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Political Obligation


Admission requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree has been obtained

  • Introduction to Ethics, or Introduction to Political Philosopy


The “state” is the typical modern form of political organisation, characterised by its claim of comprehensive and final authority for all inhabitants of a certain territory. What exactly is the nature of the authority claimed by the state, and under which conditions could such a claim possibly be justified (or how is a tax collector different from a thief)? If it is justified, does that imply that all inhabitants of the state’s territory have a moral duty to obey the state, and which moral principles could possibly found such a duty? The course examines the main arguments in the contemporary literature concerning moral requirements to obey the state. Among topics covered are consent theory; the principle of fairness; the natural duty of justice; arguments from gratitude; associative theories; philosophical anarchism. The course applies the philosophical arguments discussed in class to issues in political practice such as secession and civil disobedience.

Course objectives

Course objectives will be posted on Blackboard by the start of the course.


See Collegeroosters Wijsbegeerte 2013-2014 , MA Philosophy 60 EC en 120 EC.
See Timetables Philosophy 2013-2014 , Timetables MA Philosophy 60 EC/120 EC.

Mode of instruction


Course load

Attending seminars: 3 × 14 = 42 hrs
Readings: 7.5 ×14 = 105 hrs
Presentation: 26 hrs
Midterm exam: 45 hrs
Final paper: 61 hrs
Office hours: 1 hrs
Total course load: 280 hrs

Assessment method

  • Presentation in class (20%)

  • Midterm take-home exam (30%)

  • Final paper (50%)


Blackboard will be used for the purposes of providing course information, posting readings, discussion and communication with the instructor.

Reading list

  • Selection from John A. Simmons (1979). Moral Principles and Political Obligations , Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press. (available from the University Library)

  • Selection from Dorota Mokrosinska (2012). Rethinking Political Obligation: Moral Principles, Communal Ties, Citizenship , Palgrave: Macmillan. (available from the University Library)

  • Other texts to be discussed will be made available in the Library or via Blackboard.


Please register for this course on uSis.
See Inschrijven voor cursussen en tentamens
See Registration for courses and examinations

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

Not applicable.

Contact information

Dr. D.M. Mokrosinska