EU432      Half Unit
The Philosophy of Europe

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Simon Glendinning CBG 7.01


This course is available on the CEMS Exchange, MA in Modern History, MBA Exchange, MSc in Culture and Conflict in a Global Europe, MSc in Culture and Conflict in a Global Europe (LSE & Sciences Po), MSc in Political Economy of Europe, MSc in Political Economy of Europe (LSE and Fudan) 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.

This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access). In previous years we have been able to provide places for all students that apply but that may not continue to be the case.

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, in that name, a European phenomenon - although one which concerns above all the question, in principle open to anyone, of what it means 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 universal 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 simply 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, and Derrida.

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


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars totalling a minimum of 25 hours across Autumn Term. This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of Autumn Term, and a review session will be held at the start of the Spring Term to prepare for the online assessment.

Formative coursework

Two essays of 2,000 words each

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, 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).


Online assessment (100%) in the ST.

The online assessment for this course will be administered via Moodle.  Questions will be made available at a set date/time and students will be given a set period in the ST to complete the answers to questions and upload their responses back into Moodle.

Key facts

Department: European Institute

Total students 2022/23: 18

Average class size 2022/23: 9

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Lecture capture used 2022/23: Yes (MT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.

Personal development skills

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