Graduate Program (& Advanced Certificate) Status
The course focuses on a few of the most fundamental problems of normative political philosophy, regardingthe ground and scope of the authority of the state to make and enforce rules that bind its citizens. Most people would agree that the state indeed has such authority, and that citizens are usually under a moral obligation to comply with the rules made by the government. However, there are deep disagreements concerning the source of this authority as well as about its proper limits: what are the goals that the government may or must rightfully pursue and by what means? Under what circumstances are its citizens exempt from the obligation to obey its laws? These are among the questions that will be examined in this course. First, we will discuss different theories of political obligation, i.e. theories about the moral basis of our obligation, if any, to complywith laws. The theories discussed will include consent theories, justice-based theories, andfair-play theories. Second, we will attend to the problem of distributive justice: are material inequalities between citizens unjust, and if so, under what circumstances? Is the state required to pursue some profile of distribution of goods in society, and if so, what characterizes that profile? We will discuss utilitarian, egalitarian, and libertarian accounts of justice. Third, it is widely held that democratic procedures of political decision-making have a special claim to legitimacy. In this context, we will discuss different accounts of the value of democracy as well as some prominent contemporary theoretical doubts about democracy.