Not available in 2015/16
EU432      Half Unit
The Philosophy of Europe

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Simon Glendinning COW 1.07


This course is available on the MSc in EU Politics, MSc in EU Politics (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in European Studies: Ideas, Ideologies and Identities, MSc in European Studies: Ideas, Ideologies and Identities (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in Political Economy of Europe and MSc in Political Economy of Europe (LSE and Sciences Po). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

In this course we will read and discuss texts that draw the history of Europe into relation with philosophy. In its most classical form the assertion of this relation belongs to an understanding of Europe’s history as inseparable from the project of a life predicated on reason. Europe, insofar as its cultural identity is caught up with the Greek ideal of scientific rationality, is not simply the place where philosophy was first elaborated and developed. On the contrary, Europe first arises as a place only in and through the elaboration and development of philosophy. Of course, philosophy is, historically speaking, a European phenomenon - although one which concerns above all the question, in principle open to anyone, of what it is to be a human being as such. Equally, however, Europe is itself a philosophical phenomenon - its identity inseparable from the idea of a project that concerns rational animality as such, and hence humanity as a whole.

The idea that Europe has a world-wide significance in virtue of its relation to philosophical thought is strikingly expressed in Kant’s prediction of “a great political body of the future” emerging in Europe, a kind of league of nations, that will probably “legislate” - that is, at least serve as a guiding example - for all humanity. Indeed, the global “cosmopolitan existence” posited by Kant as the final end of world history is not just a philosopher’s idea of humanity’s collective political destiny: the very idea of a global human community is essentially philosophical. On this view, the (particular) history of the peoples of “our continent” has a relation to the (universal) destiny - the liberation or emancipation - of humanity world-wide. This is not because of the hegemonic political and economic ambitions of imperialist Europeans, but the world-wide movement of a cosmopolitan and humanist culture.

Starting with Kant’s classic essay on “Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose” we will turn to the way in which Europe is understood and elaborated within the post-Kantian tradition: in Hegel, Marx, Husserl, Valéry, Berlin, Fukuyama, Derrida, and Habermas.



20 hours of seminars in the MT. 2 hours of seminars in the ST.

Each seminar will be based around the discussion of a short essay or text which everyone in the class will be expected to have read. The texts will typically be available either online or as a photocopy.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy. 

Formative coursework

One essay of 2,000 words.

Indicative reading

Immanuel Kant 'Idea of Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose', in Political Writings; Edmund Husserl 'The Vienna Lecture', in The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology; Paul Valéry 'Notes on the Greatness and Decline of Europe', in History and Politics; Jacques Derrida, 'Of the Humanities and the Philosophical Discipline. The right to philosophy from the cosmopolitical point of view (the example of an international institution)' (online).


Exam (75%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (25%, 2500 words) in the MT.

Student performance results

(2011/12 - 2013/14 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 13.5
Merit 81.1
Pass 5.4
Fail 0

Teachers' comment

Although this course focuses on carefully selected philosophical texts there is no expectation that students taking the course will have a background in philosophy.

Key facts

Department: European Institute

Total students 2014/15: 10

Average class size 2014/15: 11

Controlled access 2014/15: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication