Social & Political Philosophy Philosophy 33, Fall 2012

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. September 5. Anthropologists on the state
  2. September 10. Plato’s questions about justice
  3. September 12. Plato on the origins of the state
  4. September 17. Plato on justice in the city :: handout: Justice in the City and Soul
  5. September 19. Plato on justice in the soul
  6. September 24. Questions about the guardians :: handout: Two questions about the guardians
  7. September 26. Injustice in city and soul
  8. October 1. Hobbes on the state of nature :: handout: Aristotle’s politics
  9. October 3. Hobbes on the laws of nature :: handout: Hobbes on Justice
  10. October 8. Hobbes on justice and the social contract
  11. October 10. Hobbes’s two social contracts (updated October 12) :: handout: Two social contracts
  12. October 15. Hobbes on liberty and punishment
  13. October 17. Locke on rights and property :: handout: Locke on rights and property
  14. October 24. Locke and Hume on consent :: handout: Background on English political history
  15. October 29. Classical utilitarianism :: handout: Classical Utilitarianism
  16. October 31. Mill and Sidgwick :: Sidgwick outline
  17. November 5. Mill’s Harm Principle :: Mill outline :: handout: Mill’s Harm Principle
  18. November 7. Mill’s libertarianism
  19. November 12. Nozick on rights
  20. November 14. Nozick on justice :: handout: Rights of necessity
  21. November 19. Scheffler on Nozick
  22. November 21. Rawls on libertarianism :: handout: Rawls on libertarianism
  23. November 26. Rawls’s Theory :: handout: The Original Position
  24. November 28. The Original Position
  25. December 3. Rawls on utilitarianism :: handout: Utilitarianism and the original position
  26. December 5. Hart on Rawls on liberty (updated December 6) :: handout: Rawls on liberty
  27. December 10. Waldron on the social minimum
Social & Political Philosophy