PHIL 170.002 – Social Ethics and Political Thought

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Instructor: Barry Maguire. This course meets MWF 2:00 – 2:50 p.m. in CW 105.

Equality in Ethical and Political Theory

1% of US citizens have 40% of the nation’s wealth.  The bottom 80% only have 7% of the nation’s wealth.  One American family is as wealthy as the bottom 40% of Americans put together.  Should we be concerned about this?  If so, why?

In this course we will consider the notion of equality from several different angles: economic, historical, psychological, political, and ethical.  We will read short stories, vignettes, political manifestos, and some outstanding works of contemporary philosophy.  You will develop your own answers to the following questions among others.  Why should we care about equality?  Does equality matter for its own sake, or only instrumentally?  What sort of inequalities should we care about?  Should we equalise wealth, or resources, or opportunities for welfare, or something else?  Does caring about equality mean that you cannot privilege your family and friends?

The focus of this class will be on equality, but we will also spend some time studying related topics: well-being, freedom, and authority.  You will leave this class with a thorough understanding of a key area in political and moral philosophy.