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Ebrahim College

Political Philosophy

POL1 – Political Philosophy – 5 Credits Brief description For thousands of years, thinkers have enquired into [...]

    POL1 – Political Philosophy – 5 Credits

    Brief description

    For thousands of years, thinkers have enquired into how society ought to be governed and searched for a fundamental ethics in which politics can be based. In this course, students will be introduced to key figures in political philosophy from the Ancient Greeks, their medieval inheritors within the Abrahamic religions, and early modern and modern successors. The course will conclude with a look at the constitutional settlement in the contemporary UK. A key theme will be the recurring attempt to ground political philosophy in the idea of natural law and assessment of the main alternatives to this theory: the social contract, utilitarianism and Marxism.


    Introduction to Philosophy (PHI1) or equivalent. Ability to comprehend pre-modern philosophy texts in translation.

    Recommended prior study

    D. Miller, Political Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2013)


    10 weeks (20 hours) in 2016-17 session


    This is a compulsory elective offered at A3, A4 and Dawrah level of the EC Alimiyya Seminary programme. Students learn about the historical development of political philosophy through a study of key figures and a focus on the Western tradition of natural law. It provides essential background to understanding contemporary political thought.

    Content summary

    Week 1 – Plato (d. 347 BCE): The Republic

    Week 2 – Aristotle (d. 322 BCE): The Politics

    Week 3 – Augustine (d. 430): The City of God

    Week 4 – Al-Farabi (d. 950): The Virtuous City

    Week 5 – Maimonides (d. 1204): The Guide of the Perplexed

    Week 6 – Aquinas (d. 1274): Summa Theologie

    Week 7 – Hobbes (d. 1679): Leviathan and Locke (d. 1704): Two Treatises of Government

    Week 8 – Hume (d. 1776): Of the Original Contract and Rousseau (d. 1778): The Social Contract

    Week 9 – John Stewart Mill (1873): On Liberty

    Week 10 – Marx (d. 1883): Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy

    Week 11 – The British Constitution: History and Theory

    Week 12 – The British Constitution: Present and Future

    Learning outcomes

    Knowledge and Understanding

    – Knowledge of the history of political philosophy and its core ideas, from roots in Ancient Greek thought, medieval development by theistic traditions and emergence into the early modern and modern period.
    – Understanding the development of political thought and the tracing of key concepts between figures.
    – Appreciating the significant of the ethical principles used to ground political philosophy, such as natural law, social contract and utility.
    – Understanding the current UK constitutional settlement in the light of its history and awareness of likely areas of future development.


    – The ability to critically engage key thinkers in political philosophy through their original works, or appropriate translations.
    – To be able to draw connections and influence between political philosophers through history.
    – To be able to evaluate the arguments of political philosophers.
    – The ability to assess the current constitutional settlement of the UK and
    – Ability to reconstruct and evaluate arguments in academic texts.
    – Ability to formulate questions and share views verbally in the classroom.
    – Ability to work independently to research and write on a topic of interest from the course’s subject matter.
    Indicative resources and further reading

    – Jonathan Wolff, An Introduction to Political Philosophy, 3rd edn (OUP, 2015).
    – Plato, The Republic.
    – Aristotle, The Politics.
    – Augustine, The City of God.
    – Al-Farabi, The Virtuous City.
    – Maimonides, The Guide of the Perplexed.
    – Aquinas, Summa Theologie
    – Hobbes, Leviathan
    – Locke, Two Treatises of Government
    – Hume, Of the Original Contract
    – Rosseau, The Social Contract
    – Mill, On Liberty
    – Marx, Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy
    – Leo Straus and Joseph Cropsey (ed.), History of Political Philosophy, 3rd edn (University of Chicago Press, 1987).
    – Vernon Bogdanor (ed.), The British Constitution in the Twentieth Century (British Academy, 2004).

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