Social & Political Philosophy Philosophy 33, Spring 2009

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 pretty much the same, except I do not plan on reading Aristotle’s Politics this year. I would like to work in some Rousseau, but I’m not sure if I can do so.

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); 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. January 26. Plato’s questions about justice.
  2. January 28. Why guardians?.
  3. February 2. Justice in the city.
  4. February 4. Justice in the soul; handout.
  5. February 9. Two questions about guardians; handout.
  6. February 11. Injustice in city and soul.
  7. February 23. Hobbes on justice; handout.
  8. February 25. Rights and authorization; handout.
  9. March 2. Sovereignty.
  10. March 4. Conquest, rebellion, liberty; handout.
  11. March 9-11. Locke on rights and property; handout.
  12. March 25. Locke’s social contract; handout.
  13. March 30. Classical utilitarianism.
  14. April 1. Mill’s utilitarianism; handout.
  15. April 6. Mill on discussion and truth; handout.
  16. April 8. Nozick on rights; handout.
  17. April 13. The entitlement theory of justice.
  18. April 15. Rawls on libertarianism; handout.
  19. April 22. The argument for the two principles; handout.
  20. April 27. Utilitarianism and the original position; handout.
  21. May 5. Hart on Rawls on liberty; handout.
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Social & Political Philosophy