Module code: POL1014

Module Overview

This module introduces students to the western tradition of political theorising from the Ancient Greeks to the moderns. The module seeks to familiarise students with key figures in this historical and philosophical tradition, their main contributions to political theory, and wider philosophical and theoretical debates about politics, such as the nature of liberty, the problem of political obligation, and the meaning of justice. More broadly, the distinction between ‘the Ancients’ and ‘the Moderns’ is central to the module. Students learn to appreciate what distinguishes ancient thinkers from modern ones, and how these differences reflect deep disagreement over philosophical methodology. The module encourages students to utilise these reflections for their own philosophical analysis and interrogation of the material. As such, the module offers insights, feedback, and assessment forms which cumulatively provide students with opportunities to engage in four key areas: employability (by developing the ability to communicate complex material orally and in writing), global and cultural capabilities (by understanding differences between historical periods and philosophical traditions and how these have shaped cultures), sustaiable thinking (by understanding the modus operandi of modern society), digital capabilities (through the use of relevant digital resources), and resourcefulness and resilience (in having to deal with unfamiliar and challenging material).

Module provider


Module Leader

LEVERINGHAUS Alex (Politics)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 4

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 97

Lecture Hours: 11

Seminar Hours: 11

Guided Learning: 20

Captured Content: 11

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Themes: Ancients and Moderns

Key concepts: the state, liberty, justice and democracy.

Key thinkers: 

- Ancients: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli

- Moderns: Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Mill, Marx, Rawls

Additional topics: sovereignty, political obligation, liberty-rights-citizenship, equality and welfare state, justice.


Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework ESSAY 1 40
Coursework ESSAY 2 60

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is primarily aimed to develop the students’ writing skills, which is not only key to their academic success but also their future employability. To this end, the module uses two short philosophical essays respectively weighed at 40% & 60%.

Further, the module seeks to improve students’ critical reasoning and argumentation skills. The point of the essays is not to have read enormous amounts of secondary literature in political theory. It is, rather, for students to 'do' philosophy themselves by interrogating and critically reflecting upon central questions in political theory.

The requirement for students to stand on their own two feet intellectually, even when confronted with complex and unfamiliar material, is important in building their resilience and resourcefulness.

Formative assessment and feedback

  • Seminar presentations (30 minutes) by small groups of students in tutorials.

  • Tutorial discussion of seminar presentation and feedback led by tutor for the module.

Module aims

  • To introduce central issues and themes in political philosophy.
  • To familiarise students with a range of key thinkers from various areas of the world since antiquity to the 19th and mid-20th century
  • To engage students with the debates and conflicts in perspectives between different philosophical approaches
  • To develop and deepen students' global and cultural intelligence and the basis for sustainable thinking, and their interest in understanding political issues taking on the perspectives of the central thinkers in the module.
  • To enable students to integrate a wide range of views from a variety of sources and to identify the philosophical schools to which they are attached.
  • To enable students to produce succinct, cogent arguments aware of the philosophical assumptions and premises, the frameworks on which they depend, and in doing so to improve their argumentation skills and writing skills, which enhances their employability in terms of ability to express themselves.
  • To encourage students to get their hands on and 'do' philosophy themselves by interrogating the thinkers under discussion every week and critically assess their politics.
  • To help students understand the difference between philosophical questions about politics and empirical ones (answered by political scientists and international relations scholars)
  • To help students becoe globally and culturally aware through understanding how traditions of thought have shaped social and political culture, which partly accounts for cultural differences

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Identify different approaches to politics in terms of the philosophical and theoretical perspectives that underlie them. KC
002 Understand and compare the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to in politics and political philosophy. KC
003 Identify the arguments of different thinkers in the history of political thought in terms of how they inform current theory and debates. KCP
004 Present an account of the implications for politics of different philosophical approaches. KCPT
005 Make use of the diverse religious, cultural and philosophical environment represented in both modular material and the classroom composition to compare various philosophical and cultural viewpoints ad ultimately learn to tolerate these (in light of persistent disagreement) KC
006 Develop the capacity for sustainable theoretical thinking in relation to key questions in political life KCPT
007 Strengthen resourcefulness and resilience, digital capabilities and overall employability skills in managing assessment based challenges, including the use of the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy to search for information, the use of the History of Philosophy podcast series to complement more traditional academic resources and writing clearly argued essays on unfamiliar and complicated concepts PT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

Introduce students to a new topic, and provide room for student-led discussion of the topic.

The learning and teaching methods include:

11 x 1hr Lectures, 11 x 1hr seminar tutorials, plus independent reading and essay preparation.

In addition, captured content and other digital resources (podcasts) are provided on SurreyLearn.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: POL1014

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Politics and Sociology BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
International Relations BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Politics BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Public Affairs MPA 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2022/3 academic year.