Samuel Moyn

Samuel Moyn

James Bryce Professor of European Legal History

501 Fayerweather Hall
Phone: (212) 854-3009
Office Hours:



J.D. — Harvard University, 2001
Ph.D. — University of California, Berkeley, 2000
M.A. — University of California Berkeley, 1995
B.A. — Washington University, 1994

Current Departmental Service

Graduate Admissions Committee

Interests and Research

Samuel Moyn, professor, works primarily on modern European intellectual history–with special interests in France and Germany, political and legal thought, historical and critical theory, and Jewish studies–and on the history of human rights.


  • Global Justice in Historical Perspective
  • Intellectual History: Contemporary Theories
  • Modern European Intellectual History, 1880-1940
  • Legal Theory in Modern History
  • Tocqueville
  • History of Human Rights
  • Philosophy and Politics
  • Intellectual History: Theory and Method
  • Animals from Aristotle to Agamben
  • History of the Law of War (at Columbia Law School)
  • Secularization and Modern Intellectual History


  • John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship
  • Frederick Burkhardt Fellowship for Recently Tenured Scholars, American Council of Learned Societies
  • Membership, Institute for Advanced Study
  • Sybil Halpern Milton Memorial Book Prize, German Studies Association, for best book over two years on Nazi Germany and the Holocaust in its broadest context
  • Student Council Teaching Award (2nd Annual), Columbia School of General Studies
  • Mark van Doren Teaching Award (46th Annual), Columbia College
  • Columbia University Distinguished Faculty Award
  • Morris D. Forkosch Prize, from the Journal of the History of Ideas, for best first book of the year in intellectual history
  • Koret Foundation Jewish Studies Publication Prize


Human Rights and the Uses of History

The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History

Origins of the Other: Emmanuel Levinas Between Revelation and Ethics

A Holocaust Controversy: The Treblinka Affair in Postwar France

(co-ed.) Rethinking Modern European Intellectual History

(co-ed.) The Breakthrough: Human Rights in the 1970s

(co-ed.) Global Intellectual History

(co-ed.) The Modernist Imagination: Intellectual History and Critical Theory

(ed.) Pierre Rosanvallon, Democracy Past and Future

Recent Articles

“From Communist to Muslim: Religious Liberty in European Human Rights Law,” South Atlantic Quarterly 113, 1 (Winter 2014)

“From Antiwar Politics to Antitorture Politics,” in Austin Sarat, et al., eds., Law and War (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2014)

“The Secret History of Constitutional Dignity,” in Christopher McCrudden, ed., Understanding Human Dignity (Publications of the British Academy) (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), and in a longer and reframed version in Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal, forthcoming

“Judith Shklar versus the International Criminal Court,” Humanity 4, 3 (Fall 2013): 473-500

"The Continuing Perplexities of Human Rights,” Qui Parle 22, 1 (Fall/Winter 2013)

“John Locke on Intervention, Uncertainty, and Insurgency,” in Stefano Recchia and Jennifer Welsh, eds., Just and Unjust Military Intervention: European Thinkers from Vitoria to Mill (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 113-31

“Only Gravestones,” Times Literary Supplement, August 9, 2013

“A Certain Late Discovery,” Jewish Review of Books 4, 1 (Spring 2013): 27-30

“A Better Way to Protect Human Rights” (on the Alien Tort Statute), Foreign Affairs, May 20, 2013

“Drones and Imagination: A Response to Paul Kahn,” European Journal of International Law 24, 1 (Spring 2013): 227-33

“Torture and Taboo," The Nation, February 25, 2013

“Do Human Rights Treaties Make Enough of a Difference?” in Costas Douzinas and Conor Gearty, eds., Cambridge Companion to Human Rights Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 329-47

“Totalitarianism, Famine, and Us,” The Nation, November 26, 2012

“Substance, Scale, and Salience: The Recent Historiography of Human Rights,”Annual Review of Law and Social Science 8 (2012): 123-40; German version: “Die neue Historiographie der Menschenrechte,” Geschichte und Gesellschaft 38, 4 (December 2012): 545-72

“Human Rights, Not So Pure Anymore,” New York Times, May 13, 2012 and International Herald Tribune, May 12-13, 2012

“Afterword: The Self-Evidence of Enlightenment Rights,” in Kate E. Tunstall, ed., Self-Evident Truths?: The Enlightenment and Human Rights (Oxford Amnesty Lectures 2010) (New York: Continuum 2012)

