Contemporary Political Philosophy

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Monday 13 January 2020
Friday 20 March 2020
12 April 2019


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA VV15 Philosophy and History,
BA VV16 Philosophy and History (Including Placement Year),
BA VV51 Philosophy and History (Including Foundation Year),
BA VV5C Philosophy and History (Including Year Abroad),
BA VV5X Philosophy and History (Including Foundation Year and Year Abroad),
BA MVC5 Philosophy and Law,
BA MVC6 Philosophy and Law (Including Placement Year),
BA MVC8 Philosophy and Law (Including Foundation Year),
BA VM51 Philosophy and Law (Including Year Abroad),
BA VM58 Philosophy and Law (Including Foundation Year and Year Abroad),
BA LV25 Philosophy and Politics,
BA LV26 Philosophy and Politics (Including Placement Year),
BA LV2H Philosophy and Politics (Including Foundation Year and Year Abroad),
BA LV2M Philosophy and Politics (Including Year Abroad),
BA LV8M Philosophy and Politics (Including Foundation Year),
BA V5M8 Philosophy with Human Rights (Including Foundation Year),
BA V5M9 Philosophy with Human Rights,
BA V5MX Philosophy with Human Rights (Including Year Abroad),
BA V6M9 Philosophy with Human Rights (Including Placement Year),
BA VLM8 Philosophy with Human Rights (Including Foundation Year and Year Abroad),
LLB MV16 Law with Philosophy,
LLB MV18 Law with Philosophy (Including Year Abroad),
LLB MV19 Law with Philosophy (Including Placement Year)

Module description

The module examines some of the central issues in contemporary political philosophy. It takes a broad view of this area of philosophy, concentrating not only on liberal theories of justice, but also including a variety of alternative approaches.

We will investigate the main competing approaches in contemporary political philosophy and discuss how they conceive of their object – the political – and how they understand philosophy's task vis-à-vis this object: What is the role of political philosophy? How should theory and theorists relate to real politics? What are the strengths and weaknesses of various approaches? How do these approaches relate to each other? In this term, the focus will be on a reflective and critical analysis of the very nature of political philosophy. Far too often, the assumption in mainstream contemporary debates is that there is only one way to do political philosophy – the liberal, ideal theoretical approach shaped by the work of John Rawls – but, in fact, the mainstream approach is built on controversial methodological assumptions and a specific understanding of the political that remains contested. The aim of the term is to equip students with a broad sense of the range of options and approaches within political philosophy, and with the tools to compare and contrast them.

Module aims

to learn about key approaches to contemporary political philosophy
to develop a better grasp of what politics is
to be able to critically examine the presuppositions and assumptions we often make when talking about politics
appreciate the different ways in which political philosophy bears on politics

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module students should be able in their written work:

* to summarise in their own words and critically assess the principal theories and philosophical perspectives examined in this course;
* to compare and evaluate conflicting accounts of the political, its values and principles;
* to offer detailed philosophical analysis and critique of journal articles published in the field;
* to demonstrate an understanding of the relation between political theory and practice by relating, for example, particular theories to their own experience of political life.

By the end of the module, students should also have acquired a set of transferable skills, and in particular be able to:

* define the task in which they are engaged and exclude what is irrelevant;
* seek and organise the most relevant discussions and sources of information;
* process a large volume of diverse and sometimes conflicting arguments;
* compare and evaluate different arguments and assess the limitations of their own position or procedure;
* write and present verbally a succinct and precise account of positions, arguments, and their presuppositions and implications;
* be sensitive to the positions of others and communicate their own views in ways that are accessible to them;
* think 'laterally' and creatively - see interesting connections and possibilities and present these clearly rather than as vague hunches;
* maintain intellectual flexibility and revise their own position if shown wrong;
* think critically and constructively.

Module information

Incoming Study Abroad students must have already taken two Philosophy modules at their home institution.

Learning and teaching methods

1 x two-hour lecture/discussion session each week followed by a one-hour seminar at which issues covered in the lecture will be discussed. Week 21 is Reading Week. In week 25, the lecture and seminars will be replaced by a workshop on contemporary topics in environmental philosophy.


This module does not appear to have any essential texts. To see non-essential items, please refer to the module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Presentation    25% 
Coursework   Essay Plan  04/03/2020  25% 
Coursework   3000 Word Essay  31/03/2020  50% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Joerg Schaub, email:
Dr Joerg Schaub



External examiner

Dr Thomas Joseph Stern
University College London
Senior Lecturer
Available via Moodle
Of 36 hours, 36 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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