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History of Modern Political Philosophy


Admission requirements



An introduction to Political Philosophy focusing on the foundations of modern Liberalism in the Enlightenment contract theories of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau. After an introduction to the basic problems and themes of modern political philosophy (the concept of the state and the distinction between legislature, executive and judiciary; the grounds of political obligation and authority, primary political goods etc.), the course will focus on the foundational texts of modern contract theory: Hobbes’s Leviathan, Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin of Inequality and The Social Contract (excerpts). Key topics include: the concepts of natural law and the state of nature; the concept of reason; variations and problems of contract theory; individualism and collectivism; the concepts of equality and liberty; the free market and property; democracy. Special attention will be given to the nature and status of the ethical in these political theories. The course will end with a survey of some of the main lines of development stemming from these works.

Course objectives

Course objectives will be made available on Blackboard at the start of the course.


Monday, 9:00-12:00

See Collegeroosters Wijsbegeerte 2011-2012 , BA Wijsbegeerte (BA Plus-traject of Standaardtraject)

See Timetables Philosophy 2011-2012 , Timetable Undergraduate Courses in English

Mode of instruction

Lectures (hoorcollege) with seminar discussions.

Test method

  • Mid-semester take-home exam (40%)

  • Final take-home exam (60%)



Reading list

  • Hobbes’s Leviathan(CUP 1991). ISBN: 0521567971.

  • Locke’s Second Treatise of Government(CUP, 1988). ISBN: 0 521 35730 6.

  • Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin of Inequality and excerpts from The Social Contract, both in: Basic Political Writings, tr. Cress, (Hackett 1988). ISBN: 0 87220 047 7.


Please register for this course on uSis.

Exchange students and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Aanmelden à la carte en contractonderwijs

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Na aanmelding ook inschrijven voor cursus en tentamen(s) via uSis

Contact information

Dr. H.W. Siemens


Lectures will be in English, although Dutch can be used for exams and contributions in class.