GV4B6      Half Unit
Kant's Political Philosophy

This information is for the 2021/22 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.


Some familiarity with either the history of political thought or with philosophy may be an advantage but is not strictly necessary. The course does not assume any prior exposure to Kant’s political or philosophical writings. That said, Kant’s writings are intellectually demanding; students should have an interest in engaging with political concepts at a fairly high level of abstraction.

Course content

This course offers 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.


This course provides a combination of seminars and lectures totalling 20 hours in the Lent term. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of online and on-campus lectures and seminars. There will be a reading week in Week 6 of Lent term.

Formative coursework

Students are expected to come well prepared and take an active role in seminar discussion. Doing the weekly readings in advance of the seminars is essential for this course. Students are expected to write one formative essay (of up to 2500 words). The formative essay will be marked and commented on, but does 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, Kant and Modern Political Philosophy; Arthur Ripstein, Force and Freedom; Onora O'Neill, Constructions of Reason; Pauline Kleingeld, Kant and Cosmopolitanism; Stephen Darwall, The Second-Person Standpoint.


Essay (100%, 5000 words).

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Student performance results

(2017/18 - 2019/20 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 30.6
Merit 53.2
Pass 14.5
Fail 1.6

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2020/21: Unavailable

Average class size 2020/21: Unavailable

Controlled access 2020/21: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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