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

Class picture
Tom, Kyle, August
Thomas, James, Ruben, Tony
Liam, Christopher, Gabriel, Rooney, Sean
Michael Green, Katya, Amadi, Stevie (our sovereign), Keegan
Missing: Brian
Class picture

Class Notes

Wed, Sep 4
Mon, Sep 9
Glaucon’s Challenge
Wed, Sep 11
Justice in the City
Mon, Sep 16
Justice in the Soul
Wed, Sep 18
Democracy and Tyranny
Mon, Sep 23
The State of Nature
Wed, Sep 25
Rights in Hobbes
Mon, Sep 30
Hobbes’s Social Contract
Wed, Oct 2
The Liberty of Subjects
Mon, Oct 7
The Right to Punish
Wed, Oct 9
Locke on Rights
Mon, Oct 14
Locke on Property
Wed, Oct 16
Hume on Property
Wed, Oct 23
Locke and Hume on Consent
Mon, Oct 28
Wed, Oct 30
Mill on Liberty of Expression
Mon, Nov 4
Mill’s Libertarianism
Wed, Nov 6
Nozick on Rights
Mon, Nov 11
Nozick on Justice
Wed, Nov 13
Reparations for Slavery
Mon, Nov 18
Who Owes What?
Wed, Nov 20
Rawls on Libertarianism
Mon, Nov 25
The Original Position
Mon, Nov 25
The Argument for Rawls’s Principles
Wed, Dec 4
Arguments Against Utilitarianism
Mon, Dec 9
Open Borders
Wed, Dec 11
Review and Class Picture