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, Aug 31
First Day
Wed, Sep 1
Sample Thesis and Prospectuses
Tue, Sep 7
Locke on Property
Thu, Sep 9
Gibbard on Locke
Tue, Sep 14
Locke and Slavery
Thu, Sep 16
Piketty on Inequality
Tue, Sep 21
Piketty on Inheritance
Thu, Sep 23
Darity on Inequality
Tue, Sep 28
Darity on Reparations
Thu, Sep 30
Currie on Inequality at Birth
Tue, Oct 5
Dworkin’s Auction
Thu, Oct 7
Dworkin and the Social Safety Net
Tue, Oct 12
Thesis Updates
Thu, Oct 14
Thesis Updates
Thu, Oct 21
Rawls’s Difference Principle
Tue, Oct 26
The Capabilities Approach
Thu, Oct 28
Williams on Equality
Tue, Nov 2
Kidney Markets
Thu, Nov 4
Barry on Justice and Humanity
Mon, Nov 8
Vaccines
Thu, Nov 11
Effective Altruism
Tue, Nov 16
Experienced Utility
Thu, Nov 18
Thesis Plumbing