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History of Modern Political Philosophy


Admission requirements



An introduction to Political Philosophy focusing on the foundations of modern Liberalism in the Enlightenment contract theories of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau. After an introduction to the basic problems and themes of modern political philosophy (the concept of the state and the distinction between legislature, executive and judiciary; the grounds of political obligation and authority, primary political goods etc.), the course will focus on the foundational texts of modern contract theory: Hobbes’s Leviathan, Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin of Inequality and The Social Contract (excerpts).

Key topics include: the concepts of natural law and the state of nature; the concept of reason; variations and problems of contract theory; individualism and collectivism; the concepts of equality and liberty; the free market and property; democracy. Special attention will be given to the nature and status of the ethical in these political theories. The course will end with a survey of some of the main lines of development stemming from these works.

Course objectives

Course objectives will be made available on Blackboard at the start of the course.


See Collegeroosters Wijsbegeerte 2013-2014 , BA Wijsbegeerte (BA Plus-traject of Standaardtraject), eerste jaar
See Collegeroosters Wijsbegeerte 2013-2014 minor Ethiek, politiek en cultuur: filosofie van het menselijk handelen
See Timetables Philosophy 2013-2014 , Timetable Undergraduate Courses in English

Mode of instruction

Lectures (hoorcollege) with seminar discussions.

Course load

Class attendance: 14 × 3 = 42 hrs
Preparation and assignments: 14 × 4 = 56 hrs
Midterm exam and prep: 18 hrs
Final exam and prep: 24 hrs
Total course load: 140 hrs

Test method

  • Mid-semester take-home exam (40%)

  • Final take-home exam (50%)

  • Participation / practical assignments (10%)


Weekly use for announcements, assignments, course documents (lecture notes, overheads etc.), exams and course information.

Reading list

  • Hobbes’s Leviathan(CUP 1991). ISBN: 0521567971.

  • Locke’s Second Treatise of Government(CUP, 1988). ISBN: 0 521 35730 6.

  • Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin of Inequality and excerpts from The Social Contract, both in: Basic Political Writings, tr. Cress, (Hackett 1988). ISBN: 0 87220 047 7.


Please register for this course on uSis.
See also: 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 Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs

Contact information

Dr. H.W. Siemens


Lectures will be in English, although Dutch can be used for exams and contributions in class.