This course will focus on works of three thinkers central to the modern Western social contract tradition: Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
In addition to working through the details of their conceptions of the social contract, we will also explore other aspects of their philosophical thought that inform their political philosophy (e.g., their views on human nature, moral psychology, and philosophical method, etc.). We will also see how others in the period, such as David Hume and Mary Astell, critiqued their views.
Students taking this course should be willing to:
— work through complex historical texts to identify, articulate, and analyze arguments and positions in them;
— actively participate in class by contributing their thoughts and questions about the texts, arguments, and philosophical issues;
— work together with others in small and large groups during class to reach a better understanding of the material;
— practice expressing their thoughts clearly both in writing and orally in class; and
— question their own assumptions about human nature, the nature of individual rights, the source of government authority, and the meaning of political ideals such as liberty, equality, and justice.