January 7-April 8, 2014
Tuesday 4 p.m.-5.30
Professor: Daniel Kofman
TA: Cameron Chandler-Haines
Office : Desmarais 8119
Telephone : 562-5800 ext. 3682
Office Hours : Tuesday 17.30-18.30
Email: [email protected]
Course Description :
This course is an introduction to contemporary political philosophy. The past four decades of this
field were transformed by the work of John Rawls (1921-2002), so his work will naturally form a
central part of course. Rawls was concerned primarily with the issue of distributive justice – how
the goods of society should be distributed – and his work propelled this issue to the centre of
contemporary political philosophy. Nevertheless, there are many other important issues with
much older roots, such as political obligation (why should I have a duty to obey the law),
property (who has a right to it, how much, and why?), freedom (its nature and scope), rights,
democracy, and the ethical underpinnings of normative political philosophy.
We will supplement our study of contemporary political philosophy with ancient and early
modern texts when appropriate.
A course website (Virtual Campus) will have the updated syllabus and, announcements,
occasional notes, and some texts.
Attendance is assumed mandatory, and exams will presume familiarity with lectures; it is the
responsibility of students to obtain notes from reliable colleagues in cases of absence.
There will be two midterms and a final exam.A guide to writing philosophical essays, critical for
doing well on the exams, is available on the course website.
Midterm 1 30% February 13, 2014
Midterm 2 30% March 13, 2014
Final Exam 40% April 2014 (TBA) Absence from midterms and exams will not result in a grade of 0% only if valid justificatory
documentation (normally from a medical authority) is provided. It is not possible to do
supplementary work for grades instead of a midterm or exam.
There is no specific grade for class participation; however, a strong contribution by a student can
in some cases result in raising a borderline grade to the next level. It is essential to do the
readings before the class to benefit most from lectures and to enhance one’s participation.
Lectures assume reading, and raise critical points.
Texts: Three books have been ordered atAll Books, 327 Rideau St, (613) 789-9544:
Will Kymlicka, Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction (2 Edition, Oxford
University Press 2002),
John Rawls ATheory of Justice
Robert Paul Wolff, In Defense of Anarchism.
Other useful introductions (optional) to political philosophy:
Adam Swift, Political Philosophy: ABeginner’s Guide for Students and Politicians (Blackwell
Jonathan Wolff, An Introduction to Political Philosophy (Oxford University Press 1996).
A. John Simmons, Political Philosophy (Oxford University Press 2007).
An important collection of essays on Rawls is Norman Daniels (ed.), Reading Rawls: Critical
Studies on Rawls’‘A Theory of Justice’, Stanford University Press (1975) 1989.
All texts for the historical part of the course are available online, and in cheap editions, new and
used (and have also been placed on library reserve). Useful anthologies of political philosophy
and its history abound. Also helpful:
Sheldon Wolin’s Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Political Thought
(Princeton University Press), originally published in 1960 but recently revised by the now elderly
author (2004); John Plamenatz’ Man and Society, and George Sabine’s A History of Political
Theory. An important two volume work especially useful for Luther and Machiavelli is Quentin
Skinner, Foundations of Modern Political Thought (we will not examine Luther and
Machiavelli this term).
The most important work of contemporary political philosophy is John Rawls’ A Theory of
Justice 1971. Useful commentaries (aside from Kymlicka’s text) are Percy Lehning, John
Rawls: An Introduction (Cambridge U.P., 2009), and Chandran Kukathas and Philip Pettit,
Rawls: A Theory of Justice and its Critics (Stanford U.P. 1990), on reserve. Rawls himself
issued an abridged (214 p.), more accessible version: Justice as Fairness: A Restatement (Harvard U.P. 2001). An important collection of essays on his early work is Norman Daniels
(ed.), Reading Rawls: Critical Studies on Rawls’ ‘A Theory of Justice’ (Stanford U.P.: 1975.
1989). Rawls’ second major work is Political Liberalism (1993). A collection of essays on it is
Victoria Davion and Clark Wolf (eds.), The Idea of Political Liberalism (Rowman and Littlfield:
Other readings on the syllabus will be available on the course website (Virtual Campus).
Provisional Topic and Reading Schedule (subject to adjustments)
Jan 7-9 Introduction and overview. Plato, The Republic, Book II (357-370)
Readings: http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/republic.html - or
Suggested supplementary reading:
Republic of Plato, books III-V.
JaneAnnas, An Introduction to Plato’s Republic (OUP: 1981) (on reserve).
Gail Fine (ed.) Plato (2 volumes, OUP: 1999). (especially volume 2, ch. 10 by Bernard Williams,
ch. 7 by John Cooper, ch. 11 by JuliaAnnas, and ch