Course Detail


Seminar in Philosophy

Fall 2015

Instructor: Layman

Topic: Political Liberty

Description: In his 1959 article, "Two Concepts of Liberty," Isaiah Berlin identifies two competing conceptions of political freedom, one positive and one negative. According to Berlin, positive freedom, among whose proponents he counts Hegel and Rousseau, is a matter of self- realization, while negative liberty, which Berlin finds in British liberalism, is simply the absence of interference. Since Berlin published his seminal piece, many philosophers have sought to develop and defend one of the two traditions that comprise Berlin's dichotomy, while others have challenged the validity of that dichotomy. In this seminar, we will work to understand and evaluate some of the most significant contributions to the contemporary literature on political liberty. In addition to interpretations of Berlin-style positive and negative liberty, we will consider feminist and neo-republican alternatives to the received positive/negative paradigm. We will also discuss scholarship that connects the problem of political freedom to related questions of democracy, legitimacy, and distributive justice.

Spring 2015

Instructor: Studtmann

Anarchism and the State

One of the fundamental questions within political philosophy concerns the relative merits of Anarchism and the State. In this course we will study two of the major anarcho-capitalist thinkers in the twentieth century – Murray Rothbard and David Friedman – and the most important political philosopher of the twentieth century, who also happens to be a proponent of the state – John Rawls. In the course of our study, we will address various fundamental political philosophical issues including but not limited to the nature and existence of rights and the proper account of justice. We will conclude the course by studying game theoretic models of both anarchism and the state.


This course can be repeated for credit given sufficiently distinct topics: check with the department chair. (Fall, Spring)