Social & Political Philosophy Philosophy 33 Spring 2015

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. Our discussions will center on the theories of Plato, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Robert Nozick, and John Rawls. 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.

The syllabus (PDF) has a schedule of topics for discussion, readings, and assignments; it also describes the standards for grades and other policies for the class. Registered students can find all other materials on Sakai.


The notes were last updated on Sunday, May 10, 2015.

  1. Tuesday, January 20. What is the state?
  2. Thursday, January 22. Glaucon’s challenge
  3. Tuesday, January 27. Justice in the city
  4. Thursday, January 29. Justice in the soul
  5. Tuesday, February 3. Degeneration of the just city
  6. Thursday, February 5. Is justice better than injustice?
  7. Tuesday, February 10. The state of nature
  8. Thursday, February 12. Rights in Hobbes
  9. Tuesday, February 17. Hobbes’s social contract
  10. Thursday, February 19. Hobbes on liberty
  11. Tuesday, February 24. Hobbes on punishment
  12. Thursday, February 26. Locke on rights
  13. Tuesday, March 3. Locke on property
  14. Thursday, March 5. Locke vs. Hume
  15. Tuesday, March 10. Classical utilitarianism
  16. Thursday, March 12. Mill on liberty of thought and expression
  17. Tuesday, March 24. Mill on liberty of action
  18. Thursday, March 26. Nozick on rights
  19. Tuesday, March 31. Nozick on justice
  20. Thursday, April 2. Freedom and property
  21. Tuesday, April 7. Rawls on libertarianism
  22. Thursday, April 9. The original position
  23. Tuesday, April 14. Rawls’s principles of justice
  24. Thursday, April 16. Rawls against utilitarianism
  25. Tuesday, April 21. QALYs as a test case
  26. Thursday, April 23. QALYs and the original position
  27. Tuesday, April 28. Rawls on liberty
  28. Thursday, April 30. Why not a social minimum?

The class

Class picture

Contact Michael Green

My office is Pearsons 207. For Spring 2015, my office hours are Fridays, 10-12.

My email address and office phone number are available from the Pomona College directory: select Faculty/Staff and enter my name.

My home page has links to websites for my other courses.

Michael Green