Fall 2024

Political Philosophy

Listed in: Philosophy, as PHIL-226


Rafeeq Hasan (Section 01)


States are made up of individuals. Yet states have powers that no individuals have. They collect taxes, put us in jail, draft us into the army, and tell us what we can and cannot own. 

In this course, an introduction to Western political philosophy, we seek to understand what, if anything, could justify the state in wielding such extraordinary power over us. We will ask questions like: Why should I obey the law? Should the state tax the rich and give to the poor? Is crime ever justified? We will also think about the legacy of racism in modern political life, and about justice in the workplace. Readings will include works by Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, John Rawls, and Angela Davis.

Limited to 25 students. No prerequisite. Ten seats will be reserved for first-year students. Fall semester. Professor Hasan.  (V).

How to handle overenrollment: Priority to majors, then on the basis of seniority and enrollment at Amherst.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Emphasis on written work, readings, independent research, oral presentations, group work, and class participation.

Course Materials


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2024