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Kant's Political Philosophy


Admission requirements

Some background in philosophy is strongly recommended for third-year bachelor students from other departments, because we shall do a lot of close reading of Kant’s texts.
Toehoorders / à la carte-studenten hebben alleen toegang tot deze cursus met toestemming van de docent.


Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) is generally not seen as one of the main political philosophers, such as Aristotle, Hobbes, Rousseau, and Locke. In recent years, however, his political philosophy has been rediscovered as an important source of contemporary political theory, reflecting on questions pertaining to global peace, justice, and human rights. In fact, the three greatest political thinkers of the 20th century, Hannah Arendt, John Rawls, and Jürgen Habermas, owe their orientation on the just society and consensus to Kant’s moral philosophy and philosophy of right. Further, his ideal of a cosmopolitan future in which a federation of states would bring about ‘perpetual’, i.e. universal and eternal, peace is a main source for debates on contemporary global challenges, such as the role of global institutions in creating lasting peace and the rights of refugees – debates carried out by important contemporary thinkers such as Thomas Pogge, Martha Nussbaum, and Seyla Benhabib.

In this course, we shall familiarize ourselves with Kant’s political philosophy and its effect on contemporary debates by way of a close reading of two of his essential political texts, Idea for a Universal History and Towards Perpetual Peace and relating those to contemporary debates. In our readings, we focus on the tight relation between political philosophy, moral philosophy, and philosophy of law, that Kant makes; the historical sources Kant draws upon (i.e. the Contractarians Hobbes and Rousseau and Natural Law theorist Grotius); the contemporary value of his political thought. The latter we do by analysing UN documents such as the Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Development Programme from a Kantian viewpoint, and discussing relevant articles by Arendt, Rawls, Habermas, Pogge, Nussbaum, Carens, and others. In addition, we shall focus on the racism, anti-Semitism, and misogynism of this ‘greatest cosmopolitan thinker’ in the history of philosophy, as the famous Kant-scholar Allen Wood called him. The readings and discussions will be supported by lectures delivered by the teacher. The main thread of this course is formed by the role of what Kant calls ‘unsocial sociability’ in his cosmopolitan philosophy.

Course objectives

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


See Collegeroosters Wijsbegeerte 2013-2014 , BA Wijsbegeerte (BA Plus-traject of Standaardtraject), 3e jaar.
See Timetables Philosophy 2013-2014 , Timetable Undergraduate Courses in English.

Mode of instruction

Lectures and seminars

The course will include close reading of primary texts under supervision of Dr. Prange, supporting lectures, class discussions relating Kant to contemporary global issues, evaluation of the sessions.

Course Load

Attending seminars: 14 × 3 = 42 hrs
Preparation of seminars 13 × 10 = 130 hrs
Midterm assignment (paper abstract): 20 hrs
Final paper: 88 hrs
Total course load: 280 hrs

Assessment method

  • Participation in class (active learning and discussion attitude; preparation of questions, thorough reading of the text as preparation of close reading and discussions in class; chairing of discussions in class – leadership skills; no more than two absences are allowed during the course) – afronding cijfer naar boven of beneden.

  • Debate (mid term exam; presentation skills, co-operation skills) – 10%.

  • Paper abstract (written exam) – 10%.

  • Organization of debate and workshop (co-operation and organizational skills) – 10%.

  • Paper presentation during workshop (final exam; presentation skills, clear and convincing exposition of thesis and argumentation) – 70%.


Blackboard will be used in the course for uploading all information about the course, course materials, uploading student papers and group discussions. Students can upload any material of interest to the group. If desired, students can upload summaries/ notes of the lectures.

Reading list

Students are required to acquire the following literature before the start of the course:

  • Immanuel Kant, Toward Perpetual Peace and Other Writings on Politics, Peace, and History. Edited by Pauline Kleingeld. New Haven/ London: Yale University Press 2006.

Additional materials (secondary literature) will be provided by the teacher.


Please register for this course on uSis.
See Inschrijven voor cursussen en tentamens

Exchange students and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply. See also Registration for courses and examinations

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Contractonderwijs via secretariaat Wijsbegeerte
See also: Inschrijven voor cursussen en tentamens

Contact details

Dr. M.S. Prange