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PHILOS 1B03 Philos,Law&Society

Academic Year: Winter 2017

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. James Sikkema

Email: sikkej@mcmaster.ca

Office: University Hall 314A

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 26465


Office Hours: By Appointment

Course Objectives:

Course Description

This course introduces students to philosophy by investigating questions regarding the interplay between political organization, morality and legality.  By exploring foundational readings in the history of philosophy the course will inquire into the nature and extent of political and legal authority, individual rights and freedoms, collective civic responsibilities, war and peace, and social justice.

Course Objectives

By the end of the course students will:

  • Have a basic understanding of the philosophical foundations of political organization, legal authority and moral responsibility
  • Be able to critically evaluate philosophical ideas and their implications
  • Become better readers of, and writers on, philosophical texts

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Oxford Readers: Political Thought, edited by Michael Rosen and Jonathan Wolff.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. (Available in the Campus Bookstore

Method of Assessment:

  • Tutorial Attendance & Participation – 10%

  • Essay Assignment 1 – 15% - Due @ 11:59 February 6

  • Mid-Term Exam – 20% - In Class on February 15

  • Essay Assignment 2 – 25% - Due @ 11:59 March 20

  • Final Exam – 30% - TBA

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

A Note on the Text and Lectures

The text selected for the course consists of primary readings from philosophers who have in some way, shape or form, made significant contributions to political, legal and ethical thought generally, and in democratic societies particularly.  While the selections are, for the most part, relatively short, they are quite often complex and, consequently, difficult to understand.  They will, therefore, and for the most part, require a slow, contemplative, and critical reading.  While the lectures will be dedicated to elucidating the content of these readings, they will not suffice as a replacement for them.  Lectures will be delivered in Power Point and will largely consist of textual analysis interspersed with concrete examples and relevant media references wherever applicable.  Lectures will be posted to Avenue to Learn after class.

A Note on Tutorial Attendance and Participation

While being physically present in your tutorial section is a necessary condition for your tutorial grade it is not, in itself, sufficient.  Given that, 1) the purpose of tutorials is to provide you with a forum for deepening your understanding of the ideas we will be investigating in the lectures, and 2) tutorials largely involve a dialogical format, you are required to come to tutorial prepared to participate.  This requires that you have attended the lectures and have done the readings on which they will be based.

A Note on Essay Assignments

Each of the two essay assignments will be posted to Avenue to Learn on the Monday two weeks before their due dates.  Given their short length, narrow focus, and defined grading criteria, this should be plenty of time to complete a quality essay.  The essays should be uploaded to Avenue to Learn before midnight of the due date.

A Note on Exams

Both exams will consist solely of short answer questions and will be based on the assigned readings for the course and the lectures dedicated to their elucidation.  The Mid-Term will consist of 10 short answer questions, of which you must answer 8, and the Final Exam will consist of 25 short answer questions, of which you must answer 20.  While the Final Exam will be cumulative, the bulk of the questions will preponderate toward the latter half of the term’s coursework.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Class and Reading Schedule

January 4 – Introduction

Reading: None


January 9 & 11 – Human Nature


2. Hobbes, The Misery of the Natural Condition of Mankind

3. Locke, The State of Nature and the State of War

5. Rousseau, The Noble Savage

6. Owen, Man’s Character is Formed for Him (read to 2nd ¶ on p.25)

7. Marx & Engels, Man as Productive Being


January 16 & 18 – The Nature of Woman and the Social Contract


14. Wollstonecraft, The Rights of Women

15. Mill, The Subjection of Women

17. Jaggar, Socialist Feminism and the Standpoint of Women

20. Hobbes, Creating Leviathan

18. & 21. Locke, Political Power & Express and Tacit Consent

22. Rousseau, Natural Freedom and the Freedom of the Citizen


January 23 & 25 – Authority, Law and Dis/Obedience


25. Bentham, Utility as the True Foundation

29. Wolff, The Conflict of Autonomy and Authority

30. Plato, The Duty of Obedience

31. Thoreau, The Duty of Disobedience

32. King, An Unjust Law is No Law

33. Rawls, Civil Disobedience

*First Essay Assignment Given Jan. 23*


January 30 & February 1 – The Individual and the State


36. Rousseau, The General Will

37. Kant, Freedom and Equality

38. Mill, The Democratic Citizen

39. Rawls, Majority Rule

40. Lenin, Bourgeois and Proletarian Democracy

41. Pateman, Participatory Democracy


February 6 & 8 – Tyranny and Republicanism and Film


43. Madison, The Danger of Faction

44. de Tocqueville, The Tyranny of the Majority

47. Locke, Legislative, Executive, and Federative Powers

*First Essay Assignment Due @ 11:59, Feb. 6*


February 13 & 15 – Film and *Mid-Term Exam In Class, Feb. 15*

Reading: None




February 27 & March 1 – Positive and Negative Liberty


49. Constant, The Liberty of the Ancients and the Liberty of the Moderns

50. Berlin, Two Concepts of Liberty

51. Taylor, In Defence of Positive Freedom

52. Dworkin, No Right to Liberty


March 6 & 8 – Morality and Legality


53. Mill, One Simple Principle

54. Stephen, The Consequences of Liberty

55. Devlin, The Enforcement of Morals

56. Hart, The Changing Sense of Morality

*Second Essay Assignment Given, Mar. 6*


March 13 & 15 – Freedom of Expression and Tolerance


57. Locke, The Futility of Intolerance

58. Scanlon, Free Expression and the Authority of the State

59. Waldron, The Satanic Verses

60. MacKinnon, Only Words


March 20 & 22 – Private Property and Rights of Labor


73. Locke, Labour as the Basis of Property

76. Spencer, The Right to the Use of the Earth

91. Hume, The Impossibility of Equality

92. Marx, From Each According to His Abilities, to Each According to His Needs

*Second Essay Assignment Due @ 11:59, Mar. 20*


March 27 & 29 – Distributive Justice


95. Rawls, Two Principles of Justice

97. Dworkin, Equality of Resources


April 3 & 5 – Peace and War and Review


98. Kant, Perpetual Peace

100. Waltzer, Just and Unjust War

101. Nagel, The Limits of Warfare

Other Course Information:

Modification of course outlines


McMaster University reserves the right to change or revise information contained in course outlines in extreme circumstances.  If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes.  It is the responsibility of students to check regularly their primary email account via their @mcmaster.ca alias and course websites.


McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)


In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work.  Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015.  If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean’s office.