Academic year
Andrew Williams
Departamento de Filosofía
Universitat Pompeu Fabra
Master courses
Module 5. Research Seminar in Practical Philosophy
2016-09-27 - 2016-11-29
Tue. 15-18
UPF - Campus Ciutadella - Roger de Llúria Building - Room 40.275


This course examines the continuing relevance of some of the greatest and most influential figures in the history of modern political philosophy. To do so, it examines the answers their work suggests to various central questions that arise in reflecting on political life.


More specifically, we shall consider at least four of the following five authors: Thomas Hobbes; John Locke; Jean-Jacques Rousseau; Karl Marx; and John Stuart Mill. The questions we shall address will include the following.


  • Do we need a state, and, if so, why?
  • Under which conditions, if any, do we have a moral duty to obey a government’s commands,
  • Under which conditions, if any, do we have a moral right to overthrow an illegitimate government?
  • Do individuals possess rights that the state has a moral duty to respect and protect?
  • How, if at all, can toleration be justified?
  • What’s wrong with paternalism?
  • What’s so good about democracy?
  • Can private property be justified? If so, how should it be distributed? If not, why not?
  • How do capitalism, socialism, and communism differ? Are there good reasons to favour one system over another?




Here are some primary texts and provisional secondary readings.


Primary Texts

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (ed. Edwin Curley)

John Locke, Two Treatises of Government (ed. Peter Laslett)

John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration (ed. James Tully)

Jean Jacques Rousseau, 'The social Contract' and Other Later Political Writings (ed. Victor Gourevitch)

J. Elster (ed.), Karl Marx: A Reader

S. Mill, On Liberty and Other Essays (ed. John Gray)


Secondary Texts


Joseph Raz, ‘Authority and Justification’, Philosophy & Public Affairs (1985)

Warren Quinn, ‘The Right to Threaten and the Right to Punish’, Philosophy & Public Affairs (1985)

Michael Otsuka, Libertarianism without Inequality, ‘Introduction’ and Chapter 1, the latter of which originally appeared in Philosophy & Public Affairs (1998): 65 - 92

Frederick Neuhouser, ‘Rousseau’s Critique of Economic Inequality’, Philosophy & Public Affairs (2013)

A. Cohen, Karl Marx’s Theory of History: A Defence

Philippe Van Parijs and Robert van der Veen, ‘A Capitalist Road to Communism’, Theory and Society (1986)

Joshua Cohen, Rousseau – A Free Community of Equals

Samuel Freeman, ‘Property-Owning Democracy and the Difference Principle’, Analyse & Kritik (2012)

Jeremy Waldron, ‘Dignity and Defamation: the Visibility of Hate’, Harvard Law Review (2009), Lectures 1 and 2

David Velleman, ‘Against the Right to Die’, 2004 revised version available at []

Arthur Ripstein, ‘Beyond the Harm Principle’, Philosophy & Public Affairs (2006)


The course will be taught via interactive lectures on the primary texts and seminar-style discussion of the secondary texts.