Social and Political Philosophy


PHIL 3750-011 - Summer 2008

PHIL 3750-011 (download syllabus doc)

MTWR 11:40 am - 1:20 pm Rocket Hall 1542 May 12 - Jun 20, 2008
Nita de Oliveira, Ph.D. - Office: Scott Hall 3012
Phone: 419-530-4517 - Office Hours: MF 8:30-11:00

Email: [email protected]


Course Website:


Personal Website:

Register for this course at UT

Summer Course 2008: REL 1220-011 WORLD RELIGIONS

African-American Political Philosophy


Course Description:




[3 hours] A study of classic and contemporary treatments of justice, authority, the relations between individual and community, the meaning of freedom and equality, power and violence, and race and gender. In this course we will be exploring modern conceptions of the social contract, liberalism, libertarianism, republicanism, democracy, communitarianism, socialism, feminism, postmodernism, and pluralism in the writings of political thinkers such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, Georg Hegel, Karl Marx, Michel Foucault, Martin Luther King, John Rawls, Jürgen Habermas, and Martha Nussbaum.


Required Text:


Political Philosophy: The Essential Texts. Edited by Steven M. Cahn. Oxford University Press, 2004. (ISBN 13: 9780195177084 / ISBN 10: 0195177088)


Grading Policy:

Grades are based on point accumulation throughout the semester. There are 2 Homeworks/Quizzes worth 15 points each and 1 Midterm worth 30 points. One of the Homeworks might be replaced by a Class Presentation. NO LATE ASSIGNMENTS WILL BE ACCEPTED, unless they are accompanied by evidence of a medical emergency (e.g., signed doctor’s note) or death in the family (e.g., funeral program). Make-up exams will be given only to those students who inform me of their emergency by email on the day of the exam. The cumulative final exam is worth 40 points, so as to make up 100 points:


30 points = Homeworks/Quizzes

30 points = Midterm

40 points = Final Exam

100 total points


Final grades for the course are based on the following scale:


93-100 pts. = A 77-79 pts. = C+

90-92 pts. = A- 73-76 pts. = C

87-89 pts. = B+ 70-72 pts. = C-

83-86 pts. = B 60-69 pts. = D

80-82 pts. = B- 59 and below = F


Academic Honesty:

Neither plagiarism (i.e., presenting the written work of another as one's own) nor cheating (i.e., providing answers to exam questions or receiving exam answers from another) will be tolerated. Any academic dishonesty will be disciplined according to the guidelines in the University of Toledo student handbook.



If you need special accommodations to attend my class, please notify me immediately. Your need for special accommodations, including special testing requests, will need to be documented by the Office of Accessibility, located at 1400 Snyder Memorial.


Reading Assignments & Class Structure:

Make sure to prepare all the readings before the date given. The reading assignments are usually short and hopefully pleasant. Homework is turned in at the beginning of class on the day it is due. There will be audiovisual presentations (DVD, online videos) and oral presentations. The idea is that we should read and discuss together all the selections by the authors indicated on the syllabus. So, for the Hobbes reading, you should read the excerpts from his major work "Leviathan." Of course, the introduction to each author is always very helpful. And so forth.
As for the Homeworks # 1 and # 2, you are asked to either write a 1-2 page essay trying to address one question, problem or topic from one of the reading assignments, or you may write an in-class essay on the day the homework is due. For the essay, you can use the texts you read and the material available on the internet, but make sure you cite your sources properly.


Class Participation

Class participation is essential. That includes class attendance (75%) as well as active involvement in all phases of the class.


Class Schedule:

Week 1: May 12 – Introduction: SOCIAL AND POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY
Wikipedia entry on Political Philosophy
Stanford Encyclopedia entry on Libertarianism

You Tube: Ethics of Freedom - anarchocapitalist (libertarian)
You Tube: Hobbes / Rousseau
You Tube: Ethical Egoism
You Tube: Judith Butler on Feminism
You Tube: Sartre's Existentialist Ethics
You Tube: Just War (Howard Zinn 1/3)
You Tube: Just War (Ron Paul)

May 13 – Social Contract; Liberalism, Modern Democracy
May 14 – Thomas Hobbes /Leviathan
May 15 – John Locke / Second Treatise
You Tube: The Obsolete Man (1/3)

