Zuid-Holland, Netherlands
Date Posted
6 Oct 2024

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PhD Project
Leiden University

PhD candidate

Zuid-Holland, Netherlands
6 Oct 2024

NOTE: this position listing has expired and may no longer be relevant!

Position Description

The Faculty of Humanities, Institute for Philosophy (IPh) at Leiden University in the Netherlands is looking for a:

PhD Candidate (1 fte) in the project “Democratic Secrecy: A Philosophical Study of the Role of Secrecy in Democratic Governance” funded by the European Research Council.

Vacancy number: 15-342

The PhD Candidate will work within a research project entitled: “Democratic Secrecy: A Philosophical Study of the Role of Secrecy in Democratic Governance,” which aims to explore the legitimacy of secrecy in democratic politics. The project is funded by the European Research Council by means of an ERC Starting Grant. The Principal Investigator of this project is Dr. Dorota Mokrosinska (Philosophy, Leiden University).

The starting hypothesis of the project is that secrecy is not always inimical to democratic governance as conventional wisdom has it. Whereas the importance of transparency seems undisputed, many feel that complete transparency would undermine effective functioning of governments, and that some degree of secrecy is needed. If both complete secrecy and complete transparency are to be rejected, what ratio of secrecy and transparency in democratic politics should we seek? This project (1) formulates a theory regarding the democratic legitimacy of political secrets in executive and legislative power, (2) develops criteria for political accountability with regard to wielding political secrets and (3) criteria for assessing responsibility for unauthorized disclosures by civil servants and the media.

PhD project “Legislative Secrecy”

For the PhD position we are looking for a philosopher or a political scientist with specialization in political theory to explore the place of secrecy in parliamentary decision-making.

Transparency in politics is the mantra of democratic governance. Whereas most parliamentary sittings are public, parliaments, at their discretion, have the right to debate behind closed-doors. Should such closed-door political bargaining be abolished? Parliamentary factions usually meet in closed sessions: should we insist that they give more openness to their internal deliberation? Are there any democratic advantages to secret ballot in legislature? Does secrecy affect the responsibility of representatives for collective decisions?

According to the dominant view, secret decision-making settings compromise democratic deliberation because they encourage sectarian thinking and logrolling between negotiators, and provide weaker incentives to invoke public interest. This view, which is the traditional position of deliberative democrats, advocates rendering decision-making processes public.

This position insufficiently recognizes the idea that secrecy is often related to the strategic dimension of political decision-making. The starting hypothesis of the PhD project is that deliberative and strategic elements can be combined in democratic governance. The PhD project then explores (1) the strategic dimension of secrecy in political decision-making and examines (2) the impact of the strategic uses of secrecy in decision-making on political accountability of representatives.

The results of the project are to be subsequently applied to the issue of institutional design of the existing mechanisms of political accountability (preferably in the Dutch political context).

Key responsibilities

1. Writing a Ph.D. thesis within 4 years;

2. Submitting research results for publication in international peer-reviewed academic journals (either individually or co-authored);

3. Presenting papers at (international) conferences and workshops;

4. Some assistance in organizing international conferences and workshops with the PI and other members of the ERC project;

5. Participating in activities within the remit of the ERC Starting Grant project, the interdepartmental research cluster “Political Legitimacy” as well as the Departmental activities.

Selection criteria

The successful candidate will have:

1. A relevant master degree;

2. An outstanding record of undergraduate and Master’s degree work;

3. Some background in or willingness to familiarize himself/herself with issues related to strategic reasoning in democratic deliberation and basic concepts of social choice theory;

4. Strong oral and written communication skills in English and the ability to publish the results of research in scientific journals are a must;

5. Capacity to collaborate across the academic disciplines;

6. Ability to work both independently and as part of the team with good organizational and social skills.

About our organization

The Philosophy Institute has a strong Political Philosophy section. The research interests of the staff include the status of universalist moral and political principles with an emphasis on philosophical conceptualizations of world citizenship, human rights and global distributive justice; democratic theory and its relation to conflict; and conceptions of legitimacy and authority within both political theory and moral philosophy broadly conceived.

The Institute is home to the Centre for Political Philosophy (CPP), which is an interdisciplinary platform for political thought. It aims to bring together all those with an active interest in the field from different institutes, branches and fields of study at Leiden University. The CPP is pluralistic in character, seeking to advance all approaches and traditions in political thought that attract philosophical interest and debate today – historical and systematic, analytic and continental. Members of CPP participate in an interdepartmental research excellence cluster “Political Legitimacy: Institutions and Identities,” which brings together scholars from different disciplines at Leiden University who work on issues of legitimacy of political institutions. Recently the Institute for Philosophy has launched the World Affairs Forum Leiden (WAFL), which aims to offer philosophically-informed discussion of current global concerns for an audience of Leiden students and staff members. Besides political philosophy, the strengths of the Philosophy Institute lie in philosophy of knowledge and cognition. The research cluster in philosophy of knowledge spans the disciplines of constructive logic, philosophy of science, and the history and historiography of logic, science, and philosophy. In addition to the two clusters, the Institute has researchers working in the field of philosophy of mind, culture and technology.

Terms and conditions

We offer a 1 fte appointment. The contract will have a duration of 4 years with a preferred starting date of 1 January 2016 or soon thereafter.

The successful applicant is initially appointed for a period of 12 months. After positive evaluation of capabilities and compatibility and if progress is satisfactory, the appointment will be extended by another 3 years. The appointment must lead to the completion of a Ph.D. thesis. Appointment will be under the terms of the CAO (collective labor agreement) of the Dutch Universities.

Salary range from € 2.125,- to € 2.717,- gross per month (pay scale P, in accordance with the Collective Labor Agreement for Dutch Universities).

An appointment with Leiden University includes a pension build-up and facilitates other benefits such as an annual holiday premium of 8% and an end-of-year premium of 8,3%. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break.


For more information about the project please contact the project leader dr. D.M. Mokrosinska at For practical information and questions please contact Ms. Maarit van Gammeren at Information about The Institute for Philosophy can be found at and/or and about Leiden University at

How to Apply

Applications To apply for this vacancy, please send an email to Please ensure that you upload the following additional documents quoting the vacancy number: 15-342. 1. A letter stating your motivation for the position 2. Curriculum vitae (including list of publications, if applicable) 3. A transcript of the grades you received in your Bachelor and Master; 4. A copy of your MA thesis; 5. A 500 word research statement explaining how you might approach issues raised by legislative secrecy, paying attention to the project description given above; 6. The names and addresses of three academic referees whom we may contact for further information. One of these should be your MA thesis supervisor. Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed in person or over Skype on 19 November 2015. You are kindly requested to be available in this period. We aim to employ more women and minority candidates in areas where they are underrepresented. Women and minority candidates are therefore especially invited to apply. Applications must be received by 2 November 2015.

Position Category: Arts & Humanities. Position Type: PhD Project. Position Tags: political philosophy, democratic theory, secrecy, and strategic action. Salary: €20'000 - €30'000.