Political Philosophy Philosophy 33 Fall 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 Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Robert Nozick, John Rawls, as well as contemporary philosophers who seek to make sense of the place of the state in the world. 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.

Political Philosophers

Class picture

Tyler, Taylor, Lucas, Nico
Ruiqi, Jennifer, Ella
Ian, Diana, Nathaniel, John, Tristan, Chris
Berto, Kenny, Jessica, Alex, Will, Jeremy
Natasha, Helena, Maddy, Sabrina, Michael Green
Missing: Adam and Nate

Class picture


  1. Tuesday, August 30. What Is the State?
  2. Thursday, September 1. The State of Nature
  3. Tuesday, September 6. Rights in Hobbes
  4. Thursday, September 8. Hobbes’s Social Contract
  5. Tuesday, September 13. The Liberty of Subjects
  6. Thursday, September 15. The Right to Punish
  7. Tuesday, September 20. Locke on Rights
  8. Thursday, September 22. Locke on Property
  9. Tuesday, September 27. Hume on Property
  10. Thursday, September 29. Locke’s Social Contract
  11. Tuesday, October 4. Utilitarianism
  12. Thursday, October 6. Mill on Liberty of Expression
  13. Tuesday, October 11. Mill’s Libertarianism
  14. Thursday, October 13. Nozick on Rights
  15. Thursday, October 20. Nozick on Justice
  16. Tuesday, October 25. Reparations for Slavery
  17. Thursday, October 27. Different Ways of Arguing for Reparations
  18. Thursday, November 3. Rawls on Libertarianism
  19. Tuesday, November 8. The Original Position
  20. Tuesday, November 8. Rawls’s Argument for the Two Principles
  21. Thursday, November 10. Arguments against Utilitarianism
  22. Tuesday, November 15. What About a Social Minimum?
  23. Thursday, November 17. Who Is a Member?
  24. Tuesday, November 22. Open Borders
  25. Tuesday, November 29. Which State Should You Obey?
  26. Thursday, December 1. Obey the Just States?

Contact Michael Green

My office is Pearsons 207. For Fall 2016, my office hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11–12 and 1–2.

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