Week 2: May 19 – Republicanism, freedom and equality
You Tube: THX 1138
You Tube: Global Political Freedom
You Tube: Milton Friedman on Freedom
May 20 - Jean-Jacques Rousseau / Social Contract
You Tube: The French Revolution
May 21 – Immanuel Kant
You Tube: Kant's Ethics
You Tube: Free Will (Waking Life)
May 22 – Abraham Lincoln
You Tube: History Project on Lincoln
You Tube: The Greatness of Abraham Lincoln
You Tube: Lincoln Institute: The Pressure for Emancipation
You Tube: The Gettysburg Address
K. Marx's Letter to Pres. Lincoln
The New Yorker: The Fall of Conservatism

Week 3: May 26 – No Class (Memorial Day)
May 27 - Homework # 1 (15 points) / Communitarianism, socialism, communism
You Tube: Peter Singer on Hegel and Marx
Hegel (in German)
Hegel in a nutshell
May 28 - Georg Hegel
Hegel's Hyper Text
Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit
May 29 - Karl Marx
Marx Internet Archives
You Tube: Communist Manifesto
You Tube: Marxism
You Tube: Marxism in 21st Cent.

Week 4: June 2 – Power and violence
Wiki on Political Power
Wiki on Violence
On Walter Benjamin's Critique of Violence, Power, and Terrorism
You Tube: Power and Violence
"The Great Debaters"
June 3 – Martin Luther King
Wiki entry on MLK
You Tube: Martin Luther King "From Birmingham to D.C." (1/2)
You Tube: Martin Luther King - Birmingham Jail
You Tube: Martin Luther King - Birmingham Speech
You Tube: Martin Luther King's "American Dream"
June 4 – Michel Foucault
Foucault's Genealogy of Modernity
The James Randi Educational Foundation
YouTube: Justice vs. Power - Chomsky vs. Foucault
June 5 – Class Presentations / Discussion: Power and Justice

Week 5: June 9 – Justice, Deliberative Democracy, Pluralism
June 10 – John Rawls
You Tube: Lecture on Rawls's Distributive Justice
You Tube: Habermas on The Kantian Project of Cosmopolitan Law
June 11 – Jόrgen Habermas
You Tube: Habermas interview
Power Point: Rawls
June 12 – Homework # 2 (15 points)

Week 6: June 16 - Midterm (30 points): Just War, Politics and Religion
Exhaustive Website on Just War Theories
Wikipedia on Just War Theories
Wiki on "Clash of Civilizations"
Wiki on Secularization
YouTube / Charlie Rose: Michael Walzer et al. on the Iraq War (2002)
YouTube: Chomsky on the Clash of Civilizations
YouTube: An Alternative Arabic view of the Clash of Civilizations
Islam and Secularization
Peace Now / Shalom Achshav
YouTube: Stop the Clash of Civilizations

June 17 – Feminism & Postmodernism: Martha Nussbaum / Final Review
Wikipedia entry on Feminism
Wikipedia entry on Postmodernism
You Tube: Martha Nussbaum Interview
You Tube: Feminist Critique of Human Rights
YouTube on Po-Mo: David Lynch
June 18 – Final Exam (40 points)
June 19 – Make-ups


About the Textbook: Political Philosophy: The Essential Texts.

Ideal for survey courses in social and political philosophy, this volume is a substantially abridged and slightly altered version of Steven M. Cahn's Classics of Political and Moral Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2001). Offering coverage from antiquity to the present, Political Philosophy: The Essential Texts is a historically organized collection of the most significant works from nearly 2,500 years of political philosophy. It moves from classical thought (Plato, Aristotle) through the medieval period (Aquinas) to modern perspectives (Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, Adam Smith, Hamilton and Madison, Kant). The book includes work from major nineteenth-century thinkers (Hegel, Marx and Engels, Mill) and twentieth-century theorists (Rawls, Nozick, Foucault, Habermas, Nussbaum) and also presents a variety of notable documents and addresses, including the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and speeches by Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. The readings are substantial or complete texts, not fragments. An especially valuable feature of this volume is that the works of each author are introduced with an engaging essay by a leading contemporary authority. These introductions include Richard Kraut on Plato and Aristotle; Paul J. Weithman on Aquinas; Roger D. Masters on Machiavelli; Jean Hampton on Hobbes; A. John Simmons on Locke; Joshua Cohen on Rousseau and Rawls; Donald W. Livingston on Hume; Charles L. Griswold, Jr., on Adam Smith; Bernard E. Brown on Hamilton and Madison; Paul Guyer on Kant; Steven B. Smith on Hegel; Richard Miller on Marx and Engels; Jeremy Waldron on Mill; Thomas Christiano on Nozick; Thomas A. McCarthy on Foucault and Habermas; and Eva Feder Kittay on Nussbaum.


