Course ObjectiveKnowledge and understanding – The student has acquired knowledge and
(1) the main theories of selected philosophers in the history of Western
(2) the meaning of core political concepts (e.g., justice, state,
sovereignty, liberty, democracy) and the ways in which they have been
understood in the past and present.
Application – The student has acquired the competences to:
(3) apply the skills of close reading and textual analysis to study the
texts of selected and indeed non-selected political philosophers;
(4) apply ideas and theories from the history of political thought to
understand and analyze current political issues.
Making judgements – The student is able to:
(5) provide well-argued critical reflections on the texts of selected
political philosophers and on the normative questions they raise.
Communication – The student has acquired the skills to:
(6) constructively engage in academic discussions on political
philosophy texts and normative political questions;
(7) write a short academic essay engaging with the ideas of political
philosophers and developing an argument of its own.
Course ContentPolitical science is rooted in a tradition of normative reflection on
the biggest political questions: How should we as human beings live and
how should we live together? How should we rule or be ruled and how can
we be free? Which form of government (if any) allows us best to achieve
our personal and common goals? Such questions do not allow for easy
answers, but they underlie the way in which politics has been shaped
(and studied) throughout history well into in our own time. Hence, a
course on the history of political thought is a crucial part of any
Political Science undergraduate program. It introduces students to a
range of classical texts (from Plato up until the twentieth century)
that offer highly influential answers to the questions mentioned. These
texts can be called classical because they have been widely considered
worthwhile for advancing political reflection and because the ideas
expressed in them have shaped the principles and practices of politics
as we know it. Studying them can ultimately help us to better understand
rivalling political convictions, including our own.
Teaching MethodsInteractive lectures (2 per week)
Note: attendance and active participation is highly recommended and will
be rewarded. To make fruitful discussions possible, students who come to
class must (!) have read the assigned text in advance. Students who are
ill-prepared may be expelled from class. (This is also the case for the
very first class of the course.)
Method of Assessment- Exam with open questions (50%)
- Writing assignment (details will be laid out in the course manual)
Note: because the exam and the assignment test different skills, both
have to be sufficient (graded 6.0 or higher). So it is not possible to
'compensate' a bad grade for one with a good grade for the other. Rules
about the possibilities for retakes will be detailed in the course
Literature· Steven Cahn (2015), Political Philosophy: The Essential Texts. Oxford:
Oxford University Press. Third edition. (An earlier edition will not
suffice.) ISBN 978-0-19-020108-1
· David Boucher and Paul Kelly (Eds.) (2017), Political Thinkers: From
Socrates to the Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Third edition.
(An earlier edition will not suffice.) ISBN 978-0-19-870892-6
The books are available at the VU book store. If you purchase the books
together, a discount will be given on the original price.
Target Audience1st year bachelor students in Political Science.
Also open as an elective course for Exchange Students.
Additional InformationThis course is primarily devoted to the reading, interpretation, and
discussion of important texts. Therefore, students should always bring
the textbook with them when they come to class.
|Language of Tuition||English|
|Faculty||Faculty of Social Sciences|
|Course Coordinator||dr. P. Overeem|
|Examiner||dr. P. Overeem|
dr. P. Overeem
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