Political philosophy, Fall 2021

If you are a student in the class, please go to this page for links to the readings and additional information.


A survey of important issues in contemporary political philosophy, with a particular focus on the questions of social justice and political legitimacy.

What is the reason for or purpose of political authority? How should a just society be organized? Should its decisions follow certain procedures? Should it display particular patterns and outcomes? How should we reach important social and political decisions for them to be (and not just appear) legitimate? Is the majority always right? Should we elect representatives or practice a more direct form of democracy? What are the rights of minorities?

In 2021, we’ll pay special attention in the last segment of the class to issues related to climate change.


Thursday Sep 2


Tuesday Sep 7

The Hobbesian state and beyond

Thursday Sep 9

The libertarian minimal state

Tuesday Sep 14

The Rawlsian state

Thursday Sep 16

Rawls on justice: the two principles

Tuesday Sep 21

Rawls on justice: the argument from the original position: risk aversion

Thursday Sep 23

Rawls on justice: the argument from the original position: publicity, reciprocity and stability

Tuesday Sep 28

The libertarian challenge

Thursday Sep 30

Responding to the libertarian challenge: how much to socialize?

Tuesday Oct 5

How to spend it? A capabilities approach.

Thursday Oct 7

How to spend it? Liberal neutrality and universal basic income.

Thursday Oct 14

Discussion and student presentations

Sunday Oct 17

Paper no. 1

Tuesday Oct 19

Market troubles

Thursday Oct 21

Beyond the labor market?

Tuesday Oct 26

Beyond the market? A socialist proposal.

Thursday Oct 28

Discussion and student presentations

Tuesday Nov 2

Too little concern for social relations?

Thursday Nov 4

Against oppression

Tuesday Nov 9

Why democracy?

Tuesday Nov 16

Troubles with democracy

Paper no. 2

Thursday Nov 18

Discussion and student presentations

Tuesday Nov 23

Institutions for participation

Friday Nov 26

Discussion and student presentations

Sunday Nov 28

Research project

Tuesday Nov 30

Climate change and the precautionary principle

Thursday Dec 2

Compensating for climate damages

Sunday Dec 5

Comments on research project

Tuesday Dec 7

Climate change and the international order

Thursday Dec 9

Discussion and student presentations

Tuesday Dec 14

Review session

Thursday Dec 16

Final exam

Sunday Dec 19

Book review

Monday Dec 20

Research paper