Brandeis University, Philosophy Department
Fall 2007
Brandeis University Web Stite

Philosophy 20A

Democracy & Disobedience

Professor Andreas Teuber
Prof. Teuber


The course is divided into four 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 and as part of a larger effort to develop a political philosophy of the rights and responsibilities of citizens in a democracy.

(2) A second section devoted to a philosophical examination of the role of the citizen in democratic society, the nature of obligation, the place of civil disobedience, the arguments which may be made to justify its practice and the relation between civic engagement and democratic citizenship.

(3) A third section which will look closely at competing models of democracy and will include an exploration of the conflict between authority and autonomy and the grounds for giving one's allegiance to any state at all and an examination of the kinds of citizens a democracy requires.

(4) A fourth section devoted to an examination of the future of democracy in this country and throughout the world.

Each section is devoted to the examination of the push and pull of competing ways of thinking about the role of the citizen and the nature of democracy, to an examination of the tension created, for example, by thinking of citizenship solely as a legal status as opposed to thinking of it as an activity, or by thinking of democracy solely as a method or procedure for selecting one's governors, as a mere means, as opposed to thinking of it in more substantive ways as the embodiment and cultivation of certain values and beliefs.

Reading assignments will be blocked out week by week for each section. See the syllabus for the course at The Syllabus Online

Required Reading (Available at the Brandeis Book Store):

  • Sophocles, ANTIGONE, Dover
  • Thoreau, CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE, Dover
  • Gandhi, NON-VIOLENCE, Dover
  • Martin Luther King, WHY WE CAN'T WAIT, Signet Classics
  • Robert Paul Wolff , IN DEFENSE OF ANARCHISM, Calif.
  • Robert Dahl, On DEMOCRACY, Yale.
  • Stephen MacEdo, DELIBERATIVE POLITICS, Oxford
  • Martha Nussbaum, FOR LOVE OF COUNTRY, Beacon
  • Charles Taylor, POLITICS OF RECOGNITION, Princeton
  • Kwame Appiah, COSMOPOLITANISM, Norton


    Four short papers are required on topics growing out of the readings and class discussions. The papers should be about 5-6 pages in length, preferably typewritten. Paper topics will be available at least ten (10) days before a paper is due. It is wise to make a copy of a paper before handing in the original. If you are working on a computer, make a back-up. Paper topics will be available at least ten (10) days before a paper is due. You will have the opportunity to rewrite at least one of your papers as well as the opportunity at various points in the course to get "extra credit," thereby improving your grade.


    There will be one quiz in class. There will be no other examinations, final or otherwise.


    Attendance is required. You are allowed two unexcused absences. Otherwise, if you miss a class, you will need a documented excuse. Any further absences will have an impact on your final grade.


    There are four main pieces of work in the course, four 5-6 page papers. For these four pieces of work, the grading will be broken down as follows: 30% for your strongest effort, 25% for your next best effort, 20% for your next best effort after that, and 15% for the one which is least successful of the four. Participation about which more will be discussed will count 5% and the quiz 5%.


    To date, Tim Pershing has been assigned to this class. The Teaching Fellows will be primarily responsible for reading the papers and making comments on them as well as participating in and leading discussions on the readings and questions that come up in class. I shall look at all the papers before grades are handed out. If you are convinced an error has been made, first talk with the teaching fellow with whom you have been working. If you are still not satisfied, you may bring your paper to me.


    The course will have its own Web Site.


    I will hold office hours from 1:00 to 2:00 on Mondays and Thursdays and by appointment. My office is located in Rabb, Room 306, but you usually can find me in the Main Department Office since I am also the Chair of the Philosophy Department The Philosophy Department Office is in Rabb 303. If you wish to leave messages for me, you may do so at the Office or, better still, you may contact me via E-Mail ( and in emergencies via telephone (736-2789).

    NOTE: If you a student with a documented disability on record and you would like to have a reasonable accommodation made for you in DEOMCRACY & DISOBEDIENCE, please contact me as soon as possible.





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    Last Modified: 09/02/07
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