What is this blog about?

What is this blog about?

I am a political philosopher. My 'political philosophy' is a form of 'liberal egalitarianism.' So in this blog I reflect on various issues in political philosophy and politics (especially Canadian and American politics) from a liberal egalitarian perspective.

If you are curious about what I mean by 'liberal egalitarianism,' my views are strongly influenced by the conception of justice advanced by John Rawls. (So I sometimes refer to myself as a 'Rawlsian,' even though I disagree with Rawls on some matters.)

Astonishingly, I am paid to write and teach moral and political philosophy. I somehow manage to do this despite my akratic nature. Here is my faculty profile.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

History of liberalism course (Spring 2016)

The course that I've taught the most since I arrived at UWM in 2008 is "Political Philosophy." I teach the course as the "history of liberalism." Since the course is only one term long, though, I have to leave out some significant figures (Smith, Wollstonecraft, Burke, Constant, Hegel), and I provide only limited coverage of others (Hume, Kant, Marx). It's frustrating, but such is life. I don't see how I can fit any more readings into the course, which already is quite heavy.

This term, for the first time, I've removed Nozick from the course. I decided to use some selections from Hayek instead. One reason for this is that I wanted to reduce the overlap with a second year course that I also teach from time to time ("Introduction to Social and Political Philosophy"). I'll continue to teach Nozick in that second year course. (In my experience, not many students take both courses, but enough do that I don't want there to be too much overlap in the courses' required readings.) A second reason why I've removed Nozick is simply that I'm quite tired of teaching his version of libertarianism, which I find thoroughly implausible. (Hume effectively refuted it two centuries earlier.) Hayek, in contrast, is still worth taking seriously, in my judgement, but does not receive as much attention as he should.

In any case, for anyone who might be curious, here is the reading schedule for the course. (I've left out the various assignments, tests, review sessions, and so forth. Each meeting is 75 minutes long.)


Thomas Hobbes: The First ‘Modern’ Political Philosopher

Jan. 28. T. Hobbes, Leviathan (selections), pp. 12-26.
Feb. 02. T. Hobbes, Leviathan (selections), pp. 26-51.
Feb. 04. T. Hobbes – conclusion + review (no new readings).

John Locke: The Architect of Classical Liberalism

Feb. 09. J. Locke, Second Treatise On Government, Chapters I-IV.
Feb. 11. J. Locke, Second Treatise On Government, Chapters V-IX.
Feb. 16. J. Locke, Second Treatise On Government, Chapters X-XIX.

David Hume versus Locke on Property

Feb. 18. D. Hume, “Of Justice.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Champion of Equality and Democratic Self-Government

Feb. 23. J. J. Rousseau, “On the Origin of Inequality.”
Feb. 25. J. J. Rousseau, On The Social Contract, Book I.
Mar. 01. J. J. Rousseau, On The Social Contract, Book II.
Mar. 08. J. J. Rousseau, On The Social Contract, Books III [excluding Ch. 8] and IV [excluding Chs. 4, 5, 7].

Mar. 22. D. Hume, “Of the Original Contract.”  I. Kant, “The Contractual Basis for a Just Society.”


Jeremy Bentham: Social Reformer and ‘Philosophical Radical’

Mar. 24. J. Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (selection).  J. Rawls, “Classical Utilitarianism.”

John Stuart Mill: Utilitarian Champion of Liberty and Liberal Feminist

Mar. 29. J.S. Mill, Utilitarianism, chapters 2 [pp. 238-59] and 5 [pp. 277-301].
Mar. 31. J.S. Mill, On Liberty, chapter 1 [pp. 3-16], chapter 2 [pp. 17-22; 36-49; 54-56], and chapter 3 [pp. 57-76].  J. Kleinig, “Two Arguments for State Paternalism.”
Apr. 05. J.S. Mill, The Subjection of Women, chapter 1 [pp. 123-52].  H. Taylor, “The Enfranchisement of Women.”


Apr. 07 K. Marx and F. Engels, “The Socialist Ideal.”
Apr. 12 K. Marx and F. Engels, “The Socialist Ideal.”


John Rawls: High Liberalism and the Return of the Social Contract

Apr. 14. Selections from J. Rawls, A Theory of Justice.
Apr. 19. Selections from J. Rawls, A Theory of Justice.

Susan Okin: Feminism and High Liberalism

Apr. 21. S. M. Okin, “The Family: Gender and Justice.”
Apr. 26. J. Rawls, “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited,” The University of Chicago Law Review 64 (1997), Section 5 only (pp. 787-794).

F.A. Hayek: Back to Classical Liberalism?

Apr. 26. F. A. Hayek, “Freedom and Coercion.”
Apr. 28. F. A. Hayek, “‘Social’ or Distributive Justice.”
May. 03. A. Lister, “The ‘Mirage’ of Social Justice: Hayek Against (And For) Rawls.”

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