My teaching is tightly integrated with my research. Many of my interests arose through teaching, and my research informs the design of all my courses. It was, for example, by teaching a graduate seminar on Kant’s Doctrine of Right that I came to write about it. My book manuscript on theory and practice in political philosophy defends a conception of the discipline and subject matter of political philosophy, and so thoroughly informs my introduction of political philosophy. What follows are descriptions, syllabi, and sample handouts for three courses that I designed and teach regularly.
Introduction to Political Philosophy
In the first portion of this course we investigate what it is for a society to be just. In what sense are the members of a just society equal? What freedoms does a just society protect? Must a just society be a democracy? What economic arrangements are compatible with justice? In the second portion of the class we will consider questions about the realities of injustice in our political community, focusing on racial inequality in the U.S. We will ask questions such as the following. Is racial inequality in the U.S unjust? Through what mechanisms is racially inequality perpetuated? How might it be overcome? Who is responsible for rectifying these problems of injustice? What agents of change might move us towards us a more just society? What obstacles do they face? This course draws on a diverse set of philosophers to raise fundamental questions about justice and the relation of theory to practice, bringing out discussion all the way back from the shining city on the hill to the South Side of Chicago. Fully one half of the figures on the syllabus are philosophers of color, with a substantial unit on the work of Elizabeth Anderson.
Justice at Work
In this class we explore questions of justice that arise in and around work. We consider concepts such as exploitation and domination as they apply to workers under capitalism. We explore the foundation of the right to strike, and the right to form a union. We consider the merits of different justifications for workplace democracy and worker control. We explore the role of domestic injustice in sustaining wage inequality for women, and consider the relationship of women’s oppression to choice. Finally, we consider the length of the workday and the right to leisure time. We explore these topics through a variety of normative lenses, drawing on cutting edge work in the liberal, neo-republican, Marxist, feminist, and human rights traditions.
The Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights
In this class we explore the philosophical foundations of human rights, investigating theories of how our shared humanity in the context of an interdependent world gives rise to obligations of justice. In the first weeks of the course, we begin by asking what rights are, how they are distinguished from other part of morality, and what role they play in our social and political life. We consider two theories of rights in general: the interest theory of rights and the second-personal theory of rights. But rights come in many varieties, and we are interested in human rights in particular. In later weeks, we will ask what makes something a human right, and how are human rights different from other kinds of rights. We consider a number of contemporary philosophers who attempt to answer this question, including James Griffin, Joseph Raz, John Rawls, John Tasioulas, and Martha Nussbaum. Throughout we will be asking questions such as, “What makes something a human right?” “What role does human dignity play in grounding our human rights?” “Are human rights historical?” “What role does the nation and the individual play in our account of human rights?” “When, if ever, can one nation legitimately intervene in the affairs of another nation on humanitarian grounds?” “How can we respect the demands of justice while also respecting cultural difference?”