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Philosophy of Political Science: Methods of Analytical Political Theory


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to students enrolled in the MA Philosophy 120 EC, specialisation Philosophy of Poltical Science.


This course reflects on what we do when we do social and political philosophy, and how this relates to the social sciences. Are normative theories fact independent, or not? Do we take given institutional arrangements as given, pre-theoretical, or do we question everything? How do epistemic limitations – for example when encountering problems in assessing whether individuals are responsible for their position or not – affect theoretical and moral considerations? How does the sometimes utopian nature of engaging in political philosophy fit with some kind of impartiality, or shouldn’t political theorists be impartial but rather activist political agents?

We will start thinking about these questions by reading the recent edited volume Methods in Analytical Political Theory, which students are expected to purchase before the beginning of the course. This book will be supplemented by articles and book chapters by, among others, Valentini, Ypi, Cohen, Sangiovanni, Miller, Anderson and many others.

Course objectives

This course aims to enable students to critically consider the relation between the social sciences and political theorizing, and develop an well argued view on whether and to what extends social scientific and institutional facts determine the nature of our theories and the content of our obligations. Students will gain knowledge of state of the art literature on methodology in political philosophy.

Skills imparted will include the ability to survey relevant literature and make a selection from it via independent research, based on a clearly formulated initial research question. Students will be expected both to arrive at such a question through independent inquiry and to identify sources relevant to it. They will also learn how to distinguish between exposition of text and critical analysis not just of its substantive content but its philosophical and other methodological underpinnings.
Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • the relation between social sciences and political theorizing;

  • the role between normative political theory and politics;

  • the role of political philosophy in society;

  • methodological debates in analytical political philosophy.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • take position and critically engage with the debate between the relation between social scientific facts and existing institutions and normative philosophical principles;

  • understand and criticize several methodological approaches to political philosophy;

  • elaborate a philosophical understanding of the strengths and weaknesses different modes of political theorizing;

  • expose and appraise the differences between different philosophical approaches to politics, including their strengths and weaknesses.


See: MA Philosophy 120 EC

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course Load

Total course load 10 x 28 hours= 280 hours

  • Attending seminars (13 x 3 hours) : 39 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature: 120 hours

  • Preparation lectures and/or seminars: 21 hours

  • Preparation assignment(s): 20 hours

  • Writing paper(s): 80 hours

Assessment method


  • Midterm paper (40%)

  • Final paper (40%)

  • Presentations (20 %)


The final grade for the course is the weighed average of these three elements, but active class participation and fulfilling attendance requirements are necessary conditions for obtaining a pass


The resit consists of the same parts as the first opportunity, partial resits are possible. Class participation and the presentation are required for taking the resit. Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination cannot take the resit.

Exam review

Exam review on the basis of individual appointments.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Literature

  • Communication with students

  • Submission of papers

Reading list

  • Blau, A. (2017). Methods in Analytical Political Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press

  • Selection of papers and articles, made available on Blackboard.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetables for courses and exams.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. T. Meijers


Not applicable.