In-Class Discussion on Justice, Power, Social and Political Philosophy:

Modern Political Philosophy:
The social contract: a hypothetical procedure (thought-experiment) to morally justify the legitimacy of government and juridical, political institutions. The idea is that legitimate state authority must be derived from the consent of the governed.
Thomas Hobbes: absolutist version of the social contract
state of nature - social contract - "commonwealth" (civil society)
In order to leave the state of nature (war of all against all, fear of violent death) humans must transfer their rights to an absolute sovereign (esp. monarch) in order to enjoy the benefits of a peaceful co-existence under the rule of law (juridical procedures and political institutions that regulate the duties and rights of all citizens).
The idea is that humans give up their natural rights (rights to all things, esp. self-preservation) for the sake of protection, safety, and mutual recognition. Hence the idea of political obligation, as opposed to anarchy: one must pay taxes and comply with the law, as one recognizes the legitimacy of government.
John Locke: a liberal-democratic version of the social contract
For Locke, the main purpose of the social contract is the preservation of the property of all the members of that society, by securing the individuals' natural rights to life, liberty, and property.
Political authority must be, therefore, limited to the public sphere and cannot intervene in private matters, where individuals are free to pursue their self-interests and moral conceptions of happiness. Society must be thus distinguished from government, which can be resisted by civil disobedience.
Classical liberalism (J.S. Mill): individual liberties and rights must be extended to all persons in civil society. Hence, slavery is morally wrong, just as women's suffrage and the rights of workers must be also recognized by any legitimate government. All areas of the public sphere of action must be covered by the principle of liberty.
Communism (Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels): seeks to promote the establishment of a classless society based on the common ownership of the means of production.
According to Marxism, capitalism is based on the exploitation of workers by the owners of capital (the bourgeois or the ruling elites). In order to overcome this continual exploitation of oppressed workers by dominating oppressors, a proletarian revolution is in order so as to overturn the historical processes of class struggles.
All previous societies have been caught up in the history of class struggles.
The proletariat comprises all the lower strata of the middle class (tradespeople, shopkeepers, handicraftsmen, peasants) who sink gradually into a class of workers whose stranged, alienated labor is reduced to the means to sustain the physical existence of the laborer and is also the source of profit for the owner of the means of production (capital). Hence the proletarian condition of exploitation and alienation.
According to John Rawls, we must rescue the egalitarian dimension (i.e. the principle of equality) of democracy by means of a theory of justice that generalizes and carries to a higher level of abstraction the familiar theory of the social contract.
In order to assign rights and duties for all citizens in a just society, Rawls postulates an original position, where the parties, from behind a veil of ignorance, choose the principles of justice to distribute the social primary goods for a well-ordered society, in which public criteria for judging the feasible, basic structure of society would be publicly recognized and accepted by all.
By this thought-experiment, Rawls believes that our concrete, actual conceptions and institutions can be calibrated through reflective equilibrium towards a more just, egalitarian society (well-ordered society), as we continually try to apply the two principles of justice to our social, economic and political institutions:
First: Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive scheme of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar scheme of liberties for others. (Equal Liberty Principle)
Second: Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that : a) offices and positions must be open to everyone under conditions of Fair Equality of Opportunity; b) they are to be of the greatest benefit to the least-advantaged members of society (Difference Principle).
Justice as fairness = equal liberty > fair equality of opportunity > inequalities acceptable by less favored

Foucault-Chomsky on Human Nature and Justice: Contextualism vs. Universalism
The Habermas-Foucault Debate: Modernity vs. Post-Modernity
In-Class Discussion on Freedom of Choice and Responsibility

Cast your vote : Take a poll today!

(This is an optional, anonymous poll)

[ Yahoo! ] options
Cast your vote : Take a poll today !

Obama Hillary Other