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Philosophy of Political Science: Moral Equality and Grounds of Justice


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to students enrolled in the MA Philosophy 120 EC, specialisation Philosophy of Poltical Science.


There seems to be a broad consensus in normative political philosophy that people are moral equals. This is the so called ‘egalitarian plateau’, on which libertarians, utilitarians, kantians, liberal egalitarians and many others stand. But in virtue of what are people moral equals? And, how does this translate to the need for equal or equitable treatment (or not)? Does moral equality imply distributive equality? Democratic equality? Status equality or equal respect? Equal freedom?

There are significant questions about in virtue of what people (and other beings) are equals, and what this implies for the scope and the nature of our obligitions. For example, is partial concern for compatriots compatible with moral equality? And – even more complicated – do we have moral obligations to future people? And are these obligations of justice or of another kind?

In this course we will look at the moral and meta-ethical foundations (or, possibly, lack thereof) of theories of justice. Political philosophers often ‘outsource’ foundational questions to meta-ethicists or, since the rise of ‘political’ (and later ‘realist’) approaches to these debates believe that we can sideline these debates. We will draw these debates back in, asking whether we can and should do without, and whether theories of justice can deal with some important moral and meta-ethical challenges.

Course objectives

This course aims to give students a thorough understanding of the relationship between moral and (normative) political philosophy, foundational debates in political philosophy and debates about the scope of the moral community and the scope of obligations of justice. This involves engaging with and taking position debates in meta-ethics, intergenerational justice, global justice, etc.

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

  • foundational debates in moral and political philosophy, and debates about scope;

  • different views of the relation, or lack thereof, between meta-ethical, moral and political philosophy.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • engage with and take position on debates about the grounds of moral equality, the scope of justice, obligations to future people;

  • develop a position on the relation between moral philosophy, meta-ethics and political philosophy..


The timetable is available on the folowing website:

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course load

Total course load 10 x 28 hours= 280 hours

  • Attending seminars (13 x 3 hours) : 39 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature: 100 hours

  • Preparation lectures and/or seminars: 21 hours

  • Preparation assignment(s): 20 hours

  • Writing paper(s): 80 hours

  • Presentations: 20 hours

Assessment method


  • Attendance and participation is required. One cannot pass this course if attendance criteria are not met.

  • Shorter pre-seminar assignments have to be made in order to pass this course.

  • Presentations (20%)

  • Midterm paper proposal (10%)

  • Midterm paper (30%)

  • Final paper proposal (10%)

  • Final paper (30%)


The final grade for the course is the weighed average of the grades for the presentation, and the two papers (see above).


The resit consists of 1) paper proposal (20%) and 2) a 10,000 word research paper (80%).
Class participation and practical assignements are required for taking the resit.
Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination cannot take the resit.

Inspection and feedback

Feedback on the basis of individual appointments.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Dissimination of readings

  • Communication with students

Reading list

A reading list will be made available on Blackboard.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetables for courses and exams.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. T.R. Wells


Not applicable.