PHIL 480: Social and Political Philosophy
This course examines such topics as theories of justice, the nature of the state, critiques and justifications of economic systems, the status of human rights, conceptions of liberty and democracy, the rationale for punishment, and issues of race, gender, and class.
PHIL 480: Social and Political Philosophy
This course will examine the philosophy and politics of human rights and global justice. We begin by discussing John Rawls on human rights and global justice. We then turn to James Griffin’s synoptic study of human rights. Griffin carefully distinguishes human rights concerns from problems of social justice. He maintains that a universal moral core undergirding human rights can and must be philosophically ascertained in order to determine which among the many human rights listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in other human rights covenants are genuine human rights (as distinct from “manifesto rights”).
Griffin denies that human rights are unconditionally valid and that our duties with regard to them are always more urgent than our social justice duties. He also notes that the content of human rights has evolved historically, and has both abstract and applied dimensions. Next we read Thomas Pogge’s much debated attempt to focus human rights on global poverty. Pogge defends an institutional account of human rights that mainly defines human rights as a species of liberty rights, or rights not to be harmed in the free pursuit of a minimally fulfilling life. He then argues that many international trade, lending, and property laws (institutions) violate, or at least fail to respect, our strong “negative” duty to desist from harming the poor (i.e., impeding the poor in freely accessing the goods necessary for pursuing a minimally decent life). Here we critically examine the politics of poverty and inequality as set forth by the UN’s Millennium Development Goal, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization.
Our next reading comes from Miller’s alternative approach to developing global duties and responsibilities. Miller examines the painful tradeoffs between global climate justice and global poverty justice and the special sacrifices these tradeoffs impose on the wealthiest nations. He then argues that U.S. citizens carry especially heavy burdens given the huge power wielded by their government. Miller contends that the U.S. government has wielded “imperial power” whose destructive impact on the world’s poorest – ranging from imperial war to economic domination - far exceeds the impact of any other country over the last sixty years.
We conclude the course by surveying human rights applications to issues concerning human trafficking, migration, micro-lending, sweatshops, gender equality, and other issues that help refocus our attention on the nexus between agency, coercion, poverty, and human rights.
PHIL 480: Social and Political Philosophy - Liberalism and Feminism
This course will examine the liberal and feminist traditions in contemporary social and political philosophy. We will begin by considering the foundational liberal social contract theory of John Rawls. We will then address the ways that feminists have incorporated and rejected liberal thought within their theories of justice and care. The course will also address radical feminist approaches that question the dominant liberal rights-based framework. We will consider issues such as distributive justice and the family, the gendered basis for care and caregiving, multiculturalism and feminism, and liberal versus radical feminist positions on pornography. Readings for the course will draw from the Anglo-American tradition in philosophy, possibly including works by authors such as John Rawls, Susan Moller Okin, Martha Nussbaum, Eva Kittay, Catharine MacKinnon, and Shulamith Firestone.
PHIL 480: Topics in Political Philosophy - Globalization Ethics
In this course we will explore economic and cultural issues of globalization, with particular attention to their normative dimensions of economic and cultural issues such as nationalism, colonialism, immigration, cultural identity, group rights, and related topics such as global ecology.
We will draw on a variety of sources, including videos as well as books and articles. We will begin the course with excerpts from classic works such as Aristotle's Politics, Rousseau's Social Contract, Immanuel Kant's Perpetual Peace, and perhaps Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels's Communist Manifesto. We will then look at texts from contemporary authors such as John Rawls. Jurgen Habermas, Thomas Pogge, Iris young, and Seyla Benhabib. The readings will be supplemented with several videos about some of the disturbing by-products of globalization.
This class will meet with Dr. Wren's graduate seminar (PHIL 327) for lectures and video presentations, though not for the many scheduled discussion sessions (roughly, every third meeting).
PHIL 480: Topics in Political Philosophy - The Critical Theory of Modernity: Rousseau to Honneth
The seminar will be devoted to examining what is perhaps the most iconic theme of the Frankfurt School: the critique of modernity. We begin by examining the sources of this critique in the writings of Rousseau, Marx, and Freud. We then survey some seminal writings of the early Frankfurt School, including essays by Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse and Benjamin, culminating in Adorno’s Minima Moralia. We then conclude by looking at the critical reception of that tradition in the writings of Habermas, Foucault and Honneth, finishing with the latter’s book on reification. Course requirements: two short presentation/papers and a take-home final exam or final term paper. Required texts: Ingram, Critical Theory and Philosophy; Critical Theory: The Essential Readings (Paragon House Publishers); Freud, Civilization and its Discontents (Norton Edition); Adorno: Minima Moralia (Verso); Honneth, Reification (Cambridge). Texts by Benjamin, Arendt, Habermas,and Foucault will be posted on-line.
PHIL 480: Social and Political Philosophy - Critical Theories of Development
The class examines ethical, legal, and socio-political dimensions of global development from the standpoint of recent literature in the Frankfurt School of social critical theory. Important theorists we will discuss include Juergen Habermas, Axel Honneth, and Nancy Frazer, but writers from the first generation of the school (Benjamin, Adorno, Horkheimer, and Marcuse), as well as some post-structuralism (chiefly Foucault) will be discussed as well. Contemporary commentaries will include Amy Allen’s After Progress and selections from David Ingram’s World Crisis and Development. We will also read some literature representing the post-development perspective (Escobar and Shiva). Some Anglo-American social philosophy will be discussed as well. The course also has an applied dimension that will touch on the following areas: women and human development (focusing on whether microcredit empowers women in the developing world); globalization (global capitalism) and the politics of trade and aid; migration theory and its impact on families; human rights; global governance; and technology transfer. Requirements include weekly reaction papers, several longer class presentations, and a final term paper or final exam paper.