This course offers an introduction to some of the major texts of Western political philosophy. There are different (and sometimes conflicting) views about what political philosophy is, but we will concentrate on the view that sees political philosophy as the reflection on the nature and aims of good government. More specifically, we will examine how various political philosophers, from Plato to the present, have thought about the idea of justice and its relation to political morality and to the good functioning of governments. Justice is a central theme in the Western canon of moral and political thought, and one that has given philosophers repeated opportunities for dialogue and disagreement. We will see that, though justice is a concept that is central to philosophical reflection, its specific conceptions change at least partially from one author to another and that, sometimes, there might be some contradictions between different texts written by one and the same author.
- Students should become familiar with some of the major texts of political philosophy, as well as the main debates and concepts of the discipline (the emphasis is set on the concept of justice, but we will also consider other relevant or closely related concepts, such as freedom, coercion, happiness, virtue, security, and so on).
- Students should acquire a close understanding of key modes of reasoning, interpreting and constructing an argument in political philosophy;
- Students should be able to identify the main claim or thesis of a philosophical text, summarise the way in which the argument is articulated and identify the limits of a philosophical argument;
- Students should be able to read political philosophy texts with a critical eye and think about the way in which the historical and political context of these texts matter for the argument that is being presented or for the mode of reasoning and the discourse adopted by various political philosophers;
- Students should be able to articulate the ways in which the questions raised by political philosophers can impact or inform the problems of governance, public policy and administration.
On the right side of the programme front page of the E-guide you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Brightspace.
Mode of Instruction
Lectures (attendance highly recommended)
Work groups/seminars (attendance compulsory)
No absence from the work groups is allowed, unless adequately justified (for example, a medical certificate or a message from the study advisor). If the student has an excuse for missing a work group, the student has to hand in an extra assignment (decided by the work group teacher) within one week following the work group the student did not attend. If the student does not hand in the extra assignment in time, the student will be excluded from further participation in the work group, which leads to a failure of the 2nd assignment for the course.
If the student provides no excuse for missing the working group, the student will have to hand in 2 extra assignments (decided by the work group teacher) within one week following the work group the student did not attend. Absent these 2 extra assignments, the student will be excluded from further participation in the work group, which leads to a failure of the 2nd assignment for the course.
According to established norms, a 5 ECTS course requires (5x28=) 140 hours of study.
For this course the study load is roughly divided as follows:
Lectures: (7x2) 14 hours
Seminars: (7x2) 14 hours
Examination: 7 hours
Paper assignment: 30% of the final grade (the grade is based on the average of the grades of 2 individual papers)
Written exam: 70% of the final grade (take-home essay)
The grade of both assessments has to be 5.5 or higher. Compensation is not possible. For the paper assignment, only the average of the 2 papers has to be 5.5 or higher.
Partial grades from the 2021/2022 academic year are valid in the 2022/2023 academic year.
More information about participation in exams can be found in the Rules & Regulations.
Resit written exam
Students that want to take part in a resit for a written exam, are required to register via uSis. Use the activity number that can be found on the ‘timetable exams’. For dates and times, please see course syllabus and schedule online.
There is no handbook for this course. The readings will be canonical political philosophy texts (freely available online) and academic articles (available via the Leiden library services).
Register for every course and workgroup via MyStudymap or uSis. Registration for courses in uSis is possible from 13 December, 13.00h. Pay attention: Registration for workgroups happens on a different date, tba. Some courses and workgroups have a limited number of participants, so register on time (before the course starts). In uSis you can access your personal schedule and view your results.
From the academic year 2020-2021 Leiden University uses Brightspace as its online learning management system. After enrolment for the course in uSis you will be automatically enrolled in the Brightspace environment of this course.