“To Wipe the Slate Clean,” Yale French Studies 121 (Summer 2012) (Literature and History: Around Suite Française and Les Bienveillantes)

“Bearing Witness: Theological Sources of a New Secular Morality,” in Dan Stone, ed., The Holocaust and Historical Methodology (New York: Berghahn Books, 2012)

“Intellectuals and Nazism,” in Dan Stone, ed., Oxford Handbook of Postwar European History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 671-91

“The Spirit of Jewish History,” in Zachary Braiterman, Martin Kavka and David Novak, eds., The Cambridge History of Jewish Philosophy: The Modern Era (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 75-96

“Intellectuals, Reason, and History: In Memory of Tony Judt,” H-France Salon 4, 2 (January 2012)

“Of Deserts and Promised Lands," The Nation, March 19, 2012

“Anxiety and Secularization: Søren Kierkegaard and the Twentieth-Century Invention of Existentialism,” in Robert Bernasconi and Jonathan Judaken, eds., Situating Existentialism: Key Texts in Context (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), 279-304

“Claude Lefort, Political Anthropology, and Symbolic Division,” Constellations 19, 1 (Claude Lefort Memorial Issue) (March 2012): 37-50, rpt. in Martín Plot, ed., Claude Lefort: Thinker of the Political (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 51-70

“The Politics of Individual Rights: Marcel Gauchet and Claude Lefort,” in Raf Geenens and Helena Rosenblatt, eds., French Liberalism from Montesquieu to the Present Day (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 291-310

(with Azzan Yadin) “The Creaturely Limits of Knowledge: Martin Heidegger, Immanuel Kant, and Weimar Theological Pessimism,” in Leonard Kaplan and Rudy Koshar, eds., The Weimar Moment: Political Theology, Liberalism, and the Law (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2012), 123-44

“Imperialism, Self-Determination, and the Rise of Human Rights,” in Akira Iriye et al., eds., The Human Rights Revolution: An International History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 159-78

“Soft Sells: On Liberal Internationalism," The Nation, October 3, 2011

“The First Historian of Human Rights,” American Historical Review 116, 1 (February 2011): 59-79

“Personalism, Community, and the Origins of Human Rights,” in Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann, ed., Human Rights in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge, 2011), 85-106

“Human Rights in History," The Nation, August 30/September 6, 2010

“Preface,” in Chil Rajchman, The Last Jew of Treblinka: A Memoir (New York, 2010)

"The Assumption by Man of His Original Fracturing: Marcel Gauchet, Gladys Swain, and the History of the Self," Modern Intellectual History 6, 2 (August 2009): 315-41

"In the Aftermath of Camps," in Frank Biess and Robert Moeller, eds., Histories of the Aftermath: The Legacies of World War II in Comparative European Perspective (New York, 2010)

"On the Intellectual Origins of François Furet's Masterpiece," La Revue Tocqueville/The Tocqueville Review 29, 2 (Fall 2008): 59-78

"Marxism and Alterity: Claude Lefort and the Critique of Totality," in Warren Breckman et al., eds., The Modernist Imagination: Essays in Intellectual History and Critical Theory (New York: Berghahn Books, 2008)

"Spectacular Wrongs," The Nation, October 13, 2008

"Hannah Arendt on the Secular," New German Critique 105 (Fall 2008): 71-96

"Amos Funkenstein on the Theological Origins of Historicism," in David Biale and Robert Westman, eds., Thinking Impossibilities: The Legacy of Amos Funkenstein (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008)

"From Experience to Law: Leo Strauss and the Weimar Crisis of the Philosophy of Religion," History of European Ideas 33, 2 (June 2007): 174-94

"On the Genealogy of Morals," The Nation, April 16, 2007

"Empathy in History, Empathizing with Humanity," History & Theory 54, 3 (October 2006): 397-415


  • Co-Director, Consortium for Intellectual and Cultural History
  • Editor, Humanity
  • Coeditor, Modern Intellectual History
  • Series Coeditor, "Human Rights in History" (Cambridge University Press)
  • Series Coeditor, "Brandeis Library of Modern Jewish Thought" (Brandeis University Press)
  • Editorial Associate, Constellations
  • Editorial Board, Modern Judaism