Social & Political Philosophy Philosophy 33, Spring 2010

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 course will cover some of the historically prominent answers that combine theories of human nature, ethics, and social life. The syllabus seeks to chart a path between a survey of different philosopher’s views and specialized study of any one of them. We will give thorough attention to the central issues with each philosopher’s political thought.

The materials make heavy demands on their readers’ analytical and interpretive skills. Our discussions and writing assignments will focus on the arguments in these works. That is where your analytical skills will come into play. Since we are reading works from different periods in history, we will also have to work hard at interpreting material that is written in ways that are unfamiliar and that reflects the concerns of different kinds of societies.

Class notes

  1. Wednesday, January 20. Overview.
  2. Monday, January 25. Plato’s questions about justice.
  3. Wednesday, January 27. Plato on the origins of the state.
  4. Monday, February 1. Justice in the city.
  5. Wednesday, February 3. Justice in the soul; handout.
  6. Monday, February 8. Questions about the guardians; handout.
  7. Wednesday, February 10. Injustice in the city and soul.
  8. Monday, February 15. Hobbes’s state of nature; handout.
  9. Wednesday, February 17. Hobbes’s laws of nature; handout.
  10. Monday, February 22. Hobbes on justice; handout.
  11. Wednesday, February 24. Hobbes on sovereignty.
  12. Monday, March 1. Hobbes on conquest, rebellion, and liberty; class handout 1, handout 2.
  13. Wednesday, March 3. Locke on rights; class handout.
  14. Monday, March 8. Locke on property rights.
  15. Wednesday, March 10. Locke’s social contract; class handout. Updated March 18.
  16. Monday, March 22. Classical utilitarianism; posted April 1.
  17. Wednesday, March 24. Mill and Sidgwick on utilitarianism; posted April 1.
  18. Monday, March 29. Mill’s harm principle; handout; posted April 1.
  19. Wednesday, March 31. Mill’s libertarianism; handout; posted April 1.
  20. Monday, April 5. Nozick on rights; handout.
  21. Wednesday, April 7. Nozick on justice
  22. Monday, April 12. Criticisms of Nozick
  23. Wednesday, April 14. Rawls on libertarianism; handout.
  24. Monday, April 19. Rawls’s theory; handout.
  25. Wednesday, April 21. The original position argument for Rawls’s principles.
  26. Monday, April 26. Rawls on utilitarianism; class handout (with new numbers!)
  27. Wednesday, April 28. Hart on Rawls on liberty; handout.
  28. Monday, May 3. What about a social minimum?
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Social & Political Philosophy