William J. Talbott
An examination of topics pertaining to social structures and institutions such as liberty, distributive justice, and human rights.
The central focus of the course will be on liberty, especially on the question of whether the preservation of some sort of liberty rights has or ought to have priority over other social values. The course will begin with a review of three different theories of liberty rights: a natural rights account (Judith Jarvis Thomson), a utilitarian account (J.S. Mill), and a social contract account (John Rawls). The course will then consider questions concerning the justification of restrictions, especially paternalist restrictions, on individual liberty. Among the issues to be discussed are: limits on freedom of expression; laws prohibiting suicide and assisted suicide; laws prohibiting contracts of indentured servitude (temporary or permanent slavery); and laws prohibiting use of certain drugs. Requirements: In-class assignments; one 5-7 page paper, a midterm exam, and a 10-15 page term paper. Prerequisites: One previous course in philosophy or the permission of the instructor. The course is suitable for non-majors. TEXTS: J. S. Mill, On Liberty; John Rawls, Political Liberalism: Expanded Edition; J.J. Thomson, The Realm of Rights; and a required course reader.
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Class assignments and grading