What legitimizes political authority? Who or what defines justice in a free society? What are the nature and purpose of society itself? Where do popular political theories fall short? What, if any, are the limits of tolerance? This course addresses these and related questions through a close reading of both classical and contemporary sources, including those chosen by the students themselves. The primary aim of the course is to help students formulate their own views on the nature of human society, the role of the individual vis-à-vis the group, and the legitimacy of the state.
The course is designed for students who have had at least one course in philosophy and have a personal stake in the topics and questions above. The course will be run as a seminar vitally dependent on active student participation. Students will be encouraged to speak candidly and often in class discussions and will be expected to prepare each reading assignment thoroughly. There will be one ten-page (maximum) paper, a midterm, and a final exam.