Monday, January 6, 2014

Phm 2300 Syllabus (in progress)

Alfredo Triff Ph.D.
(305) 237-7554
Room 3604-28
Text: Political Thought, edited by Michael Rosen and Jonathan Wolf.


To become familiar with contemporary political-philosophical trends & stimulate the problematization of political issues.


Depending of 6 or 12 week course we have 3 or 4 tests (each 15 points). Comments to blog posts (20 points). Class attendance, participation and effort 10 points. The breakdown is a qualitative approximation. My exams are multiple choice.

Attendance is mandatory. 3 non-excused absences are permitted. each absence thereafter will lower the participation grade by a 1/3 of a grade. missing exams must be justified by a doctor’s note or the equivalent. under no circumstances a student will take two exams in my office!

Reading the assignments is crucial. Not reading the assignment and coming to class to absorb what someone else read is a form free-ride that will not work in this class.


Political Philosophy refers to the philosophical problematization of politics. Think of an umbrella for concepts such as liberty, the people, property, rights, law, justice, equality, economic distribution, etc. Since by fiat we come to a world of pre existing political situations, philosophy wants to understand and propose what makes a government legitimate. As you can see, this is a complicated analysis, given the many different --competing-- political trends and projects.

If we judge the existing literature, philosophers often take a two-fold approach: 1- descriptive (how things are, and generally they are not that good) and then 2- prescriptive (how things should be from here on). We end up with a solution to the problem. Now it gets complicated, because the problem doesn't really get solved. So another philosopher comes along with a new theory and a solution. What happens? Since we are dealing with time here, it is almost as if the solutions to the old problem paradoxically becomes the problem of the present. For example, think of the spread of Nationalism in Europe as a social form of evolution from the feudal organization of the Middle Ages. By mid 20th Century some radical forms of nationalism became chauvinistic, and we ended up with Fascism, Nazism and Stalinism. But we have no choice.

We simply can't give up trying to get it better. This is an important question: If it cannot be solved, can it (at least) get better? In the West, Political Philosophy may have started with Plato's Republic. That is 26 centuries ago. By now, we have a big library of political solutions!

Schedule of Readings

Human Nature

The Justification of the State


Democracy and Its Difficulties

Liberty and Rights


Economic Justice

Justice Between Groups


Alternatives to Liberalism (Conservatism, Libertarianism, Communitarianism, Socialism, Post-Modernism, Feminism)

Progress and Civilization


Important Note: If you feel that you will be unable to complete the requirements for passing this class, you have the option to withdraw from the class by the college's "drop date" of_____. However, there are consequences of which you need to be aware if you drop a class or stop attending and you should always speak to your instructor or an advisor first. For example, you must earn at least two-thirds, or 67% of the total credits for which you have registered -failure to comply with this requirement will adversely impact your financial aid status with MDC.

Also, once the course has been paid for, you will generally not receive a refund for the course after the 100% drop date. A "W" will appear on your transcript or degree audit, and it counts as a "course attempt" which may have an impact on your academic status and/or record at the College. If after considering the possible consequences, you still wish to drop the class, keep in mind that it is your responsibility to do so and failure to withdraw will result in your earning a final grade that is based on your overall class performance. If extenuating circumstances (e.g., illness, accident, change in employment situation, etc.) prevent you from continuing to attend class after the drop date, speak to your instructor first and if needed, to the Chairperson to assess your options.

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