GV4B6      Half Unit
Kant's Political Philosophy

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Katrin Flikschuh


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.

Optional for MSc Political Theory; open to others as an outside option on request.

This course is capped at 2 groups.

The deadline for applications is 17:00 on Tuesday 1 October 2019. You will be informed of the outcome by 17:00 on Wednesday 2 October 2019.


None, though an appetite for abstract philosophical thought will be an advantage (however, no previous experience is required).

Course content

An introduction to and critical appraisal of Immanuel Kant's political philosophy. Despite the enormous influence which Kant's moral philosophy has exerted on debates in contemporary liberal thinking, his political philosophy has until recently been largely ignored. This is beginning to change: Kant's political philosophy is beginning to be studied in its own right. Such study shows that his political thinking diverges in many of its central aspects from contemporary liberal thinking: the impact of Kant's thought upon the latter must, therefore, be re-assessed. Through close reading and analysis of the primary texts, this course introduces students to Kant's distinctive approach to political thinking. Core texts will include selected passages from the Doctrine of Right (Part 1 of the Metaphysics of Morals); Kant's celebrated essay, 'On Perpetual Peace'; and his less well known, but no less important essay 'On the Common Saying: "This may be true in theory, but does it work in Practice".' The analytic and substantive focus will be on three interrelated themes: Kant's idea of freedom as an idea of reason; his account and justification of individual property rights and related conception of state authority; and his cosmopolitan conception of justice. Although the analytic and philosophical focus will be on Kant's own political thinking, we shall compare and contrast Kant's position with contemporary Kantian liberalism wherever appropriate.


20 hours of seminars in the LT.

There will be a reading week in week 6 of the LT for private study and formative/summative assessment preparation.

Formative coursework

Students are expected to come well prepared and take an active role in seminar discussion. Students are expected to write one formative essay (of up to 2500 words). These will be marked and commented on, but do not count towards formal assessment for this course.

Indicative reading

Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals, Part 1; Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals; M Timmons (ed.), Kant's Metaphysical of Morals. Interpretative Essays; Katrin Flikschuh; Arthur Ripstein, Force and Freedom. Kant's Legal and Political Philosophy; Onora O'Neill, Towards Justice and Virtue; Onora O'Neill, Constructions of Reason; Pauline Kleingeld, Kant and Cosmopolitanism; Stephen Darwall, The Second-Person Standpoint.


Essay (100%, 5000 words).

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2018/19: 30

Average class size 2018/19: 15

Controlled access 2018/19: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills