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Foundations of Political Philosophy/ Politieke Filosofie en Openbaar Bestuur



This course offers you 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 Rawls, 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.

Course Objectives

  1. 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).
  2. Students should acquire a close understanding of key modes of reasoning, interpreting and constructing an argument in political philosophy;
  3. Students should be able to identify the main claim or thesis of a philosophical text, summarize the way in which the argument is articulated and identify the limits of a philosophical argument;
  4. 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;
  5. 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 Public Administration front page of the E-guide you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Blackboard.

Mode of Instruction

  • All lectures, readings, official communications, and exams will be in English. Seminars (workgroup meetings) will be in Dutch;

  • There are 7 lectures of 2 hours each;

  • There are 7 seminar meetings of 2 hours each;

  • NB: attendance at seminars is mandatory and will be recorded for all regular PA bachelor students. Absence will be registered. Whoever is absent in two or more seminar meetings will be excluded from the course, including the final exam and the paper. Only in the case of serious personal circumstances will deviation from this rule be considered and only when students have 1) notified the lecturer immediately and prior to the work group session and 2) have notified the study advisor immediately and prior to the work group session of the reasons for missing a class

Course Load

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:

14 hours Lectures   (7x2)                   
14 hours Seminars   (7x2)                       
80 hours Readings   (compulsory readings = 254 pages, 3.2 pages/hour)   

32 hours Paper research / writing

140 hours

Assessment Method

1 paper assignment (philosophical discussion of a case study): 50% of the final grade
1 written exam: 50% of the final grade
The grade of both exams has to be 5.5 or higher
Compensation is not possible

Students will be permitted to resit an examination if they have taken the first sit and earned a mark between 3 and 5.5 or with permission of the Board of Examiners.

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 roster online.


Yes, Blackboard is going to be used and will be available from the beginning of the course.

Reading List

Morgan, M.L. Classics of Moral and Political Theory. Hackett Publishing (preferably 5th edition, but other editions are acceptable if they include the required texts).


Use both uSis and Blackboard to register for every course.
Register for every course and workgroup via uSis. 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. Registration in uSis is possible from four weeks before the start of the course.
Also register for every course in Blackboard. Important information about the course is posted here.


Dr. Andrei Poama