Dan Hausman
5197 Helen C. White Hall
263-5178; cell phone 354-6120
Office Hours:
Tuesday 1:00-2:00
Wednesday 1:30-2:30

Philosophy 555 Syllabus


This course is concerned with political philosophy, that is, with philosophical questions concerning political organizations -- mainly the state -- and their relations to individuals and non-political organizations. It address the ideals that should govern such organizations, the moral constraints on their actions, the sources and limits of their powers, the justification for their existence. It is concerned with freedoms, rights, equality, solidarity, legitimacy, social welfare, and especially justice. I have chosen to address the philosophical issues by focusing mainly on a selection of influential texts: Plato's Republic, Hobbes' Leviathan, Locke's Second Treatise of Government, Rousseau's Social Contract and Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, Mill's On Liberty, and Rawls' Justice as Fairness: A Restatement. Even though these are just a small and unrepresentative sample of the important works of political philosophy of the last 2500 years (from the Western world), we will be unable to read them all in their entirety. Nevertheless, I believe that looking at texts from different periods provides an important perspective that is lost in an exclusively contemporary treatment of the issues.

Course Goals:

1. The main goal is introduce students to the central problems in political philosophy, the principal solutions that have been offered, and the main arguments bearing on these solutions. The subject is too large for a one-semester course, and we will not do justice to the depth of many of the questions or the subtleties of the answers philosophers have defended.

2. By reading classic texts in political philosophy, we shall see some of the ways in which political philosophy is connected to (a) other areas of philosophy (especially epistemology), (b) empirical knowledge (particularly concerning the social sciences), and (c) historical contingencies.

3. In addition, this course aims to help students to develop their abilities to present and to criticize arguments both in discussion and, in particular, in writing: Every good essay, regardless of the subject matter, is an extended argument for some thesis or conclusion. The only thing special about philosophy essays is the extent to which one focuses upon the logic of the argument. This course aims to help students to write more sharply organized, focused and effective essays.

The extent to which these course goals can be achieved is, of course, largely up to you, but it is important that you appreciate what I am trying to accomplish. If you cannot see how any particular lecture or reading assignment relates to the goals of the course, please be sure to ask about it. In abstract matters it is especially important and especially difficult to be clear on what the point is. Keep asking "So what?" Since this course is more concerned with mastering skills than with merely acquiring information, it demands your active participation, and I think that the interest and importance of the questions we will be addressing will reward that participation, too.

Note: Students are encouraged to discuss problems concerning the teaching of this course with the instructor. If students wish to pursue a complaint with someone else, they should contact James Anderson, Assistant to the Chairperson, Philosophy Department, 5185 H.C. White Hall, 263-5162.


Course Web Site:

A variety of material, including the syllabus will abe available on the web. Some of it will be on a public web page: http://philosophy.wisc.edu/hausman/555Spring2009.htm. Other resources (such as student access to grades and discussion forums) will be available via the Learn@UW web site, https://uwmad.courses.wisconsin.edu/.

Course Requirements:

There will be two substantial essays, a midterm, a final examination, and five-minute essays. Your semester grade will depend on the essays (60%), the midterm (15%), the final (25%). In addition there will be an attendance bonus or penalty depending on your completion or make-ups of five-minute essays.

LECTURES AND DISCUSSION SECTIONS Attendance is technically optional, but the five minute essays provide you with a grade incentive for regular attendance. I welcome questions and comments and hope that we will have extensive and useful discussion.



EXAMS Both the midterm and the final will consist of a mix of short-answer and essay questions. The final will be cumulative but will emphasize material covered after the midterm.


WARNING!! Philosophy challenges complacency. It’s hard to know what the truth is concerning hard questions like the ones we will be addressing this semester.

Course Outline: The following outline is both tentative and ambitious. I will not be surprised if we fall behind and have to make changes.

