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The Politics of Modernity


Admission requirements

Bachelor’s diploma in a relevant discipline. Please write a motivational email (maximum of 300 words) to M.L. Schut in which you describe why you wish to take this class and how your previous studies have prepared you to complete it successfully.


We live in a modern—or even post-modern—world. Yet the exact nature, beginnings, drawbacks, and benefits of modernity continue to be contested. All sides accept, however, that modernity is characterized by (1) the rise of technology, built on a mathematical or quantitative, materialist understanding of (natural) science and (2) secularization and individualism, that is to say: equal rights to protect individual freedom and individual moral autonomy, producing a contractual understanding of political legitimacy. Modernity is hence generally contrasted with (1) teleological or supernatural explanations in (natural) science and (2) teleological, theological, or hierarchical understandings of man and society.

Discussion in class will revolve around two sets of intertwined questions.
First: What is modernity? Is there a specific politics of modernity? If so, how does it differ from the pre-modern? And: What is the relation between modern politics, modern philosophy, and science? Are the politics of modernity the product of modern philosophy and modern science, or is their interaction more complicated?

Behind these two sets of questions we find a third one: Is there a natural order? If so, does the natural order extend beyond science to morality and politics? To what extent can we know this order?

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

Class attendance: 42 hrs
Reading: 78 hrs
Assignments: 80 hrs
Paper: 80 hrs
Total course load: 280 hrs

Assessment method

Grades will be based on:

  • attendance;

  • your performance in three essays (two of which you will have to rewrite);

  • outlines for those essays;

  • your written questions about the assigned readings, to be submitted before each seminar.

Your questions will count for 21% of your final grade. You will receive zero points for a set of questions if you do not submit any questions or if you are not in the class for which the set of questions has been submitted.

In addition, attendance will count for 2% of your final grade. If you do not want to lose these 2% you are allowed to miss ONE CLASS ONLY, unless there are exceptional circumstances (to be judged by the instructor), such as hospitalization.

The first two papers will count for 10% each of your final grade.
The rewritten two first papers will count for 11% each of your final grade.
The large final paper will count for 25% of your final grade.

The outlines for the smaller papers will count for 2.5 % each of your final grade.
The outline for your final paper will count for 5 % of your final grade.


Blackboard will be used for general communication with the students, as well as to provide links to course materials (such as the syllabus).

Reading list

The reading list will be made available on Blackboard (please see the syllabus). Students are not required to buy any specific books.


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

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.

Contact information

Mr. dr. M.L. Schut