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Politics and Nature



Admission requirements

This course is open to MA students in Philosophy. Admission to the specialisation Ethics and Politics is required.


This is a course on the politics of nature as well as the nature of politics. The core question asked concerns the political uses to which the idea of nature is and has been put. What is at stake politically in describing some phenomenon or set of practices as ‘natural’ or ‘unnatural’, and how does this relate to the use of nature in political and philosophical justification?

The course will examine these questions with the help of some canonical texts, such as Aristotle, Aquinas and the natural law tradition. It will also ask whether our idea of nature has changed with secularisation and the growth of technocracy, and in particular whether political thinking has to adapt to a new ‘transhuman’ conception of human nature.

Course objectives

This course aims to inculcate knowledge and understanding of the concept of nature and its political uses, especially in political philosophy and in broader political argument.

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

  • the concept of nature and intersecting contexts of argument in philosophy and politics;

  • a good working knowledge of key texts, ideas and concepts in philosophy and politics, notably concerning natural law, natural rights, philosophical naturalism in ethics, politics and related areas such as epistemology, and the idea of human nature.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • discuss knowledgeably key ideas and concepts surrounding the concept of nature;

  • cite and discuss intelligently structuring concepts for nature, such as anthropomorphism, the biosphere, and the idea of the ‘given’;

  • research specific topics and render coherent well-informed analysis and interpretations of key text and problems in the philosophy of nature.


See Timetables MA Philosophy 2015-2016
h3. Mode of instruction

  • Lectures and seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course Load

Total course load (10 EC x 28 hrs): 280 hours

  • Attending lectures and seminars: 14 × 3 = 42 hours

  • Final exam: 3 hours

  • Preparation classes and studying literature: 14 × 10 = 140 hours

  • Preparation mid-term essay: 45 hours

  • Preparation of final exam: 50 hours

Assessment method

  • Essay

  • Final exam


One resit will be offered, covering the entire course content. The grade will replace previously earned grades for subtests. Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination(s) cannot take the resit.


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

Reading list

  • Aristotle, Politics and Nicomachean Ethics

  • R. Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature.

  • Further literature will be published on Blackboard.


Please register for this course via Study administration system uSis
See also Registration for lectures and tests

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “”.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Prof. dr. G.F. Newey