Philosophy 452: Seminar in Ethics, Political Philosophy and the Philosophy of Law - II

Professor: William Sweet
Office: 606 Nicholson Tower
Telephone: 867-2341
Office Hours: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday; 3.45-5 pm, and by arrangement.
Course web page:
This class meets in the 'GH' time block (T/Th 2.15-3.30).

This course will examine some fundamental issues in political philosophy and the philosophy of law. The specific issues to be studies may vary, but will be selected from such topics as the state and society, rights and duties, justice and equality, freedom and punishment, the moral basis of political obligation, and the concept of law. The course will include both classical and contemporary authors, but will focus on recent debates.

The theme for 2011 is 'Ethics and Human Rights'

Prerequisites: Senior standing in philosophy, political science, history, or sociology or, with the permission of the instructor, junior standing.

Course format: This is a 400 level course, and the format will be a combination of lecture, discussion, and seminar presentation.

Course Outline:
(this schedule is tentative and may be slightly revised with a week’s notice)
Week of Jan 3  1st class / review of ethical theory / the concept of human rights
Week of Jan 10 – Hobbesian and Lockean views of rights
Week of Jan 17 – libertarian views of rights (Nozick, Machan)
Week of Jan 24 – idealist views of rights (Hegel, Bosanquet)
Week of Jan 31 – The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Jacques Maritain
Week of Feb 7 – Michael Ignatieff and contemporary human rights
Week of Feb 14 – Critiques : Richard Rorty; non-western critiques
Week of Feb 21 – Gewirth vs MacIntyre: communitarianism and virtue ethics; feminist critiques
Week of Feb 28 – mid-term pause
Week of Mar 7 - Human Rights in Hinduism and Buddhism
Week of Mar 14 – Right to food; Freedom of Religion
Week of Mar 21 – Right to one’s body
Week of Mar 28 – Parental Licensing
Week of Apr 4 – conclusions

other topics may be covered: e.g., rights and international relations; ecology, environment and development, etc.)

Method of evaluation: Students will be required to prepare one in-class presentation; 1-page 'commentaries' on the readings (biweekly), and a 15-20 page research essay (due the last day of classes), and to write a final examination.

The following books must be purchased:
J. Maritain: Natural Law: reflections on theory and practice
Michael Ignatieff, The Rights Revolution

The following readings will be copied and provided at cost, or made available electronically:
W. Sweet: ‘Introduction to human rights’
T. Hobbes: excerpts from Leviathan
J. Locke: excerpts from Second Treatise
T. Machan: excerpts from Individuals and their Rights
B. Bosanquet: excerpts from The Philosophical Theory of the State
W. Sweet: ‘Idealist Ethics’
Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Richard Rorty: "Human Rights and Sentimentality"
Alasdair MacIntyre: excerpts from After Virtue
H. Lafollette: Parental Licensing
other articles (e.g., by Vinay Lal, Helen Holmes) will be assigned as well

Method of Evaluation:

    * Class presentations 20 %
    * 1 page commentaries (biweekly) 10 %
    * Class discussion / notes  10%
    * Major essay (15-20 pages) 25 %
    * Final examination 35 %