Content: 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 mixed accounts of political obligation.
Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:
the main contemporary theories of political obligation (philosophical anarchism, consent theory, the principle of fair play, the natural duty of justice, arguments from gratitude, associative theories, and mixed accounts of political obligation);
how these theories are related;
Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:
describe and distinguish the main contemporary theories of political obligation;
compare these theories;
evaluate and criticize, both orally and in writing, these theories;
write, present and critically review an essay in which a critical perspective is defended regarding a specific topic discussed during the course.
Methods of Instruction
Seminars. This is not a lecture-based course. Instead, it is designed to be student-centered. This means that the classes are based on the idea of cooperative learning. They have the form of a seminar or forum in which students critically discuss the main issues in the contemporary literature on political obligation. This educational mode fosters a learning environment in which students “learn with each other from each other”. As the “instructor”, my in-class role will be to keep the conversation going and keep it on track. As a student, your task is to direct (the lion-share) of your own learning. The value of this learning method is proportionally reflected in our grading scheme to encourage its success and reward its participants.
A selection of articles and book chapters (to be announced)
Participation during course meetings: affects the final grade by a maximum of 1 point (positively or negatively);
Weekly critical notes on course literature: counts for 15% towards the final grade;
Individual presentations and critical reviews during the final conference: counts for 15% towards the final grade;
Individual paper: counts for 70% towards the final grade.
Master students that started their studies in September 2015 can register for one seminar in uSis from Tuesday 8 December 10.00 hrs. until Tuesday 15 December 10.00 hrs.
For Master students that start their studies in February 2016 registration is possible from Wednesday 13 January 2016, 10.00 hrs. until 20 January 2016, 10.00 hrs. Please send an e-mail with your full name, student number and preference for your seminar courses to the Institute Secretariat at firstname.lastname@example.org. You will receive an auto-reply with a confirmation that we have received your e-mail. You will be informed about the seminars for which you have been registered before 1 February 2016.
Please note that elective seminars have a maximum number of participants and placement is subject to availability. Registration is on a first come first served basis.