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Political Philosophy

Module Code: PI3002

Module Name: Political Philosophy

  • ECTS Weighting: 10
  • Semester/Term Taught:

    Hilary Term/Semester 2

  • Contact Hours: 22 hours of lecture
  • Module Personnel: Lecturer - Dr. Ben Bramble (email)

Module Content

In this course, we will look at cutting edge work on five key topics in political philosophy, and think about the relationships between these topics.
First, intergenerational justice. What, if anything, do we owe to future generations? If there are trade-offs between our enjoying a high quality of life now, and leaving our distant relatives a hospitable planet, how great should (or must) our sacrifices be? What is the relevance (if any) of the non-identity problem here? What sort of punishment might be appropriate for today’s political leaders who take no action on climate change?
Second, global justice. What, if anything, do wealthy countries owe to poorer ones? Are our duties to aid dependent on our having previously wronged, or benefited in some way from interactions with, these poorer countries? Suppose our governments choose to do little or nothing to help. Do we as individual citizens nonetheless have duties to aid citizens of poorer countries, and if so, how demanding are these duties? What, in relation to this, are our duties to refugees? Who counts as a refugee? Should we have open borders?
Third, domestic criminal justice. What, if anything, do criminal offenders owe to their victims, on the one hand, and to the state, on the other? What does the state owe to offenders and to victims? Should offenders, for instance, be required to apologise to their  victims? Should they retain the right to vote, or should they give it up?
Fourth, equality. Should institutions be arranged to improve the quality of life of those who are worse off than others, or very badly off, even when such action would not maximise the aggregate sum of well-being?
Fifth, democracy. What do recent election results in the UK and US say about the health of our democracies? Is democracy really the best system available? Is what we have now the best kind of democracy?

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Understand the main positions in five key topics in political philosophy, and the relationships between these topics.
  • Engage critically with these positions and assess their relative strengths and weaknesses.
  • Usefully apply what they have learned in order to engage with contemporary political debates in the public sphere.