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Unit information: Political Philosophy in 2015/16

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Unit name Political Philosophy
Unit code PHIL20012
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Bertram
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Philosophy
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit provides a comprehensive introduction to the main theorists and issues in contemporary political theory and political philosophy. It focuses on two main issues which are interlinked: first on questions concerning the justification of the authority of the state and second on questions concerning the nature of the just society. Key issues in democratic theory are also addressed. Teaching will consist of 2 lectures per week and a seminar. The first lecture in each week will be given either by Chris Bertram or by Tim Fowler and the second lecture will consist in a reply to the first lecture by the other lecturer (followed by a response).

Intended learning outcomes

At the end of the unit a successful student will be able to:

1. Describe the key debates in contemporary political theory

2. Explain and discuss key texts by Rawls, Nozick, Dworkin and Raz.

3. Analyse and compare the critiques of these liberal theories of justice from a variety of different perspective.

4. Construct articulate, concise and persuasive arguments in written essays, which apply these debates to current issues in policy and politics.

Teaching details

2 hours of lectures and 1 hour seminar, per week

Assessment Details

2000 word essay (25%), assesses ILOs 1, 2, 4

2 hour unseen written exam (75%), assesses ILOs 1, 3, 4

Reading and References

Raz, Joseph, (1986) The Morality of Freedom. Oxford University Press

Dworkin, Ronald, (2000) Sovereign Virtue. Harvard University Press

Nozick, Robert (1974) Anarchy, State and Utopia. Basic Books

Rawls, John (revised edition) (1999) A Theory of Justice. Oxford University Press

Goodin, Robert E. Goodin and Pettit, Philip (eds) Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Anthology (2nd edition). Blackwell