History of Political Thought

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    History of Political Thought

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study

    Philosophy, Political Science

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

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

    Knowledge and understanding – The student has acquired knowledge and understanding of:
    (1) the main theories of selected philosophers in the history of Western political thought;
    (2) the meaning of core political concepts (e.g., justice, state, sovereignty, liberty, democracy) and the ways in which they have been understood in the past and present.

    Application – The student has acquired the competences to:
    (3) apply the skills of close reading and textual analysis to study the texts of selected and indeed non-selected political philosophers;
    (4) apply ideas and theories from the history of political thought to understand and analyze current political issues.

    Making judgements – The student is able to:
    (5) provide well-argued critical reflections on the texts of selected political philosophers and on the normative questions they raise.

    Communication – The student has acquired the skills to:
    (6) constructively engage in academic discussions on political philosophy texts and normative political questions;
    (7) write a short academic essay engaging with the ideas of political philosophers and developing an argument of its own.

    Political science is rooted in a tradition of normative reflection on the biggest political questions: How should we as human beings live and how should we live together? How should we rule or be ruled and how can we be free? Which form of government (if any) allows us best to achieve our personal and common goals? Such questions do not allow for easy answers, but they underlie the way in which politics has been shaped (and studied) throughout history well into in our own time. Hence, a course on the history of political thought is a crucial part of any Political Science undergraduate program. It introduces students to a range of classical texts (from Plato up until the twentieth century) that offer highly influential answers to the questions mentioned. These texts can be called classical because they have been widely considered worthwhile for advancing political reflection and because the ideas expressed in them have shaped the principles and practices of politics as we know it. Studying them can ultimately help us to better understand rivalling political convictions, including our own.


    - Exam with open questions (50%)
    - Writing assignment (details will be laid out in the course manual) (50%)

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

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