Philosophy 366 Political Philosophy Darwall Winter 2002


1. Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Rawls have all been called "social contract" theorists. Compare and contrast (and critically discuss) the ways in which the idea of a contract or agreement enters into the thought of two of these writers. Highlight similarities and differences and judge the relative success of each thinker’s use of the idea. Support your claims with reasons.

2. Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia offers a sharp challenge to Rawls’s "justice as fairness," both by making specific criticisms of Rawls’s theory and by setting out an alternative systematic view. Critically discuss this opposition to Rawls. What would be Rawls’s best response to Nozick’s criticisms and how effective would these be in your view. Give reasons to support your judgment.

3. "A thinker’s political philosophy always depends most fundamentally on his view of the moral or ethical nature of man (the person)." Critically discuss this claim with attention to the views of two of Hobbes, Rousseau, Marx, and Rawls. Include some discussion of what relevant criticisms each thinker would make of the other and how effective these would be. Support your judgments with reasons.

4. Nozick cites Kant’s idea that a person can never be used as a means only as important foundation for a libertarian political philosophy (e.g., p. 32). But this notion also seems implicit in Marx’s critique of capitalism as rife with exploitation and in Rousseau’s claim that his vision of popular sovereignty is one in which "each, uniting with all, nevertheless obey[s] only himself." Critically discuss this aspect of two of Marx, Nozick, and Rousseau, including of the criticisms that each would make of the other. Who do you think is truer to the underlying idea and why.

5. Critically discuss Marx’s critique of capitalism as involving various forms of alienation, distinguishing and analyzing the differences between these. How accurate is Marx’s analysis, in your view? Give reasons to support your assessment. Then discuss one of Nozick or Rawls as a response to this analysis. To the extent that you believe Marx’s analysis is cogent, do the political philosophies of either provide an effective response to any extent? Give reasons to support your judgment.

6. Critically discuss to what extent Nozick’s form of libertarianism is an accurate working out of Locke’s political philosophy. Do you think Locke would agree with Nozick’s analysis? Do you think he should agree? Give reasons to support your assessment.

7. "A just society would secure basic liberties as well as freedom from exploitation." Discuss this proposition with particular attention to the texts we have studied of at least two of Locke, Marx, Mill, and Rawls. (You may write on this question only if it was not the topic of your second paper.)

8. Now that you have studied all these thinkers, which do you find most convincing and why? Lay out the aspects of the thinker’s views you find most compelling and say what your reasons are for finding these ideas attractive. Then discuss the ideas of the thinker you find the most plausible alternative, that is, where another writer holds conflicting ideas that you find yourself genuinely attracted to. Again, give your reasons. Finally, say why you find the view of the first writer most convincing on balance.

9. Rousseau’s Social Contract makes a strong case for popular sovereignty as necessary for political legitimacy. Mill’s On Liberty makes a strong case for the necessity of protecting individual liberty in the face of a possible "tyranny of the majority." Write an essay in which you explore whether Rousseau’s and Mill’s ideas are in irreconcilable conflict here.