Contemporary Political Philosophy
Janos Kis
Winter and Spring Terms, 1996
Department of Political Sciences

Course Description

This is an introductory course. It aims at delimiting the field of political philosophy with respect to moral philosophy on the one hand and political science on the other, at presenting its main questions and the most important present-day answers. Special focus is going to be given to the debates within and about liberal theory started by John Rawls's A Theory of Justice. Applications to problems which are topical in Eastern Europe these days (as, e.g., compensatory justice, neutrality of the state, group rights, multiculturalism and national self-determination) will also be considered.

Week 1.
Introductory: What is Political Philosophy?

Political philosophy vs political science. Political philosophy vs moral philosophy. Political morality as individual morality of public actors. Political morality as moral requirements for institutional legitimacy. Central issues of political philosophy: authority, liberty and rights, justice, community.

Recommended readings:
Thomas Nagel: "Ruthlessness in Public Life". In: S. Hampshire (ed): Private and Public Morality.
Hannah Arendt: "The Human Condition." Ch. 2.
Leo Strauss: "What is Political Philosophy?" In Strauss: What Is Political Philosophy?
Jeremy Waldron: "Theoretical Foundations of Liberalism." In Waldron: Liberal Rights. Sects. II-IV.
Isaiah Berlin: "Two Concepts of Liberty." In Berlin: Four Essays on Liberty. Sect I-II. (pp. 121-134).

Week 2.
Analytic Models I: The Spontaneous Order

The Austrian School. Origins in the debates on economic planning. Criticism of totalitarian rule. Roots of totalitarianism in state intervention The background of the interventionist fallacy in "Constructivist Liberalism. Spontaneous order as harmonizing liberty and efficiency. Spontaneous order not subjects to requirements of justice.

Mandatory readings:
Friedrich A. von Hayek: "The Constitution of Liberty." Chs 9-10. (pp. 133-161). F.A.Hayek: "Law Legislation, and Liberty", vol. I pp. 35-46. F.A.Hayek: Law, Legislation and Liberty IV vol. II, pp. l -l2, 62-73.

Recommended readings:
K.R.Poper: "The Open Society and Its Enemies", Vol. I, Chs. 9-10. (pp. 157-175 and 284-289).
N.P.Barry: "On Classical Liberalism and Libertarianism", Ch. 4 (pp.58-80).

Week 3.
Analytic Models II: Utilitarianism

The egalitarian principle as interpreted by Classical Utilitarianism. Axioms and theorems of the classical utilitarian doctrine. Its role in the demistificatory project of the Enlightenment. Its deficiencies. The Rawlsian argument against utilitarianism: it does not take seriously enough the separateness of persons. The Dworkin argument: internal and external preferences.

Mandatory readings:
R.Hare: "Utilitarianism." In Hare: Freedom and Reason Ch. 72 (pp. 112-136).
W.Kymlicka: "Utilitarianism." In Kymlicka: Contemporary Political Philosophy, pp. 9-49.

Recommended readings:
J.J.Smart-B.Williams: "Utilitarianism For and Against." Cambridge 1973.

Week 4.
Analytic Models III: The Social Contract

The rational choice background of the contract idea. Cooperation and cooperative surplus. Bargaining over the distribution of surplus. Bargaining over the rules of cooperation. The constitutional contract. The principle of unanimity governing the constitutional deliberation. Fairness and rights: deficiencies of the model.

Mandatory readings:
J.M.Buchanan: "The Limits of Liberty." Chicago-London 1975, Ch.4. pp. 53-73.
J.L.Coleman: "Risks and Wrongs." Cambridge-New York 1992, Chs 1-2, pp. 17-71.

Recommended readings:
D.C.Mueller: "A Just Social Contract." In Mueller: Public Choice II. New York-Cambridge 1991, Ch. 21.
J.M.Buchanan-G.Tullock: "The Calculus of Consent." Ann Arbor 1962. Parts I and II
D . Gauthier: "Morals By Agreement." Oxford 1986, Chs. 5-7, pp . 113-232.

