PP3HPP-The History of Political Philosophy

Module Provider: Philosophy
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2016/7

Module Convenor: Prof John Preston

Email: j.m.preston@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:
The course will discuss the philosophical foundations of property and democracy by considering a series of key historical texts together with some more recent writings. It will also consider how historical context and philosophical methodology affect the interpretation of those texts.

The aim is to introduce students to some classic texts in the history of political philosophy, and to consider the philosophical questions posed by property and democracy.

Assessable learning outcomes:
Having attended lectures and seminars and undertaken the weekly reading assignments, students should be able to explain and evaluate competing answers to some of the central philosophical questions raised by property rights and democracy, such as the following: What is involved in owning things? How do we come to own particular things and to what extent can ownership be transferred? Can private property be justified? Does legitimate government depend on the consent of the governed? To what extent should citizens participate in governing themselves?

The module will develop students' abilities to reason and write with clarity and precision, to reliably reconstruct complex philosophical arguments, and to evaluate their soundness and validity. In addition, we will be scrutinizing philosophical texts from past centuries and students will learn how to interpret such texts. Students should be able to defend detailed answers to textual questions such as: What are the limits to the authority of the state according to Hobbes in Leviathan? What criticisms does Hume make of Locke's account of the basis of property rights, and are they sound?

Additional outcomes:
The seminars will help students develop the capacity to present and defend their views in a public forum. Students will be expected to cooperate in their study and develop skills of teamwork, initiative and collaboration.

Outline content:
The course will consider property and democracy from a broad historical perspective. Key thinkers will include Plato, Aristotle, Grotius, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, and Marx.

Recommended Introductory Readings:
Becker, L. – Property Rights (Routledge 1977)
Dahl, R. – Democracy and its critics (Yale University Press, 1989)
Plato – The Republic
Hobbes – Leviathan
Locke – Second Treatise of Government
Marx – The German Ideology

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
The module will consist of 30 classes divided into 20 lectures and 10 seminars. The lectures will be a mixture of exposition of one of the above philosophers by the lecturer and discussion by the class. In the seminars students will discuss a set text in detail, guided by questions posed by the lecturer in advance.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20
Seminars 10
Guided independent study 170
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 70
Written assignment including essay 30

Other information on summative assessment:
2 x 2,000-2,500 word essays worth 15% each.

Electronic Submission
All coursework should be submitted electronically via Blackboard.

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:
    The final exam, worth 70%, will be two hours in which time you will be required to answer two questions from a choice of six.

    Requirements for a pass:
    A mark of 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Re-examination in August by written examination only.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books:
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
    4) Printing and binding:
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

    Last updated: 9 January 2017

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