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Political Philosophy: Freedom, Toleration, Property




Admissions requirements

History of Philosophy.

Note: The course significantly overlaps with, but is not identical to, ‘Introduction to Social and Political Philosophy’ offered in the 2016-2017 academic year. It is therefore not suitable for students who have successfully completed that course.


In this course we study some of the central texts in the western philosophical tradition that have shaped the dominant contemporary ideal of democratic capitalism. The course is organised around three distinct, but related, concepts: freedom, toleration, and property. We read authors from the modern period who have all in their own way contributed to the development of the concepts, as well as some important contemporary secondary literature that contextualises and synthesises these developments. Primary sources include, Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Locke, J.S. Mill and Karl Marx. Secondary sources include Albert Hirschman (The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism before Its Triumph), Isaiah Berlin (‘Two Concepts of Liberty’), C.L.R. James (The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution), Susan Mendus (Toleration and the Limits of Liberalism), and G.A. Cohen (‘Capitalism, Freedom, and the Proletariat’). Students will be encouraged to think analytically about the material, to evaluate different interpretations of the core concepts, and to consider their application to concrete contexts of political action.

Course objectives

After successful completion of the course students are able to:

  • Reproduce the main arguments of major political philosophers from Hobbes to Marx, and engage critically with some contemporary discussions of freedom, toleration and property.

  • Develop a capacity to critically read, analyse, and interpret difficult philosophical texts.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

Seminars. This is not a lecture-based course and the majority of instruction will be in the form of seminar discussion. This means it is imperative that students prepare for the classes by carefully studying the required readings, as reflected in the course assessment criteria.


Participation: 15%
Presentation (in pairs): 15%
Midterm paper (1500 words): 30%
Written examination with multiple choice and short essay questions: 40%


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

All readings will be made available on blackboard.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr. Laurens van Apeldoorn