USEM 71b USEM 71b
Right and Society
John Burt
Rabb 206 (x62158)
Office hours: M, W 4-5 and by appointment

Readings and Assignments

Week 1 (January 23, 24, 28) Plato: Euthyphro

Week 2 (January 30, 31, February 4) Plato: Republic Books I-V

Exercise: Exegesis (2 pp.) Due: February 4

Week 3 (February 6, 7, 11) Plato: Republic Books VI-X

Week 4 (February 13, 14, 25) Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics Books I-IV

Week 5 (February 27, 28, March 4) Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics Books V-X

Paper I: Analytic Comparison (ca. 5pp.) Due: March 4

Week 6 (March 6, 7, 11) Machiavelli: The Prince

Week 7 (March 13, 14, 18) Hobbes: Leviathan Book I

Week 8 (March 20, 21, 25) Hobbes: Leviathan Book II

Paper II: Analytic Comparison (ca. 5pp.) Due: March 25

Week 9 (March 26, April 8, 10) Locke: Second Treatise on Government

Week 10 (April 11, 15, 17) (Rousseau: The Social Contract

Week 11 (April 18, 22, 24) Marx: The Marx-Engels Reader: ``For a Ruthless Criticism of Everything Existing,'' ``On the Jewish Question,'' ``Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844,'' ``Alienation and Social Classes,'' ``Theses on Feuerbach,'' ``The German Ideology: Part I,'' ``Manifesto of the Communist Party''

Week 12 (April 25, 29, May 1) Rawls: A Theory of Justice pp. 23-100 (secs. 1-16)

Paper III: Extended Analysis (ca. 10pp.) Due: May 1

Week 13 (May 2, 6, 8) Rawls: A Theory of Justice pp. 118-192 (secs. 20-30), pp. 205-221 (secs. 33-35), pp. 363-391 (secs. 55-59)


1. Disability If you are a student with a documented disability at Brandeis University and wish to have a reasonable accommodation made for you in this class, please see the course instructor immediately.

2. Attendance and Participation Attendance in this course is required. A student with more than two unexcused absences should expect to fail the course. Participation in the class discussion is required, so come to class prepared to speak. There may well be classes at Brandeis in which you can coast for much of the term and recover yourself by heroic efforts at the end, but this isn't one of them. It's best to plan to work steadily.

3. Extensions You must contact me no later than the class before a paper is due to receive an extension. I will not grant extensions on the due date of the paper. Late papers will be docked in proportion to their lateness.

4. Academic Honesty You are expected to be honest in all of your academic work. The University policy on academic honesty is distributed annually as section 5 of the Rights and Responsibilities handbook. Instances of alleged dishonesty will be forwarded to the Office of Campus Life for possible referral to the Student Judicial System. Potential sanctions include failure in the course and suspension from the University. If you have any questions about my expectations, please ask.

5. Writing Groups After the first paper, I will divide the class into groups of four students. For the later papers, drafts of your papers will be due on the due date in the syllabus to your writing groups (bring three copies so everybody in your group can have one). Over the next few days you will read the papers from the other students in your group, making such comments upon it as you think the authors can learn from. Try not merely to edit these papers. See if you can say what the argument of the paper is, and what kinds of evidence or observations it advances to make that argument. Sometimes purely descriptive comments (such as: ``Here is your main point,'' ``Here you shift your ground,'' ``Here you bring in a concrete example,'' ``Here you compare Rawls to Aristotle,'') are far more illuminating that evaluative comments (such as ``This is good,'' or - heaven forbid - ``This is really dull''). After you have read each other's papers, you should arrange a time to meet (at your mutual convenience) and discuss each other's papers. Final versions of your papers (and all of the commented-upon drafts you gave to your group) will be due to me one week after the original due date. I will of course grade only the final version. But I will look at the drafts too, just to see what kinds of things your group noticed about your paper.

