Accessibility statement

Introduction to the History of Political Thought - POL00016I

« Back to module search

  • Department: Politics
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Tim Stuart-Buttle
  • Credit value: 10 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22

Module summary

This module introduces some of the foundational texts of modern political thought – by Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, and Kant. Their classic status owes something to the clarity with which they identify and articulate questions in and about politics that remain pertinent, and troubling, today.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2021-22

Module aims

  • This module explores the continued relevance of some classic texts in modern political theory. It focuses specifically on the 'social contract tradition' and its critics: Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, and Kant. Through careful and engaged reading of these texts we will investigate crucial philosophical questions that continue to call for a response: about the nature of legitimate authority, the state, rights, inequality and servitude, freedom, and political obligation. In their turn, these questions open up still deeper questions about the nature of politics and human nature: why do we need politics, and what ends is it intended to serve? We will examine different interpretations of these texts and the uses to which they have been put in the centuries since their publication – a reception history that has, among other things, seen some of our authors anointed as the founding fathers of modern liberalism. We will critically assess the arguments these texts contain and the visions of politics they lay before us, to see what lessons can still be drawn from them for understanding the world in which we live and the challenges involved in making and sustaining a civilized common life. If we begin the module by asking what history can ‘do’ for political theorists, we may conclude it by reflecting that political theorists cannot afford to be ignorant of the history of their discipline.

Module learning outcomes

  • To develop in students a critical understanding of important texts in the history of political thought;
  • To develop students' analytical, argumentative and communicative skills;
  • To develop a critical understanding of some of the key texts in the history of political thought;
  • To develop an ability to advance and analyse philosophical arguments about political ideas.

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
University - closed examination
Introduction to the History of Political Thought
2 hours 100

Special assessment rules

None

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
University - closed examination
Introduction to the History of Political Thought
2 hours 100

Module feedback

Students will receive written timely feedback on their formative assessment. They will also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutor?s feedback and guidance hours.

Students will receive written feedback on their summative assessment no later than 20 working days after submission; and the module tutor will hold a specific session to discuss feedback, which students can also opt to attend. They will also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutor?s regular feedback and guidance hours.

Indicative reading

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan.

John Locke, Two Treatises of Government.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality and Social Contract.

David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature.

Immanuel Kant, Political Writings.



The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.