Contemporary Social and Political Philosophy

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Contemporary Social and Political Philosophy

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study

    Anthropology, Political Science, Sociology

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


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    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    This course is part of the bachelor programs Sociology (leerlijn: Sociale Vraagstukken), Political Science, and Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology.

    The course is designed to introduce students into the normative and ethical debates about contemporary challenges to society. The central idea of the course is that students in the social sciences should not only be able to analyze and research social issues and developments, but also be capable of critical reflection on the normative aspects, dilemmas, and positions in debates about these issues.

    Learning objectives
    Knowledge and Understanding. The student has acquired knowledge and understanding of:
    (1) the types of ethical dilemma’s that are part of current social, political, and cultural tensions and disputes, such as sociocultural diversity, issues of inequality, and democratic political participation;
    (2) the various approaches and theories addressing these normative questions and dilemma's.

    Application. The student has acquired the competences to:
    (3) recognize the ethnical quandaries underlying the positions and proposals in and on societal problems and social, political, and cultural interests constituting them; and
    (4) apply normative theories to concrete contemporary contested issues.

    Making judgements. The student is able to:
    (5) critically reflect upon the normative dimension of contemporary contested issues, in particular on cultural diversity, social inequality, and political participation.

    Communication. The student has acquired the skills to:
    (6) write a short opinion piece on a contemporary contentious issue, addressing a non-academic audience.

    After an introduction to the foundational debates on the notion of 'justice' in normative theory (e.g universalism versus relativism, deontology versus consequentionalism, monism versus value pluralism) we concentrate on the following contemporary contested issues (both nationally and internationally):
    (1) Cultural diversity and moral universalism: How to reconcile the claim of 'universal human rights' with the fact of cultural, ethnic and religious diversity?
    (2) Social equality: What is a 'fair' and 'just' distribution of socio-economic goods?
    (3) Democracy and political participation: What are the possibilities and limitations of citizen participation and democratic accountability in contemporary governance?


    Written assigment (op-ed piece) and final exam (open essay-questions).

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Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

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