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Political Obligation


Admission requirements


We live in a world of states. The modern state is a particular, and currently dominant, form of political organization which claims to exercise legitimate political authority over a territory and its population. A state’s legitimacy typically refers to the moral right it possesses to be the exclusive imposer of binding duties on its subjects, to have its subjects comply with these duties, and to use coercion to enforce the duties. It goes without saying that a state’s claim to legitimacy raises the fundamental question as to what constitutes its normative source. Through the ages, political philosophers have answered this question in various, and often mutually exclusive and irreconcilable, ways. This course examines the main arguments in the contemporary literature concerning moral requirements to obey the law. Among topics covered are: philosophical anarchism, consent theory, the principle of fair play, the natural duty of justice, arguments from gratitude, associative theories, and samaritanism.

Course objectives

Course objectives will be posted on Blackboard by the start of the course.


Thursday, 9:00-12:00.

See Collegeroosters Wijsbegeerte 2011-2012 , Master’s Programmes in Philosophy (Dutch website)
See Timetables Philosophy 2011-2012 , Master’s Programmes in Philosophy (English website)

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

  • Participation during seminar

  • Weekly critical notes on course readings

  • Individual presentations

  • Individual final paper



Reading list

All course readings will be made available on Blackboard at the start of the course.


Please register for this course on uSis.

Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Drs. M. Verschoor


Specialisation (MA Philosophy): Ethics and Politics.
Specialisations (MA Philosophy of a Specific Discipline): Philosophy of Law, Philosophy of Political Science.