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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Patrick T. Smith
PHIL 110
Seattle Campus

Introduction to Social and Political Philosophy

An introduction to political theories such as conservatism, liberalism, and socialism and their treatment of select social issues.

Class description

Markets are ubiquitous in our social and economic lives. They shape what projects we can pursue, aggregate information held by many people, and provide an outlet for individual choice. Increasingly, there have been calls to allow individuals greater choice by creating markets to govern areas of our lives--from public education to the environment to national security--where they had not previously existed. This class will be about the power and limits of individual choice and markets. We will explore why markets, under certain circumstances, are powerful tools, but we will also discuss when and why markets fail. Further, we will consider whether there are times when markets are morally inappropriate. In the process, we will examine various answers to the following question: when can the state regulate individual choice? That is, when is it justified for the government to tell you what to do and back it up with force? By considering these various issues, this class will do three things: a) Help you think critically and evaluate arguments about particular issues of public policy, such as global warming, education, surrogacy, and urban development b) Introduce you to important political thinkers, both historical (e.g. Adam Smith, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, and Simone de Beauvoir) and modern (John Rawls, Susan Moller Okin, and Amartya Sen) c) Develop your ability to write argument-based, thesis-driven papers and read difficult texts critically

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Patrick T. Smith
Date: 11/20/2010