About This Course

In this course, we bring together scholarship from philosophy, politics and economics to study the philosophical underpinnings and social institutions of contemporary American society and the world in which it operates. Working across disciplinary boundaries, we examine scholarship that seeks to describe the liberties, freedoms and safeguards that promote human flourishing and that looks carefully at the roles played by market economies and political institutions in the construction of contemporary society.

One goal for the course is to prepare PPE majors to write their senior theses in the spring. Concrete work on the thesis is required at regular intervals throughout the term and the final project is a thesis prospectus. (Students from departments that do not require a thesis are invited to chat with us about a suitably modified assignment.) Another goal is to spend our sessions synthesizing work in the three disciplines of philosophy, politics, and economics. This year, our focus will be on inequality. We will ask what economists, philosophers, and political scientists have to say about inequality and how work in one area is related to that in the others.

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.

Class Notes

Tue, Sep 4
First Day
Thu, Sep 6
Sample Thesis and Prospectuses
Tue, Sep 11
Locke on Property
Thu, Sep 13
Reparations
Tue, Sep 18
Piketty on Inequality
Thu, Sep 20
Piketty on Inheritance
Tue, Sep 25
Darity on Inequality
Thu, Sep 27
Corak on Inequality and Mobility
Tue, Oct 2
Currie on Inequality at Birth
Thu, Oct 4
Rawls’s Difference Principle
Tue, Oct 9
Dworkin’s Auction
Thu, Oct 11
Dworkin and the Social Safety Net
Tue, Oct 16
Thesis Updates
Thu, Oct 18
Thesis Updates
Thu, Oct 25
Anderson on Luck Egalitarianism
Tue, Oct 30
Williams on Equality
Thu, Nov 1
Experienced Utility