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Introducing Social and Political Philosophy

Level 1 (CQFW Level 4), 10 Credits.

Available Dates:

This course is currently not being offered in the academic year 2015 - 2016.

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What grounds political authority? Do some beings have rights and, if so, what is their nature and basis? Which forms of government are just? What is oppression? In what circumstances, if any, is affirmative action justified? When is property legitimate? What is the nature of equality? How should we decide conflicts between individual freedom and community welfare? What kinds of judicial processes and punishments are acceptable?

Political and social philosophy can inform our understanding of political and social relationships. Topics may include:

different conceptions of ‘justice’;

the legitimacy or otherwise of political power and different forms of government;

the basis and proper limits of state control, individual freedom and political community;


human, legal and moral rights;

oppression, discrimination and affirmative action;


crime and punishment.

The course may draw on case studies and examples from fiction and non-fiction to illustrate the theoretical positions discussed and students are encouraged to draw further examples from their own experience.

Who is this course for?

This course introduces students to a variety of topics in social and political philosophy, focusing primarily on ideas from the western analytic tradition. No previous knowledge of philosophy is assumed.

Learning and Teaching

There will be a mixture of short lectures and discussion, the precise proportion to be determined by the needs of the students enrolled. Also we will discuss examples and case-studies. This will encourage the development of knowledge and understanding of the ideas and concepts discussed in the course. Intellectual skills will be encouraged through participation in class discussion, reading and coursework.

Coursework and Assessment

Essays or other equivalent written assignments to a total of 1500 words demonstrating an understanding of core elements of the course material
For us, the most important element of assessment is that it should enhance your learning. Our methods are designed to increase your confidence and we try very hard to devise ways of assessing you that are enjoyable and suitable for adults with busy lives.

To award credits we need to have evidence of the knowledge and skills you have gained or improved. Some of this has to be in a form that can be shown to external examiners so that we can be absolutely sure that standards are met across all courses and subjects.

You will not have formal examinations but you may be asked to write assignments, such as question prompt responses, or you might opt to write an essay. Our assessments are flexible to suit the course and the student.

Reading Suggestions

A full list of sources will be given by the tutor, but the following items are recommended:

Boxill, Bernard, ed. 2000. Race and racism. Oxford Readings in Philosophy. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

Cudd, Ann E., and Robin O. Andreasen, eds. 2005. Feminist theory: a philosophical anthology. Blackwell Philosophy Anthologies. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Klosko, George, ed. 2011. The Oxford handbook of the history of political philosophy. Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

Nagel, Thomas. 1987. What does it all mean? A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.

O’Neill, Onora. 1996. Towards justice and virtue: a constructive account of practical reasoning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Singer, Peter. 2002. One world: the ethics of globalization. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.

Library and Computing Facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University library and computing facilities. You can find out more about these facilities on our website under Student Information, or by ringing the Centre on
(029) 2087 0000.

Accessibility of Courses

Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and Dyslexia screening. Please contact the Centre on (029) 2087 0000 for an information leaflet.

Further Information

A range of further information can be found on our web site or in Choices. This includes the times and dates of courses and an explanation of accreditation and credit levels.