GV4F5      Half Unit
Advanced Study of Key Political Thinkers

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Chandran Kukathas CON5.04


This course is available on the MSc in Political Theory. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.


An advanced undergraduate course in the History of Political Thought or Political Philosophy, or following consultation with the course teacher.

Course content

This course provides an opportunity to study in depth the work of one major political thinker. It will focus on one or a few of the major works of the figure studied, and also consider the main lines of criticism of that thinker, from other contemporary figures, later political philosophers, and modern scholars and critics. It will also be important to consider issues of interpretation, particularly when there are differing controversial readings of the theorist in question Political thinkers who might be studied would include Plato, Aristotle, St Augustine, Aquinas, Marsilius, Dante, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau, Hume, Adam Smith, Hegel, Tocqueville, Marx, and Mill. The course would be taught as a seminar in political philosophy rather than one in intellectual history. To focus would be on understanding and critical engagement with the ideas of the figure under examination rather than on the study of the historical context of their work. In 2010-11 the thinker to be studied is Jean-Jacques Rousseau.


20 hours of seminars in the MT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to submit two formative essays of no more than 1500 words in the fifth and ninth weeks of the term.

Indicative reading

J-J. Rousseau, The Social Contract and Discourses;
J-J. Rousseau, Emile;
J-J. Rousseau, The Confessions;
J-J. Rousseau, Reveries of a Solitary Walker;
J-J. Rousseau, Letter to D'Alembert and Writings for the Theatre;
J. Shklar, Men and Citizens;
A. Melzer, The Natural Goodness of Man;
D. Gauthier, Rousseau: The Sentiment of Existence;
R. Wokler, Rousseau;
C.Orwin and N.Tarcov (eds), The Legacy of Rousseau.


Essay (100%, 5000 words) in the LT.

Student performance results

(2010/11 - 2011/12 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 8.7
Merit 43.5
Pass 43.5
Fail 4.3

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2012/13: 26

Average class size 2012/13: 14

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication

Course survey results

(2010/11, 2012/13 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 92.3%



Reading list (Q2.1)


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Lectures (Q2.5)


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Contact (Q2.7)


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Recommend (Q2.9)