Department of Government
Government 475: Law, Liberty, and Morality
Fall 2005 Thurs 1:00-3:30 pm
Professor Joseph R. Reisert 872-3681
259 Miller Library firstname.lastname@example.org
Office Hours: T 2-4 pm and by appointment
May the state legitimately use the law to impose a certain conception of morality on its citizens? Or must the state aim, rather, to remain ³neutral² when its citizens disagree strongly about the best way of life, protecting its citizens¹ freedom to choose their own visions of the good life? An examination of these issues as they are developed in works by four contemporary political theorists, representing four distinctive moral and political perspectives.
Course Requirements and Grading
This is a senior seminar in political theory. Seminars are by nature cooperative ventures; their success depends upon everyone¹s hard work and willingness to share ideas and questions with others. It is therefore expected that you will have done--and thought about--the readings before coming to class. Even when you have not written anything for a particular class, you should be sufficiently familiar with the readings to be able to understand the presentations and to ask intelligent questions of the presenters.
Grades will be determined according to the following formula:
Reading Presentation and Paper (25%) -- The reading presentations require you to articulate and critically engage a major argument from one of the readings (i.e., explaining in your own words what the writer is trying to show, what the various steps in the argument are, what the argument actually proves) and to discuss possible avenues of controversy or critique, as these are developed in the secondary literature.
Requirements: In preparing your reading presentation, you must consult two works in the secondary literature (usually articles) in addition to reading the assigned text. You are responsible for doing your own independent research, but I will be glad to help you get started, as necessary. The oral presentation should last about 10-15 minutes, and you should be prepared to answer questions about your remarks. You are required to prepare a handout including the outline and key points of your presentations. In addition, you must hand in a 6-8 page paper based on the presentation by 4 pm on the Monday following your presentation. You may, and are indeed strongly encouraged, to revise your initial ideas in light of what you learn in seminar when you deliver the oral presentation. Note finally that you may draw upon material from your reading presentation when composing your final paper.
Participation and Attendance (25%) -- Attendance at all seminar meetings is expected, and participation in seminar discussions is required. I understand that the readings for this class are extremely hard, and I do not expect everyone to have fully understood them before coming to class. I do expect, however, that you will have made an effort to make sense of them. Remember that questions can be an excellent form of participation. If you find that you must be absent from a class meeting for any reason, be sure to consult with me in advance. For each unexcused absence, one full letter grade will be deducted from your participation grade. Students who are absent from three class sessions, however, will ordinarily be excluded from the course with a failing grade.
Final Paper and Research Presentation (50%) -- A paper of 20-25 pages in length will be due during the examination period at the end of the semester; a satisfactory paper for this class will satisfy the Government department writing requirement. Specific topics must be approved in advance, but I recommend that you follow one of the following two models: (1) a ³pure theory² essay that articulates and examines the argument of one of the major theorists we examine in the class (e.g., Rawls, Barnett, Raz, Finnis), perhaps drawing connections between that contemporary theorist and the relevant ³classic² works of political theory; (2) an ³applied² essay that examines what American law should be with respect to some issue area (e.g., welfare policy, environmental policy, drugs, pornography, homosexuality, euthanasia, public school curricula, abortion) in light of the claims of at least two of the major theorists we read in the class. In either case, you will need to do independent research and reading, as appropriate to the topic. At a minimum, you should consult (and reference in the paper) five scholarly articles or books (preferably from peer-refereed journals, although some law review articles will also be acceptable; be wary of relying too much on articles from the popular press).
In order that you have sufficient guidance in preparing your papers, I am requiring that you submit preliminary versions of the paper to me well in advance of the final deadline, as follows:
Paper topic ideas (1-2 pages) due September 15 (ungraded)
Prospectus/bibliography (5 pages) ‹ due October 13 (ungraded)
Rough draft due (15 pages minimum) Monday, November 28 or Monday, December 5 (40% of paper grade)
Presentations (15-20 minutes) ‹ December 1 (group I) and December 8 (group II)
Comments on other papers (2-4 pages) ‹ December I (group II) and December 8 (group I) (counted as part of class participation)
Completed paper (20-25 pages) ‹ due Friday, December 16 (60% of paper grade)
All students will present a portion of their final paper in class, either on December 1 (group I) or December 8 (group II). In either case, students will submit a draft of the paper to me on the Monday prior to the class session in which they will be presenting; I will distribute copies of the paper to all of the other students in the class. Students who are not presenting will be expected to have written comments and questions (1-2 pages) on at least two of the papers of those who are presenting.
Books and Other Readings
The following books are required for purchase and have been ordered by the Colby bookstore:
Randy E. Barnett, The Structure of Liberty: Justice and the Rule of Law. Oxford University Press.
John Finnis, Natural Law and Natural Rights. Oxford University Press.
John Rawls, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement. Harvard University Press.
Joseph Raz, The Morality of Freedom. Oxford University Press.
In addition to the four books I have assigned, students are expected to read such other books and articles in the secondary literature as are appropriate to their presentations and papers.
Schedule of Readings
September 8: Introduction: Two Dimensions of Moral Argument
September 15: ³Left² Antiperfectionism I ‹ Foundations
John Rawls, Justice as Fairness, 1-134 (parts 1-3)
Presentation topic: the argument for the two principles of justice
Paper topic ideas due
September 22: ³Left² Antiperfectionism II ‹ Institutions
John Rawls, Justice as Fairness, 135-202 (parts 4-5)
September 29: ³Right² Antiperfectionism I ‹ Foundations
Randy Barnett, The Structure of Liberty, 1-131
October 13 ³Right² Antiperfectionism II ‹ Institutions
Randy Barnett, The Structure of Liberty, 135-283
Paper prospectus/bibliography due
October 20: Antiperfectionism: Left v. Right
Randy Barnett, The Structure of Liberty, 284-328
October 27: ³Left² Perfectionism I -- Authority and Rights
Joseph Raz, The Morality of Freedom, chapters 1-4, 7-8.
November 3: ³Left² Perfectionism II -- Well-being and Liberty
Joseph Raz, The Morality of Freedom, chapters 12, 14, 15.
November 10: ³Right² Perfectionism I -- A Theory of Morality
John Finnis, Natural Law and Natural Rights, chapters III-VI
November 17: ³Right² Perfectionism II -- Rights, Obligation, and Law
John Finnis, Natural Law and Natural Rights, chapters VII-X
November 24: No Class Session ‹ Thanksgiving
November 28 (Monday): Final paper rough drafts due (group I)
December 1: Perfectionism: Left v. Right
Student final paper presentations (group I)
Comments on group I papers due in class ‹ by group II students
December 5 (Monday): Final paper rough drafts due (group II)
December 8: Perfectionism v. Antiperfectionism
Student final paper presentations II
Comments on group II papers due in class ‹ by group I students
December 16 (Friday): Completed paper due in Miller 259 at 4 pm (all students)