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PHILOS 1B03 Philosophy, Law and Society

Academic Year: Fall 2017

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Matthew Grellette

Email: grellemj@mcmaster.ca

Office: University Hall 308

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23462


Office Hours: Wednesday, 4:30pm-5:30pm UH 308

Course Objectives:

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.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

  1. Oxford Readers: Political Thought, edited by Michael Rosen and Jonathan Wolff.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. (Available in the Campus Bookstore)
  2. Readings posted on Avenue to Learn

Method of Assessment:

Tutorial Participation………………………7.5%


Mid Term…..……….……..………… . . . ..20%

Essay….……………………. . . . . . . . . . . ..30%

Exam………..…… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . .35%


Tutorial Participation:

Students will be marked for their tutorial attendance and for their participation in tutorial discussions.


Students will write a take home mid-term test after the first month of class.  This test will cover all of the material covered up to this point in the term.


Students will be assigned a set of essay questions, of which they must answer only one.  These questions will be posted after the mid-term is returned.  The length of the paper is 1500-2000 words.  More detail will be provided in class.

Final Exam:

The final exam deals with all of the material covered after the mid-term.  The date will be determined by the Registrar.


This course uses Avenue to Learn to post course readings, as well as to collect assignments.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late Work:

Late assignments will be penalized 5 marks out of 100 per day late.  Missed assignments will be dealt with via the MSAF procedures (described below).


Overly Long Work

Assignments will be deducted 5% of the assignment grade for every 100 words they go over the assignment word limit.

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:

Course Schedule:

Week 1: Sept 4, 5                    Class introduction and orientation lecture


Week 2: Sept. 12, 13                Human Nature

                                                Hobbes — ‘Misery of the Natural Condition of Man’

                                                Locke — ‘State of Nature and the State of War’

                                                Kropotkin — ‘Mutual Aid’

                                                Owens — ‘Man’s Character is Formed for Him’


Week 3: Sept. 19, 20                Man’s Nature and Women’s Nature/ Racial Natures

                                                Plato — ‘Women as Weak Partners’

                                                Aristotle — ‘Separate Spheres’

                                                Rousseau — ‘Likeness and Unlikeness of the Sexes’

                                                Wollstonecraft — ‘Rights of Women’

                                                Mill — ‘Subjection of Women’

                                                Jagger — ‘Socialist Feminism’

                                                Darwin — ‘Descent of Man’ (Avenue),

                                                De Bois — ‘Conservation of the Races’  (Avenue)

                                                Fanon —  ‘Black Skin, White Masks’  (Avenue)


Week 4: Sept. 26, 27                The Social Contract and Political Authority

                                                Hobbes — ‘Creating Leviathan’

                                                Locke —  ‘Express and Tacit Consent’

                                                Hume — ‘Irrelevance of Consent’

                                                Bentham — ‘Utility as the True Foundation’  

                                                Hegel — ‘The Priority of the State’


Week 5: Oct.3, 4                      Anarchy and Civil Disobedience

                                                Bakunin — ‘Science and the People’

                                                Wolff — ‘Conflict of Autonomy and Authority’

                                                Plato — ‘Duty of Obedience’

                                                Thoreau — ‘Duty of Disobedience’

                                                King — ‘An Unjust Law is No Law’

                                                Rawls — ‘Civil Disobedience’


                                                Mid-Term Assigned (4th)



                        Mid-Term Break - Oct 9-15




Week 6: Oct. 17, 18                 Democracy and its Difficulties

                                                Plato — Ruling as a Skill

                                                Frederick the Great — ‘The Enlightened Despot

                                                Rousseau — ‘The General Will’

                                                Kant — ‘Freedom and Equality’

                                                Aristotle — ‘Rule of the People and the Rule of Law’

                                                Madison — ‘The Dangers of Faction’

                                                de Toqueville — ‘Tyranny of the Majority’


                                                Mid-Term due (18th)


Week 7: Oct. 24, 25                Liberty, Law, and Morality

                                                Constant — ‘Liberty of the Ancients and Liberty of the Moderns’

                                                Mill — ‘One Simple Principle’

                                                Fitzjames Stephens — ‘ Consequences of Liberty’

                                                Devlin — ‘Enforcement of Morals’

                                                Hart — ‘Changing Sense of Morality’


                                                Essay Assigned (24th)



Week 8: Oct. 31, Nov. 1           Rights

                                                Bentham — ‘Nonsense on Stilts’

                                                Marx — ‘Rights of Egoistic Man’

                                                Nozick — ‘Rights as Side Constraints’

                                                Dworkin — ‘Taking Rights Seriously’



Week 9: Nov. 7, 8                    Toleration and Free Expression

                                                Locke — ‘Futility of Intolerance’

                                                Scanlon — ‘Free Expression and Authority of the State’

                                                Waldron — ‘The Satanic Verses’

                                                MacKinnon — ‘Only Words’



Week 10: Nov. 14, 15              Punishment

                                                Murphy — ‘Placing Blame’  (Avenue)

                                                Bentham — ‘Rationale of Punishment’ (Avenue)

                                                Plato — ‘Laws’

                                                Morris — ‘Paternalistic Theory of Punishment’ (Avenue)

                                                Bianchi — ‘Abolition and Asymmetry’ (Avenue)                   



Week 11: Nov. 21, 22             Distributive Justice

                                                Kant — ‘Principles of Political Right’

                                                Marx — ‘From Each According to His Abilities…’

                                                Rawls — ‘Two Principles of Justice’

                                                O’Neill — ‘Lifeboat Earth’


                                                Essay Due (22nd)


Week 12: Nov. 28, 29              Peace and War

                                                Kant — ‘Perpetual Peace’

                                                Cobden — ‘Civilizing Influence of Commerce’

                                                Walzer — ‘Just and Unjust War’

                                                Nagel — ‘Limits of Warfare’



Week 13: Dec. 5, 6                  Wrap up and Review