University of Singapore and the Center of Excellence in Philosophical Psychology, Morality and Politics of the University of Helsinki and was visiting associate professor at Huafan University and National Taiwan University.

Siegfried’s main research interest is cultural differences, which is why he felt it necessary to leave Europe and continue living and working in a non-Western society. His current project is to complete a book on human rights and cultural differences. The aim of this book is to describe human rights theories as an aspect of the culture in which they were developed. He also hopes to do comparative empirical research on intuitions related to human rights. His work was published in international peer-reviewed journals such as The Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, The Journal of Political Philosophy, The Monist, and The European Journal of Philosophy.


Selected Publications

“Adequacy Constraints for a Theory of the Nature of Rights.” In Mark McBridge (ed.), New Essays on the Nature of Rightspp. 187-202. Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2017.

“Human Rights.” In Andrew Fiala (ed.), The Bloomsbury Companion to Political Philosophy, pp. 641-664. London: Bloomsbury, 2015.

“Conciliarism.” In Michael T. Gibbons, et al. (eds.), The Encyclopedia of Political Thought. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.

“Natural Rights to Welfare.” European Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 21(4), 2013, pp. 641-664.

“Moral Philosophy.” In Dinah Shelton (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Human Rights Law, pp. 32-53. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013

“In Defence of the Will Theory of Rights.” Res Publica, Vol. 18, Issue 4 (2012), pp. 321–331.

“The Nature of Rights Debate Rests on a Mistake.” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 93, Issue 2 (2012), pp. 104-123. • Reprint in Horacio Spector and Brian Bix (eds), Rights: Concepts and Contexts. Ashgate, 2012.

“Distributive Justice Before the Eighteenth Century.” History of Political Thought Vol. 32, Issue 3 (2011), pp. 449-64. (with Dennis Yap)

“From Objective Right to Subjective Rights: The Franciscans and the Will and Interest Conceptions of Rights.” In Virpi Mäkinen (ed), The Nature of Rights: Moral and Political Aspects of Right(s) in Late-Medieval and Early-Modern Philosophy, pp. 65-93. Acta Philosophica Fennica, 2010.

“The Dependence of Libertarianism on the Notion of Sovereignty.” Critical Review Vol. 21, Issue 1. (2009) pp. 117-124.

“Een kritische inleiding tot libertarisme.” Algemeen Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Wijsbegeerte Vol. 99 Issue 1. (2007), pp. 53-66.  [in Dutch]

“Sovereignty as a Religious Concept.” The Monist Vol. 91, Issue 1. (2007) pp. 126-143.

“Natural Rights and Individual Sovereignty.” Journal of Political Philosophy Vol. 12, Issue 2 (June 2004), pp. 147-162.

“Libertarian Natural Rights.” Critical Review Vol. 16, Issue 4 (winter 2004), pp. 353-375.

“How to Study Human Rights and Culture (Without Becoming a Relativist).” Philosophy in the Contemporary World Vol. 11, Issue 2 (autumn-winter 2004), pp. 1-6.

“A Plea for Theory in Rethinking Human Rights.” International Legal Theory Vol. 9, Issue 1 (Fall 2003), pp. 135 165.



Siegfried has comprehensive experience in teaching political theory, (including the history of western political thought) and ethics (normative and applied ethics, as well as the history of ethics). He has also taught comparative science of religion, post-colonial studies. His other teaching interests are cultural psychology, philosophy of action, and comparative science of cultures. 


List of Courses Taught at NU


Global Justice

Human Rights and Cultural Differences

Social Contract Theory (Hobbes to Kant)

Introduction to Political Theory

Freshman seminar