Tuesday, January 19: Introduction: discussion of the goals, structure and requirements of the course; some introductory words on justice

Thursday, January 21: What is the point of political philosophy? and Introductory words on Social Justice

Rush Limbaugh, Speech at 2009 CPAC meeting (xeroxed reader)
Swift, Introduction and chapter 1, pp. 1-21 only.

Tuesday, January 26: Social Justice: Rawls, Nozick, and desert

Swift, ch. 1, pp. 21-48.

Thursday, January 28: Justice and self-interest

Plato, Republic, Book II (xerox)

Tuesday, February 2 : What good is justice? On the virtues of the state.

Plato, Republic, Books III and IV excerpts (xerox)

Thursday, February 4 : Concluding words on Plato; the imperfections of government

Plato, Republic, Book VIII (xerox)

*Tuesday, February 9 : Hobbes: Human nature and the state

Hobbes, Leviathan, ch. 1-3, 6, 9-11 (xerox, pp. 1-18)

Ungraded rough draft of introductory paper due. In Book II of The Republic, Glaucon and Adeimantus sketch a contractualist view of the authority of the state and the justification for obedience to law, which in their view and Socrates' view, implies that there is nothing truly just about the state or its laws. Exactly what are they concerned about and to what extent does the ideal state that Socrates describes respond to their qualms?

Thursday, February 11: Hobbes: State of Nature and Laws of Nature

Hobbes, Leviathan, ch. 13-16 (xerox, pp. 18-33)

*Tuesday, February 16: Hobbes: On the role of government

Hobbes, Leviathan, ch. 17-21, 26, 28, 30 (several of which are abridged) (xerox pp. 33-54)

Introductory Paper Due

Thursday, February 18: Locke: State of Nature, Laws of Nature

Locke, Second Treatise, chapters 1 - 5.

Tuesday, February 23: Locke: On the nature, origin, and ends of government

Locke, Second Treatise, chapters 6-10.

Thursday, February 25: Popular sovereignty and the limits of government

Locke, Second Treatise, chapters 11 -19.

Tuesday, March 2 : Concluding words on Locke, and introduction to Rousseau

Locke, Second Treatise
Rousseau, Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, Preface and Part I (pp. 33-60)

Thursday, March 4 : Society and the State: Why Is Government Needed and How is it possible?

Rousseau, Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, Part II (pp. 60-81), The Social Contract, Book I, ch. 1-4, pp. 141-47.

Tuesday, March 9 : The Social Contract and the Foundations of Morality

Rousseau, The Social Contract, Book I, ch. 5-end, and Book II (pp. 147-72)

Thursday, March 11: On the limitations of government and individual rights

Rousseau, The Social Contract, Book III, ch. 1-4, 14-18, and Book IV, ch. 1 and 2 (pp. 173-80, and 197-207)

Tuesday, March 16 : Midterm

Thursday, March 18: Liberty and freedom of speech

Mill, On Liberty, chapters 1 and 2.

Tuesday, March 23 : Utilitarianism, Individuality and Liberty

Mill, On Liberty, chapters 3 and 4

Thursday, March 25: Mill's principle of liberty and applications

Mill, On Liberty, chapter 5.
Mill, Excerpts from Considerations on Representative Government (xerox reader)

Tuesday, April 6: Modern contractualism

Rawls, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement, Part I (pp. 1-38)

*Thursday, April 8 : Rawls' Principles of Justices

Rawls, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement, Part II (pp. 39-79)

Rough Draft of Term Paper Due

Tuesday, April 13: More on Rawls' Principles and their contractualist defense

Rawls, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement, Part III (only pp. 80-97).

*Thursday, April 15: Concepts of liberty

Swift, Political Philosophy, pp. 52-68.

Polished version of Term Paper Due.

Tuesday, April 20: Freedom and markets

Swift, Political Philosophy, pp. 68-90.

Thursday, April 22: Equality

Swift Political Philosophy, pp. 91-118.

