Political Philosophy: An Introduction (Online)
Political philosophy contains some of the greatest writings in the western intellectual tradition, as well as highly stimulating contemporary contributions. This online course introduces the student to classic and contemporary texts in the context of approaching some central questions in political philosophy concerning, the state, democracy, liberty and justice.
Listen to Dr Giovanni de Grandis talking about the course:
The course will provide an introduction to political philosophy by examining the justification of the state, problems democracy, liberty, justice, and feminist theory.
Students will be guided through the thought of various classical and contemporary thinkers in both primary and secondary readings, and are encouraged to think for themselves about the problems addressed. They will engage in various optional activities to stimulate personal reflection, and will contribute to group discussion designed to create a supportive online community with the common task of acquiring an understanding. By the end of the course students should feel confident of their own position on some of the debates studied.
For information on how the courses work, and a link to our course demonstration site, please click here.
1. Politics, Philosophy and Political philosophy
- Introducing political philosophy
- The disciplines devoted to the study of politics
- Some philosophical approaches to politics
- The approach taken in this course
2. The state of nature
- Introduction to the state of nature
3. Justifying the state - the social contract
- Political obligation and the social contract
- Locke and consent
- Tacit consent and Hume's criticisms
- Hypothetical consent
4. Justifying the state - Utilitarianism, the principle of fairness
- The utilitarian theory of political obligation
- The principle of fairness
5. Plato against democracy
- Democracy: General conceptual issues
- Plato against democracy
- Analysing Plato's argument
- Responding to Plato
6. Defending democracy
- Rousseau and democracy
- Mill and democracy
- Mill on liberty
- Stephen, Devlin and Hart
- The Rushdie affair
8. Private property and the market
- Abolishing property?
- Locke on property
- Private property and the free market
9. Rawls's theory of justice
- The restaurant
- Rawls discussion
10. Feminist criticisms of liberalism
- Gender difference
- Liberal rights and feminism
We strongly recommend that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you) as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.
To participate in the course you will need to have regular access to the Internet and you will need to buy the following texts:
Wolff, J., An Introduction to Political Philosophy (OUP, Oxford, 2006) NB: This is the second of three editions of this book.
Rosen, M., and Wolff, J. (eds), Political Thought (OUP, Oxford, 1999)
Students will be encouraged to use the Stanford Online Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Students will also be directed to websites, where appropriate, relevant to each session (as optional additional reading).
To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £10 fee.
For more information on CATS point please click on the link below: http://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/studentsupport/faq/cats.php
Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.
Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.
All students who successfully complete this course, whether registered for credit or not, are eligible for a Certificate of Completion. Completion consists of submitting both course assignments and actively participating in the course forums. Certificates will be available, online, for those who qualify after the course finishes.
This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.
Home/EU Fee: £260.00
Non-EU Fee: £295.00
Take this course for CATS points: £10.00
Dr Meade McCloughan
Meade McCloughan has been studying philosophy for 30 years and has taught at University College London and Birkbeck College London. He is on the organising group of the Marx and Philosophy Society.
This course aims to introduce students to political philosophy especially in the western liberal tradition by:
- Guiding them through a number of classical and contemporary readings.
- Helping them to think for themselves about these important but difficult issues.
- Introduce students to philosophical thinking.
- Guide students` reading through a number of classical and contemporary readings.
- Help students understand the main problems in political philosophy including the authority of the state, the justification of democracy, the place of liberty, the distribution of property, and feminist theory.
- Familiarise students with the key arguments for and against the main positions in the main debates in political philosophy.
- Enable students to think for themselves about the issues involved in political philosophy.
- Guided reading of texts
- Group discussions of particular issues
- Questions to be answered in personal folders
- Debating from positions given rather than from personal belief (to hone skills of debate)
By the end of this course students will be expected to understand:
- Some main problems of political philosophy, including the authority of the state, the justification of democracy, the place of liberty, the distribution of property, and feminist theory.
- The main arguments for and against the various positions in these debates.
- Their own position on some of these problems.
By the end of this course students will be expected to have gained the following skills:
- The ability to think philosophically.
- The ability to describe the main arguments for and against the main positions in the some main debates in political philosophy.
- The ability constructively to criticise the arguments of philosophers.
- The ability to explicate their own views in political philosophy.
Assessment for this course is based on two written assignments - one short assignment of 500 words due half way through the course and one longer assignment of 1500 words due at the end of the course.
Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.
Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form.
Level and demands
FHEQ level 4, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 study hours.
Terms and conditions
Terms and conditions for applicants and students on this course
Sources of funding
Information on financial support