Political Philosophy Philosophy 33 Spring 2024

The 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.

The Classes

Wed, Jan 17
Mon, Jan 22
Glaucon’s Challenge
Wed, Jan 24
Justice in the City
Mon, Jan 29
Justice in the Soul
Wed, Jan 31
Democracy and Tyranny
Mon, Feb 5
The State of Nature
Wed, Feb 7
The Laws of Nature
Mon, Feb 12
Hobbes’s Social Contract
Wed, Feb 14
The Liberty of Subjects
Mon, Feb 19
The Right to Punish (updated Mon, Feb 19)
Wed, Feb 21
Locke on Rights
Mon, Feb 26
Locke on Property
Wed, Feb 28
Hume on Property