Tuesday, April 27: Communitarian Objections to Liberalism

Swift, Political Philosophy, pp. 133-160

Thursday, April 29 : Communitarianism and liberalism

Swift, Political Philosophy, pp. 160-77.

*Tuesday, May 4 : Democracy: What is it?

Swift, Political Philosophy, pp. 179-97.

Optional term paper revision due

Thursday, May 6: What's good about democracy?

Swift, Political Philosophy, pp. 197-222.

Five-Minute Essays:

By distributing to you brief and often provocative questions and giving you five minutes to jot down your thoughts, these assignments encourage more active and thoughtful discussion.




Name of student whose notes were used:

Date of the lecture:

Topic of the lecture:

Readings discussed:

Precis of the lecture, including careful presentation of any explicitly formulated arguments.



I prefer a format where I lecture and discussion then develops from your questions. That means that you need to ask questions! And since the material is not easy and I am not always right or clear, you should have lots of questions. Please feel free to ask them! I will regularly email you with discussion questions, which will also be posted on the public web page. Studying these will help you to get more out of the readings and will contribute to better class discussion.

Office Hours:

If my office hours, (Tuesday 1-2 and Wednesday 1:30-2:30) are not convenient, see me after class to arrange another time to meet. My job is to help you to master the skills and material with which this course is concerned, so feel free to come see me.

Use of Email:

Email can be a great convenience, but it can get out of hand. Feel free to email me at dhausman@wisc.edu with any specific questions you have about assignments or requirements. If the question and answer are relevant to others, I will post them on the course discussion page. If you do not want your question posted, you should let me know. Otherwise I will assume that in emailing me, you’ve given me permission to post your question. That way I can serve as many students as possible. Some questions are not appropriate. For example, "Could you please restate the last three lectures?" And some questions are better discussed in person than over email. I’ll do the best I can to be helpful.

A Note on Plagiarism:

Plagiarism is a serious offense. All sources and assistance used in preparing your papers must be precisely and explicitly acknowledged. If you have any questions about what constitutes plagiarism, please come talk with me. Ignorance of what constitutes plagiarism is not a defense. It is your responsibility to be sure. The web creates special risks. Cutting and pasting even a few words from a web page or paraphrasing material without a reference constitutes plagiarism. If you are not sure how to refer to something you find on the internet, you can always give the URL.  It is generally better to quote than to paraphrase from material on the web, because in the absence of page numbers it can be hard to find passages that are paraphrased rather than quoted.

The role of the readings in the course:

Unlike some professors, I usually do not usually devote my lectures to the exposition and discussion of the readings, but in this course I will probably pay close attention to passages in the classic texts. So please try to bring the readings with you. The midterm and final examinations will ask not only that you have mastered the material in the lectures but that you be able to relate the arguments in the lectures to the arguments in the readings and to respond intelligently to questions concerning the important arguments in the readings.

Some Hints on Reading Philosophy:

Although you may not be able fully to understand every reading assignment completely, that is the goal. Here are some detailed hints about how to achieve it:

1. Use your highlighter very sparingly. It is much more useful to pencil in marginal notes summarizing or querying specific points than to highlight passages. Actively engaging the author is much more valuable than merely trying to assimilate the prose. And if you do highlight, only highlight a small percentage of the text. (There is not much point to highlighting everything, apart from adding color to the page!)

2. The assignments are reasonably short, and you should plan on reading the assignments at least twice. During the first reading you should ask yourself:

a. What is the author's position?

b. What is the general structure of the paper? Is it a collection of separate arguments, or does it aim to make one main argument?

c. What are the author's main assumptions? (Where is the author coming from?)

d. Against whom does the author take him/herself to be arguing? What is the context in which the piece was written?

e. What is the main line of argument (or what are the main lines of argument)?

f. What objections does the author address and how successful is the author in answering them?

g. How does the author's position relate to your views? To what extent does the author reinforce or challenge your views?

h. How do the author's arguments relate to the arguments developed in lecture and in other reading assignments? What criticisms would the author make of arguments developed in lecture or in other readings? To what extent is the position of the author open to criticisms made in lecture or in other readings?