Writing Assignments

1.  Exegesis. Consider the following passage. What do you notice in it? How is Thrasymachus portrayed? Is there any connection between his portrayal here and the argument he is about to develop? Why is he impatient with Socrates? Does Plato depict him as a boorish person only to discredit him? (Why, indeed, are positions in a philosophical argument given to characters to argue out? Why not simply make the arguments) Once you have thought about all these questions, write a coherent analysis of the passage, weaving what you have noticed into one larger argument (the bearing of which is up to you). The point is not merely to summarize the passage but to reveal in it the depths which an inattentive reader might not see.

Now Thrasymachus, even while we were conversing, had been trying several times to break in and lay hold of the discussion but he was restrained by those who sat by him who wished to hear the argument out. But when we came to a pause after I had said this, he couldn't any longer hold his peace. But gathering himself up like a wild beast he hurled himself upon us as if he would tear us to pieces. And Polemarchus and I were frightened and fluttered apart.

He bawled out into our midst, What balderdash is this that you have been talking, and why do you Simple Simons truckle and give way to one another? But if you really wish, Socrates, to know what the just is, don't merely ask questions or plume yourself upon controverting any answer that anyone gives - since your acumen has perceived that it is easier to ask questions than to answer them - but do you yourself answer and tell what you say the just is. And don't you be telling me that it is that which ought to be, or the beneficial, or the profitable or the gainful or the advantageous, but express clearly and precisely whatever you say. For I won't take from you any such drivel as that!

2. The two Analytic Comparison assignments Here you should take two brief passages (of about 250 words each) from two different authors we have studied so far this term. (In the first paper, you will probably be comparing Plato and Aristotle, in the second, a Modern and a Classical philosopher, although you can also compare two Modern philosophers.) Find two passages that seem to be about the same thing, or which somehow engage each other. It's up to you to pick two passages that are interesting and pointed. In what ways do their views differ? How do their premises differ? What further consequences follow from their differences? Remember that the later philosopher has very likely read the earlier one, and may even be responding to the earlier philosopher's argument. Are they really arguing about the same things? how do their visions of the world (not just of the question at hand) differ? Again, once you have reflected upon these things, write a coherent essay developing your argument about the relationship between the two philosophers.

3. The Extended Analysis paper Serious books are always at the center of networks of commentary and argument, at the center of a conversation that began before they were written and which will be continuing long after we all are dead. Everyone who enters a conversation gives it a particular turn - one that may have been latent in the conversation beforehand, but which never would have become manifest had that person not been there to make it so. I will suggest some secondary works about some of the authors we have considered. For your paper, you will read one of these secondary works, and consider the way the author has made room for his or her own argument: what does he or she find lacking in the accounts that preceded his or her own? How does he or she define the particular turn he or she proposes to give to the developing argument? Then you should go to the library and learn to use the Arts and Humanities Citation Index to find recent authors who have cited the secondary book you read. Read one of those recent articles (the Citation Indexes are organized by year of publication, so you will find recent citations indeed). Think for a second about what the first commentator thought was his or her novel contribution, and what the turn he or she gave to the conversation turned out to be. Then write a paper about that author's views of the philosopher he or she discusses.

Here are some starting points:

  1. Martha Nussbaum The Fragility of Goodness (for Plato, or Aristotle)

  2. Alasdair MacIntyre After Virtue (for Aristotle)

  3. Michael Sandel Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (for Rawls)

  4. Leo Strauss Thoughts on Machiavelli

  5. Isaiah Berlin Four Essays on Liberty (Locke, Marx)

  6. Gregory Vlastos Socrates, Ironist and Moral Philosopher

  7. Amélie Rorty (ed.)Essays on Aristotle's Ethics

  8. C. B. Macpherson The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism (for Hobbes and Locke)

  9. The Cambridge Companion to Marx

  10. Charles Taylor Sources of the Self

  11. Nancy L. Rosenblum, ed. Liberalism and the Moral Life

  12. J.G.A. Pocock The Machiavellian Moment

    You may pick other starting points if you check them with me first.

File translated from TEX by TTH, version 2.20.
On 27 Feb 2002, 17:07.