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Introduction to Social and Political Philosophy

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What grounds political authority? Which forms of government are just? What is oppression? What is the nature of equality?

This course introduces students to a variety of topics in social and political philosophy, focusing primarily on ideas from the western analytic tradition.

Learning and teaching

The module will be delivered through 10 two-hour sessions, made up of lectures, class discussions, small group work, and debates.

Syllabus content

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
  • property
  • human, legal and moral rights
  • oppression, discrimination and affirmative action
  • equality
  • crime and punishment.

Coursework and assessment

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.

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.

For the assessment, you will produce written work of 1,500-2,000 words.

Reading suggestions

A full reading list will be provided by the tutor.

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


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.