During the second reading of the assignment, you should proceed more slowly and critically. Rather than merely asking questions about what the author's purposes, organization, and argument are, you should try to assess all of these and particularly the author's arguments

General Directions on Writing the Papers:

Style and references:

1. You are expected to give references when you cite detailed claims or arguments made in the readings, and your papers should, where appropriate, show familiarity with relevant materials from the lectures or reading for the course. But you are expected to write essays, not examination answers. So don't introduce irrelevant matters to demonstrate that you have done the course readings. (But you must not ignore relevant supporting arguments and, particularly, objections in the readings.) Cite the readings only when they are relevant. Be sure that your paper is a well organized argument for some clearly articulated thesis.

2. When you quote, paraphrase, or make use of a point made by others, be sure to document the source. I am not particular about what style you use. All that matters is that your references be precise and usable. If you say that Mill says that democracy is for pigs, it should be clear on what page Mill supposedly says that. The easiest way to give a reference is simply to put the source and page number in parenthesis. Papers without clear references (where needed) will be marked down.

3. Papers must be typed or printed double-spaced with wide margins (at least one inch) on all sides, so that there is plenty of room for marginal comments. Be sure to keep copies of your papers. Please do not use binders.

4. Papers for the course must be essentially correct in their "mechanical" aspects-- spelling, punctuation, grammar, typing, and so forth. Papers with more than 3 or 4 errors per page will be marked down by one full letter grade, and if they are very messy, they will not only be penalized, but they will also be returned for correction before they are graded. Obviously spelling and typing are of no intrinsic importance, but messy papers are hard to assess; and it is not unfair to expect you to take responsibility for making sure that your papers are correct in these regards. If you have difficulty with the mechanical features of paper writing, please get someone to proofread your paper before you hand it in.

Hints on Essay Writing:

1. The paper topics are not recipes for writing your essays. You have to decide what it is that you want to maintain in your essays. Do not regard the paper topic as an essay examination question. Although your papers must be on the assigned topic, the point is to write a well-organized and unified argument for some clearly enunciated conclusion.

2. The task of writing a good essay is virtually identical with the task of thinking out a clear thesis or conclusion that you want to defend and then elaborating and defending it. You should be able to say clearly and precisely not only what your paper is about, but also what your paper maintains. Be sure each of your papers has both a thesis--that it asserts something definite--and a logical organization. Once it is clear what you what to show, you will have a criterion to decide what is relevant and the basis for organizing your paper. Can you put your main point clearly in a sentence? Can you say clearly in a sentence what your paper shows or proves? Are all the parts of your paper relevant to your main point? Is the structure of your argument clear? No good essay merely summarizes things you have read and then offers your remarks or points of comparison or differences you noticed. Every acceptable essay integrates its remarks into an argument of its own. Exposition of the views of others should always be part of your argument for your thesis.

3. Note that a well-organized paper is not merely orderly. For example, a paper that argues that Rousseau argues for claims 1, 2, and 3 and that one can defend claim 1 as follows, claim 2 as follows, but not claim 3 is certainly orderly, and it certainly has a thesis. But it would only be well-organized--truly one paper rather than three--if the discussions of the three claims bore some relations to one another and if the paper added up to some unified and substantive statement.

4. Avoid first paragraphs that say things such as, "First I will discuss the views of Locke and Mill. Then I will discuss their strengths and weaknesses. Then I will compare their conclusions and formulate my opinion." Passages such as these make it sound as if your argument will begin only on the last page. Exposition of the views of others has to find its place within your argument, not as a preface to your argument. If you think in terms of what you want to establish, and outline your paper in terms of stages in your argument, your essay will be much stronger.