Week 5.
Rawls, A Theory of Justice I: The Structure of the Argument

The intuitive assumptions. Reflective equilibrium: from moral intuitions to considered convictions. The Original Position as depicting the considered convictions. Choice of principles of justice behind the Veil of Ignorance: rational choice subject to the constraints of egalitarian fairness.

Mandatory readings:
J.Rawls: "A Theory of Justice" Ch.1. (pp. 3-53).

Recommended readings:
B.Barry: "Justice as Impartiality". Oxford 1995, Chs. 2-3, pp. 28-79.

Week 6.
Rawls, A Theory of Justice II: Principles

The two principles of justice. Lexical priority of the basic liberties. Most extended liberty or rights. The two parts of the second principle. Fair equality of opportunity, difference principle. Difficulties with the difference principle.

Mandatory readings
J.Rawls: "A Theory of Justice," Ch.2 (pp.54-117) and§§.31-32 from Ch.4 (pp.195-205).

Recommended readings:
T.Pogge: "Realizing Rawls." Ithaca London 1989. Chs 34 (pp. 109-207).

Week 7.
The Libertarian Alternative I: The Minimal State

Instrumental and deontologal understanding of rights. The Lockean state of nature, and the rights included in it. Why universal self-protection does not work? Steps from the state of nature to the minimal state. Structure of the argument: the state is legitimate if it can arise in steps which do not violate any body's rights.

Mandatory readings:
R.Nozick: "Anarchy State and Utopia," Chs. 1-2. (pp. 3-53).

Recommended readings:
T.Nagel: "Libertarianism Without Foundations." In J.Paul (ed): Reading Nozick. Oxford 1982.

Week 8.
The Libertarian Alternative II: The Entitlement Theory

Self-ownership in the state of nature. The principle of first occupation. The Labor Theory of Original Property Acquisition. The Lockean Proviso. Weaknesses in the argument. Main difficulty: path-dependency of the ultimate distribution of property rights.

Mandatory readings:
R.Nozick: "Anarchy State and Utopia", Ch. 7, Sect. 1, pp. 150-182.

Recommended readings:
W.Kymlicka: "Libertarianism." In Kymlicka: Contemporary Political Philosophy, pp. 95-195, 155-159.

Week 9.
The Libertarian Alternative III: Distributive Justice The Nozickian criticism of redistribution.

Mandatory readings:
R.Nozick: "Anarchy, State, and Utopia", Ch 7, Sect 2, pp. 183-231.

Recommended readings:
R.Nozick: "The Examined Life." New York 1991. Ch 25, pp. 286-296.

Week 10.
An Egalitarian Alternative I: Distributive Justice

Distributive equality as equality of resources. Criticism of the welfarist interpretation. Justification by the principle of equal concern and respect. The auction model. Differences between the Rawlsian choice in the Original Position and the Dworkinian auction. The place of liberty in the theory.

Mandatory readings:
J.Narveson: "On Dworkinian Equality." In R.Arneson (ed): Liberalism Vol. III, pp. 507-529.
R.Dworkin: "Comment on Narveson." Ibid. pp. 530-546.

Recommended readings:
R.Dworkin: "What is Equality" I-II, in Philosophy and Public Affairs 10 (1981) 185-246 and 283-345.

Week 11.
An Egalitarian Alternative II: Ethical Foundations

Criticism of the contractarian idea. Ethical liberalism as the foundation of liberal political principles. The challenge model. Equal concern an respect as grounded in the challenge model.

Mandatory readings:
R.Dworkin: "Foundations of Liberal Equality." Tanner Lectures on Human Value XI. Salt Lake City 1989.

Recommended readings:
B.Barry: "Political Arguments." Foreword to the Second Edition and Ch. III Sect. 3 (pp.38-43), Ch. IV Sect. 4 (pp. 66-69).

Week 12.
The Perfectionist Alternative

Reopening of the classical liberal debate on the issue of the private/public separation. Political neutrality and political perfectionaism. The role of the liberal state in securing autonomy for the individual. The perfectionist idea of freedom.

