Mihnea Capraru

assistant professor

Mihnea Capraru is an assistant professor of philosophy at Nazarbayev University, having received his PhD from Syracuse University in 2015. His research is in philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, and philosophy of cognitive science, while his teaching interests also encompass logic, metaphysics (including action theory), and general philosophy of science.

Selected Publications

“Note on the individuation of biological traits”
Journal of Philosophy, 115:215–221, 2018

“Objective truth in matters of taste”
Philosophical Studies, 173:1755–1777, 2016

“A counterexample to variabilism”
Analysis, 76:26–29, 2016

“Stained glass as a model for consciousness”
Philosophical Explorations, 18:90–103, 2015

“A new source of data about singular thought”
Philosophia, 41:1159–1172, 2013

Courses taught at Nazarbayev University

  • PHIL 360 Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence
  • PHIL 342 Philosophy of Biology
  • PHIL 240 Formal Logic
  • PHIL 223 Philosophy of Science
  • PHIL 124 Knowledge and Reality

Other websites

Vladimir Krstic

Sydney Morrow

assistant professor

Sydney Morrow received her Ph.D. from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in Spring 2018. Her dissertation is titled “A Comparative Study of ‘Existential Destitution’ in Pre-Qin Chinese Philosophy and Karl Jaspers in the Context of Homelessness in Hawaiʻi”. In it, she uses a comparative approach to formulate a methodology and application of place-based philosophy. Drawing from resources in classical and modern Chinese philosophy, she draws out themes related to hardship, dire circumstances, and personal cultivation in the face of each. She believes that philosophy ought to be concerned with contemporary problems, and that analysis of these pressing issues is best done in contextualized and localized ways.

Her research interests include Pre-Qin and Han Chinese Philosophy, 20th Century Chinese Philosophy, 20th Century European Existentialism, Environmental and Agricultural Ethics, Applied and Place-based Philosophy, Comparative and Cross-Cultural Philosophy, and Homelessness Studies.

Her current writing projects include:

  • “Engaging Fei Xiaotong’s Societal Inclusivity in an Age of Isolationism”
  • “Penniless but not Poor: Forming a Theory of Existential Poverty Using Resources from Classical Chinese Philosophy and Simone Weil”
  • “Exhausting Future Possibilities: The Liberated Philosophy of Jin Yuelin and Engagement in Preferred Futures”

Teaching Interests include Daoism, Confucianism, Chinese Philosophies of War, and the Philosophical Roots of Martial Arts Practice.

Siegfried Van Duffel

associate professor

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 Rights. 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

  • Ethics
  • Global Justice
  • Human Rights and Cultural Differences
  • Social Contract Theory (Hobbes to Kant)
  • Introduction to Political Theory
  • Freshman seminar