5. Try to say exactly what you mean. Pay careful attention to your language. Sentences such as "Rawls is a mistaken principle" are unacceptably careless. (Rawls, like other human beings, could not possibly be a principle.) Value your words and use them accurately.

6. To help in organizing your thinking, you should attempt to answer the following three questions:

1. What is your thesis--that is, what is it that you are trying to maintain or show or prove? What is your main argument for your thesis?

2. What is the most important objection to or criticism of your thesis that you need to consider? Formulate that objection or criticism as an argument.

3. What is your argument in response to the objection or criticism mentioned in answer to question 2?

If you cannot answer these questions clearly and easily, then there are serious problems with your paper. Do not regard your papers as finished or acceptable until each clearly implies answers to the above questions. (But an essay is not, of course, a list of answers to any set of questions.) Taking the task of answering these questions seriously can make a big difference in the quality of your paper.

Sprecial Considerations in Writing Philosophy Papers:

1. In a political debate, the point is to win, and one consequently tries to make the arguments of one's opponents sound as ridiculous and worthless as possible. In a philosophical debate (or in writing a philosophy essay), in contrast, the objective is to learn the truth. So you should try to make the arguments conflicting with your views as compelling as possible, before you answer them. If there are any objections to what you are maintaining that you cannot answer, then you cannot be sure that you are right. Work hard at trying to see "the other side".

2. Although many sociological and historical facts are relevant to the issues you are addressing in your essays, be careful to keep your focus philosophical. If you aren't sure whether your papers are philosophical or not, check with me.

Seeking Help :

When working on the final versions of your essays, feel free to come to your teaching assistant or me for help. You do not need to do further research, but you can consult with us if you want references for further reading.

There are some excellent resources on the web for writing philosophy papers. I particularly recommend:

www.sfu.ca/philosophy/writing.htm This is brief, clear, and helpful.

http://www.princeton.edu/~jimpryor/general/writing.html Excellent, but much lengthier.

www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/philosophy.html For those who are serious about philosophy.

www.cofc.edu/~portmord/tips.htm Contains lots of references for further study.

A terrific general source on writing is Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. The first edition is available on the web at http://www.bartleby.com/141/

Paper Grading Criteria:


An "A" paper typically has all of the following virtues, although in exceptional cases papers with only five of the six virtues might merit an "A"

  1. It has a well-defined thesis and a logical organization.
  2. It shows good sense, intellectual honesty and struggle. It attempts to defend a defensible thesis and takes seriously objections to that thesis.
  3. It is well-informed. If there are passages in the assigned readings for the course that are particularly relevant to the matters under discussion in the essay, these are cited and discussed. The paper shows an awareness of conceptual dis-tinctions and clarifications developed in the course.
  4. It is intelligent, logical, and careful. The argument is carefully articulated and developed. Obvious difficulties are anticipated and answered, and gaps are closed.
  5. It is significant. The issues discussed, although typically matters of detail, are of some importance, and their importance is made clear within the essay.
  6. The paper is written in a lucid and grammatical style.

A "B" paper has the following virtues:

  1. As before.
  2. As before.
  3. As before.
  4. It is logical and not careless. The argument is well articulated.
  5. It is not trivial. The essay provides some motivation for its topic.
  6. The paper is grammatical.

A "C" paper has at least the following virtues:

  1. It is orderly and has some focus.
  2. It shows some serious concern with the issues it deals with.
  3. It is not uninformed. Where relevant, it shows awareness of the content of the course.
  4. There are some definite and cogent arguments in the essay.
  5. The paper has some point.
  6. The paper is readable and minimally grammatical.

A "D" paper

  1. Has some intelligible organization.
  2. Shows some concern with the issues it deals with.
  3. Shows minimal awareness of the course content.
  4. Makes some relevant and sensible argument
  5. Has some point.
  6. Is comprehensible.