Mandatory readings:
J.Raz: "The Morality of Freedom." Oxford 1986, Chs. 14-15, pp. 369-429

Recommended Readings:
S. Muhlhall-A. Swift: "Liberals and Communitarians." Oxford 1992, Ch. 8 pp. 249-288.
T.Hurka: "Perfectionism." Oxford 1993.

Week 13.
The Communitarian Alternative

Criticism of liberal individualism. The value of belonging. Identity, self-respect and community. Particularism vs universalism. The role of history. Communal traditions vs individual reason. Participation. Politics as

Mandatory readings:
C.Taylor: "Cross-Purposes - The Liberal-Communitarian Debate." In N.Rosenblum (ed): Liberalism and the Moral Life (pp. 159-182). W.Kymlicka: "Communitarianism." In Kymlicka: Contemporary Political Philosophy, pp. 199-237.

Recommended readings:
A.MacIntyre: "Is Patriotism a Virtue?" In R.Arneson (ed): Liberalism, Vol. III, pp. 245-263
M.Sandel: "Liberalism and the Limits of Justice." Ch. 4. M.Walzer: Membership. In Walzer: Spheres of Justice. Ch.2. (pp. 31-63.)

Week 14.
A Feminist Extension

Criticism of the gender-neutral concept of the person. Family as lying within the province of justice. Rawls reconsidered under the feminist assumptions.

Mandatory readings:
S.M.Okin: "Justice Gender and the Family.". New York 1989, Chs I-2, and 5, pp. 3-40 and 89-109.

Recommended readings:
C.Pateman: "The Sexual Contract." Stanford 1988.

Week 15.
Rawls, Political Liberalism: An Attempt to Meet the Criticisms

Political liberalism as an answer to the problem of reaching an agreement on constitutional essentials in societies deeply divided by ethical, religious, and philosophical pluralism. Comprehensive doctrines vs political conceptions. The possiblity of an overlapping consensus. From moral intuitions to public political culture. From reflective equilibrium to public reason. From impartiality to reciprocity. Ideas of the Good within the constraint of Right.

Mandatory readings:
J.Rawls: "Political Liberalism." Lecture I. §§.1-2 (pp. 4-14) and §.6. Sects. 2-4 (pp. 36-40), Lecture IV. §.1. (pp. 134-140) and §§.6-8. (pp. 158-172), Lecture V. §.1. (pp. 174-176), §§.5-7 (pp. 190-206).

Recommended readings:
C.Larmore: "Liberalism and the Neutrality of the State". In Larmore: Patterns of Moral Complexity. New York 1987, Ch.3, pp. 40-68.

Week 16.
Applications I: Claims of Property Restitution

Mandatory readings
D.Lyons: "The New Indian Claims and Original Rights to Land." In J.Paul (ed): Reading Nozick (pp. 355-379).
J.Waldron: "Superseding Historic Injustice." In Ethics Vol. 103. (1992) pp. 4-28.

Week 17.
Applications II: Rights to Welfare

Mandatory readings

J.Waldron: "Liberal Rights and Homelesmess and the Issue of Freedom." in Waldron: Liberal Rights. Cambridge-New York 1993, pp. 1-34 and 309-338.

Week 18.
Applications III: Collective Rights

Mandatory readings:
W.Kymlicka: "Multicultural Citizenship." Oxford 1995, Chs 3-4, pp. 34-74.

Recommended readings
J.Raz-A.Margalit: "National Self-Determination." in W.Kymlicka (ed): The Rights of Minority Cultures. Oxford 1995, pp. 79-92.


Active participation in the seminar discussions is welcome. A mid-term essay and a final essay (both of 10-15 pages, the second to be complemented with technical notes and a fair bibliography of readings) are going to be required. Grading will depend on these three factors in the following way: participation in the seminars: 60 %; final essay: 40 %.

CRC-Curriculum Resource Center
CEU Budapest, Hungary
Modified: May, 1996


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