About This Course

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 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

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Robert, Michael, Jacob, Arthur, Ryan
Skye, Carter, Adrian, Will
James, Jessie, Paskalina, Alec, Octave
William, Gigi, Remy, Catherine, Graceson, Alex
Alexa, Simon, Erica, Sarah, Michael Green
Missing: Mark
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Class Notes

Tue, Jan 16
Thu, Jan 18
Glaucon’s Challenge
Tue, Jan 23
Justice in the City
Thu, Jan 25
Justice in the Soul
Tue, Jan 30
Plato on Democracy and Tyranny
Thu, Feb 1
Hobbes on the State of Nature
Tue, Feb 6
Rights in Hobbes
Thu, Feb 8
Hobbes’s Social Contract
Tue, Feb 13
The Liberty of Subjects
Thu, Feb 15
Hobbes on Punishment
Tue, Feb 20
Locke on Rights
Thu, Feb 22
Locke on Property
Tue, Feb 27
Hume on Property
Thu, Mar 1
Locke and Hume on Consent
Tue, Mar 6
A Challenge to Political Authority
Thu, Mar 8
Tue, Mar 20
Mill on Liberty of Expression
Thu, Mar 22
Mill’s Libertarianism
Tue, Mar 27
Nozick on Rights
Thu, Mar 29
Nozick on Justice
Tue, Apr 3
Reparations for Slavery
Thu, Apr 5
Who Owes What?
Tue, Apr 10
Rawls on Libertarianism
Thu, Apr 12
The Original Position
Tue, Apr 17
The Argument for Rawls’s Principles
Thu, Apr 19
Arguments against Utilitarianism
Tue, Apr 24
Open Borders
Thu, Apr 26
Closed Borders
Tue, May 1