Social Philosophy

Derek A. Leben, Social Philosophy, Spring 2017

Course Description:

Other animals have what we might call ‘societies,’ but humans have developed a unique kind of society involving a specialized distribution of labor, central political authorities, trade, specialization, and class hierarchies. Social groups are even essential to how we identify ourselves as individuals. But which social organizations are better or worse? This course will present both classic and contemporary views on the nature of human societies- emphasizing both their virtues and their problems. It is divided into four units:

Unit I: A Flourishing Society- what are the essential features of human societies, and what are their virtues?

Unit II: Class and Individuals- how are social hierarchies created, especially economic classes? Are these hierarchies an acceptable part of a good society?

Unit III: Social Identities- how do race, gender, and other social categories become part of a person’s identity? Should people identify themselves and others by membership in a social category?

Unit IV: Social Justice- what are the unfair ways in which our society is structured, and how do we fix them?


All readings will be provided electronically through Courseweb! I am asking that, in appreciation for not needing to buy books, you please go to the trouble of reading the texts. You can pass the class without doing the readings, but why would you want to? These are some of the most important things ever written in human history, and now is your opportunity to read them!


Derek A. Leben, Social Philosophy, Fall 2013

Course Description:

An introduction to some traditional philosophical perspectives on the nature of society. Philosophers studied might include Plato, Hobbes, Marx, and twentieth-century social theorists.

Required Texts:

Republic by Plato
On Liberty by J.S. Mill
Anarchy, State, and Utopia by Robert Nozick

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