Political Philosophy Philosophy 33 Spring 2016

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 Tuesday, May 3, 2016.

  1. Tuesday, January 19. What Is the State?
  2. Thursday, January 21. Glaucon’s Challenge
  3. Tuesday, January 26. Justice in the City
  4. Thursday, January 28. Justice in the Soul
  5. Tuesday, February 2. The Answer to Glaucon
  6. Thursday, February 4. The State of Nature
  7. Tuesday, February 9. Rights in Hobbes
  8. Thursday, February 11. Hobbes’s Social Contract
  9. Tuesday, February 16. Liberty of Subjects
  10. Thursday, February 18. The Right to Punish
  11. Tuesday, February 23. Locke on Rights
  12. Thursday, February 25. Locke on Property
  13. Tuesday, March 1. Hume on Property
  14. Thursday, March 3. Locke’s Social Contract
  15. Tuesday, March 8. Utilitarianism
  16. Thursday, March 10. Mill on Liberty of Expression
  17. Tuesday, March 22. Mill’s Libertarianism
  18. Thursday, March 24. Nozick on Rights
  19. Tuesday, March 29. Nozick on Justice
  20. Thursday, March 31. Reparations for Slavery
  21. Tuesday, April 5. Different Ways of Arguing for Reparations
  22. Thursday, April 7. Rawls on Libertarianism
  23. Tuesday, April 12. The Original Position
  24. Thursday, April 14. Rawls’s Argument for the Two Principles
  25. Tuesday, April 19. Arguments against Utilitarianism
  26. Thursday, April 21. What About a Social Minimum?
  27. Tuesday, April 26. Who Is a Member?
  28. Thursday, April 28. Open Borders

The class

Class picture

Contact Michael Green

My office is Pearsons 207. For Spring 2016, my office hours are Fridays, 10-11:30.

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