Brandeis University, Philosophy Department
Fall 2004
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 cizenship 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 The Syllabus Online

Required Reading (Available at the Brandeis BookStore):

  • Plato, - - THE TRIAL AND DEATH OF SOCRATES, Dover Thrift Edition

  • Sophocles, - - ANTIGONE, Dover Thrift Edition

  • Thoreau, - - CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE AND OTHER ESSAYS, Dover Thrift Edition

  • Gandhi, - - ESSENTIAL GANDHI, Knopf

  • Martin Luther King, - - WHY WE CAN'T WAIT, Signet Classics

  • Robert Dahl, - - On DEMOCRACY, Yale Nota Bene

  • Stephen MacEdo, - - DELIBERATIVE POLITICS, Oxford University Press

  • Michael Walzer, - - WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AN AMERICAN, Marsilio Press

  • Dennis Thompson, - - JUST ELECTIONS, University of Chicago Press

  • Richard Leone, - - THE WAR ON OUR FREEDOMS, PublicAffairs

  • Peter Singer', - - THE ETHICS OF GLOBALIZATION, Yale University Press; 2nd edition


    Four papers are required on topics growing out of the readings and class discussions. The papers should be about 5-6 pages in length. 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.


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


    You shall also be asked to keep a journal throughout the Fall semester. The journal should not be used for note-taking or for jotting down quotations or for making commentaries on the readings (although you may wish to use a separate note-book for these tasks), but should be reserved exclusively to give and develop your own answers to certain basic questions in philosophy. Questions will arise and be identified during the course of lectures and discusssion and a list of questions will be handed out at various times and on various occasions. You may also meet this requirement by participating in the online forum A Bulletin Board has been set up for this purpose to enable you to go online and thrash out some of the especially knotty questions raised in our discussions. The Forum is part of the WebCT . You may meet the journal requirement by answering and responding to the questions as a participant in the online forum or by engaging in a combination of the two.


    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. The journal and/or participation in class and on the online forum 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 on Tuesdays and Thusdays from 3:10 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. and by appointment. My office is in the Rabb Graduate Center, Room 306. If you wish to leave messages for me, send me an e-mail me at>. The Teaching Fellows will also hold office hours. Those times will be announced. Tim Pershing may be reached at

    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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