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Political Philosophy


Admission requirements

No prerequisites.


This is an introductory course on political philosophy. As such it addresses some of the core concepts involved in thinking and acting politically, such as democracy, justice, freedom, rights, property, power and the state. Some of the material will be introduced via readings of canonical thinkers. Students will be encouraged to think analytically about the material, to evaluate different interpretations of core concepts, and to consider their application to concrete contexts of political action in the modern world, which may include reflection on such topics as global justice, the justification of punishment, the scope of political participation, the problem of dirty hands, human rights, toleration, security and counter-terrorism, justice in war and the relation between the state and religion.

Course objectives

The course aims to give students a basic grounding in contemporary political philosophy, together with some conversance with historical readings in the subject.

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • some fundamental concepts in political philosophy;

  • some of the critical problems that they raise in theory, as well as in political practice.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • discuss questions of understanding and application knowledgeably, with relevant authorities and with a grasp of the complex relation between theory and practice.


The timetable is available on the BA Wijsbegeerte website
BA Wijsbegeerte 2016-2017 (Standaardtraject), tweede jaar
Minor Ethiek, politiek en cultuur 2016-2017

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

Class attendance is required.

Course Load

Total course load 5 EC x 28 hours = 140 hours

  • Attending lectures (13 weeks x 3 hrs): 39 hours

  • Assessment (final examination): 3 hours

  • Preparation of classes and study of compulsory literature: 58 hours

  • Writing of essay: 20 hours

  • Preparation exam: 20 uur

Assessment method

  • Mid-term assessed essay (50 %)

  • Final written examination (50 %)


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of several subtests (mid-term essay, final examination). A subtest can be graded as unsatisfactory.


The resit consists of one written examination for all parts at once. No separate resits will be offered for mid-term tests. The resit covers the entire course content and the mark will replace all previously earned marks for subtests.


Blackboard will be used for posting of readings, links and other materials of relevance to the course. These may include academic articles or book chapters as well as exercises or sound and video extracts.

Reading list

  • Catriona McKinnon, Issues in Political Theory, preferably 3rd edn. (Oxford: OUP).

  • Further literature will be published on Blackboard.


Enrolment for courses and exams through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetables for and exams in the column under the heading “uSis-Actnbr”.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


Prof.dr. G.F. Newey


Not applicable.