Contemporary Political Philosophy, for exchange students

Course information

Period May - June 2001
Lectures 12 (optional)
Course code IPO 9039
Registration Student desk, Faculty of Policy Sciences, Th. v. Aquinostraat 3
Credits 4 (6 ECTS credits)
Level third year and higher
Lecturer dr. Marcel Wissenburg, School of Public Affairs, Th. v. Aquinostraat 5.01.51, tel. 024-3611853;


  • Written, (open book, open questions) for whoever has followed the lectures, at the end of Period 4
  • Oral, in all other cases, in any other period

Required reading

  • Will Kymlicka, Contemporary Political Philosophy (Oxford, Oxford University Press 1990)
  • John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Oxford, Oxford University Press 1971), Chapters 1-4
  • Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia (New York, Basic Books 1974), Chapters 1- 7 (Section 1)


In this course, the student will be introduced to the six most important schools in contemporary, mainly analytical, political philosophy. The historically given point of departure is utilitarianism; special attention will be given to its evolution in the 20th Century. Subsequently, we shall analyse the now dominant school of thought that developed in reaction to utilitarianism: the liberal egalitarianism of John Rawls and associates. Critique of this school has led to a revival of classical liberalism (libertarianism: Nozick), to the evolution of "analytical" Marxism, and to the development of communitarianism. Finally, we shall discuss both the feminist critique on these five schools and the original contributions of feminism itself to contemporary political thought.

Apart from raising awareness of the weak and strong sides of these six schools of thought, the aim of this course is also to familiarize students with instruments that will enable them to tackle political and policy questions of a philosophical nature. One thus learns to analyse and critically assess (the use of) complex philosophical concepts like liberty, equality, justice and the public good.

Students will be invited to give a 15-20 minutes oral presentation, which absolves them from part of their obligations for the written exam. The student who survives until the exam scores (on average) an 8 for this course.

Adobe Acrobat file Lecture notes 1999 (67 KB)