Brandeis University, Philosophy Department
Fall 2012
Brandeis University Web Stite

Philosophy 20A


Professor Andreas Teuber
Prof. Teuber

FALL 2012

Course Description

What makes us good citizens?

Are we the citizens we want to be or can we do better?

If we can do better, what attitudes and abilities do citizens need to acquire to guarantee the vitality of a modern democracy?

Many Americans are pulled in two different directions. On the one hand, many want to be "left alone" to pursue their own life plans; yet, on the other, some of these same persons yearn to participate in a more meaningful public life in pursuit of goals that reflect a common purpose.

Car Repair 2004

Still, citizenship to most Americans is regarded as a matter of rights rather than as a set of responsibilities, as a defensive strategy against what are perceived to be all too powerful governors. But have we become too self-protective? too focused on rights, too self-absorbed to sustain a vital democracy in the new millennium?

The course will focus on the relation of the individual to the state and, in particular, the role of the citizen in a democracy. It is divided into five parts:

(1) An opening section in which the examples of Socrates, Antigone, Thoreau, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King will be discussed in light of their activities as citizens in their respective political communities as well as a number of contemporary pro-democracy activists and dissidents such as Nelson Mandela, Andrei Sakharov, Lech Walsea, Vaclav Havel, Eli Weisel the Dalai Lama, Suu Kyi, recent recipient of the Nobel Prize and Chen Guangcheng as part of a larger effort to develop a political philosophy of the rights and responsibilities of citizens in a democracy as well as answer the question: What Does It Mean To Be a Citizen in the World Today?

(2) A second section devoted to a philosophical examination of the nature of political obligation in a democratic society and the variety of forms civic engagement in a democracy can take.

(3) A third section devoted to an exploration of the grounds for giving one's allegiance to any state at all and the meaning and value of conceiving of citizenship as an activity rather than solely as a legal status, as the cultivation of certain habits of heart and mind rather than merely the possession of set of legal rights and duties.

(4) A fourth section devoted to an examination of ways to strengthen the democracy as well as foster civic participation in politics in light of the Election of 2012. This section will include Everything You Will Want To Know About the Candidates, the Issues, and the Stakes in 2012 and Should Not Be Afraid To Ask.

(5) A fifth and final section devoted to an examination of the future of democratic citizenship in the U.S. and throughout the world in such places as Egypt and China.

Topics will include extending the vote to 17 year-olds in municipal elections, voter ID laws, money in politics, the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, civic education, residency requirements, online voting, the role and limits of dissent, Occupy Wall Street, the philosophy, politics, history and economics of democracy and voting, the nature of representation, the Affordable Health Care Act, medicare vouchers, tax reform, foreign policy, the war in Afghanistan, the use of drones, the deficit, affirmative action, race, immigration policy, re-districting, the role of government in a free society, big v. small government, entitlements, social security, welfare, voting methods and the voting paradoxes, voter turnout from 1960 to the present day, deliberative democracy, global citizenship and the prospects for democracy in Burma (Myanmar). China, the Soviet Union, Syria and Egypt.

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Among the questions the course will address will be "Is the Internet Good for Democracy?" "How Much Inequality Can a Democracy Withstand?" and "Are Globalization and Multiculturalism Good or Bad for Democracy?" A portion of every class will be devoted to the November Election.

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Each section will be devoted to the examination of the push and pull of competing ways of thinking about the role of the citizen in a democracy, to the tension created by thinking of citizenship solely as a legal status as opposed to thinking of it as an activity, by thinking of democracy solely as a procedure for selecting one's governors as opposed to thinking of it as the cultivation of certain values and beliefs.






In its aim and format the course is more an exploration of a new way of thinking about citizenship in a democracy than a settled view of the way things are. Students will be encouraged to imagine alternative possibilities to a set of common and unreflectively held beliefs about the role of citizens in a democratic society.

The course meets on Mondays and Wednesdays from 5:00 to 6:20 PM.

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In addition, you will have the option of meeting in discussion sections each week. The discussion session times will be posted. Sessions are not required, but will be available to everyone who wishes to seize the opportunity to explore in greater depth some of the complex issues to which we will put our minds in this course.

A separate page for HANDOUTS and LECTURE NOTES has also been created that you may find useful during the course of the semester.

On the HANDOUTS page you will find links to various PHILOSOPHY RESOURCES "out there" on the world-wide web as well as some discussion about THE VALUE OF PHILOSOPHY in the 21st century.

So, too, each day the class meets will be assigned its own title and web-page and reading posted for the day.

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The COURSE REQUIREMENTS are also posted.

Also on the HANDOUTS page are

Syllabus Handouts and Lecture Notes
Section Times Class Discussion

Contact Info

The course is taught by ANDREAS TEUBER. You may wish to take a look at the SHORT BIOGRAPHY and the CV which are online to glean some idea of who the instructor is. During the Fall you can reach me as follows:

Office hours: Wednesdays 3:00-4:30 PM
and by appointment. Office hours: Wednesdays 3:00-4:30 PM
and by appointment. Office Phone: 1-781-736-2787
Email: <>

Feel free to drop in for any reason any time during office hours. (If I'm already speaking with someone, let me know that you're waiting.) I am happy to talk about paper ideas, continue class discussion, and so on. If these hours are inconvenient, we can arrange to meet by appointment. Or you can email me. I read my email several times each day and usually respond right away.


Global Citizens?


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Last Modified:  08/15/12
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