Social & Political Philosophy Philosophy 33, Spring 2008

Course Description

Political philosophy is about the nature of the state. It tries to answer questions such as these. “Should we have a state at all?” “What is a just state or society like?” “What powers does the state have?” “Should individuals obey the state?”

The best way to get a sense of what the course will be like is to look at the website for last year’s course. It includes a syllabus and notes for most of the class sessions. This year’s course will be different in these ways.

  1. We will pay much more attention to the history of the subject. Specifically, we will read Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Politics, and Locke’s Second Treatise of Government.
  2. This year’s course will have a different thematic emphasis. Last year’s course emphasized liberty and religion. This year’s course will put more weight on justice and property rights.
  3. Our discussion of Rawls will concentrate much more on A Theory of Justice as an alternative to utilitarianism. Rawls’s political liberalism will receive less attention.

If you’re keen to get ahead on the reading, I ordered the following books: Plato’s Republic (Hackett, second edition, translated by Grube and Reeve); Aristotle’s Politics (Hackett, translated by Reeve), Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan (Hackett, edited by Curley), John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government (Hackett, edited by MacPherson), John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty (Hackett, edited by Rapaport), and John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice (Harvard University Press, original edition, not the revised one).

It’s easiest to have these editions because we will often discuss specific passages in class and it can be a real pain to find them without being able to rely on page numbers. The Hackett editions are all very good and quite inexpensive.

Class notes

  1. Monday, Jan. 28. Glaucon’s test. Updated Jan. 30.
  2. Wednesday, Jan. 30. Plato on the origins of the state.
  3. Monday, Feb. 4. The education and selection of the guardians.
  4. Wednesday, Feb. 6. Justice in the city.
  5. Monday, Feb. 11. The city and the soul.
  6. Wednesday, Feb. 13 & Monday, Feb. 18. Aristotle on nature.
  7. Wednesday, Feb. 20. Hobbes on the state of nature.
    Class handout: Hobbes and Aristotle.
  8. Monday, Feb. 25. Hobbes on the Laws of Nature; posted March 11.
    Class handout: Aristotle on virtue.
  9. Wednesday, Feb. 27. Hobbes on justice; posted March 13.
    Class handout: Hobbes on justice.
  10. Monday, Mar. 3. Hobbes on rights and authorization; posted March 19.
    Class handout: Hobbes, Rights, and Authorization.
  11. Monday, Mar. 10. Hobbes on sovereignty; posted March 19.
  12. Wednesday, Mar. 12. Hobbes on conquest and rebellion; posted March 19.
  13. Monday, Mar. 24. Locke on rights and property.
    Class handout: Locke on rights and property.
  14. Wednesday, Mar. 26. Locke on property; posted April 23.
  15. Monday, Mar. 31. Locke’s social contract; posted April 27.
    Class handout: Locke’s social contract.
  16. Wednesday, April 2. Classical utilitarianism; posted April 26.
  17. Monday, April 7. Mill’s libertarianism; posted April 26.
    Class handout: Mill’s harm principle.
  18. Wednesday, April 9 & Monday, April 14. Nozick on rights and justice; posted April 26.
    Class handout: Nozick’s move from form to content of rights; posted May 1.
  19. Wednesday, April 16. Rawls against libertarianism; posted April 26.
    Class handout: Rawls on libertarianism; posted May 1.
  20. Monday, April 21. Rawls’s theory; posted April 26.
    Class handout: the original position; slightly revised on April 23.
  21. Wednesday, April 23. Rawls’s argument for the two principles; posted April 26.
  22. Monday, April 28. Arguments against utilitarianism; posted Saturday, May 10.
    Class handout: Why the parties might choose to maximize average utility; posted May 1.
  23. Wednesday, April 30. Rawls on liberty; posted Saturday, May 10.
    Class handout: Hart on Rawls on Liberty; posted May 1.
  24. Monday, May 5. Rawls on consequentialism; posted Saturday, May 10.
decorative leaf
Social and Political Philosophy