Spring 2018

Political Philosophy: Justice, Freedom, and the State

Listed in: Philosophy, as PHIL-226


Rafeeq Hasan (Section 01)


States are made up of collections of individuals. And yet states have powers that no individuals have. They collect taxes, put us in jail, draft us into the army, tell us what we can and cannot own, etc. In general, states compel us to do things in the name of a ‘common good,’ even when that good conflicts with what we would individually prefer to do. In this course, an introduction to key concepts in Western political philosophy, we seek to understand what, if anything, could justify states in having this power over us. To this end, we examine two philosophical issues raised by the state. (1) The problem of political obligation. Is there any reason why we ought to obey the law? What are the grounds for legitimate civil disobedience? (2) The question of distributive justice. What reasons are there to tax the rich in order to give to the poor? What is the role of the state in securing economic equality?

Readings include: Plato, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Nozick, Rawls, and G.A. Cohen. We will also think about systematic racism and racial exclusion. We will ask how the fact of racism ought to shape our orientation to the state and to the project of political philosophy more generally. Readings here include: Martin Luther King Jr., Tommie Shelby, and Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Hasan.

PHIL 226 - L/D

Section 01
Tu 10:00 AM - 11:20 AM MERR 315
Th 10:00 AM - 11:20 AM MERR 315


2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Spring 2018, Fall 2019