Honors | The Moral Basis of Politics
H204 | 0013 | Failer, J


Honors Division H204 & H228

Why is discrimination bad?  (How) can the law combat discrimination?  To get
at these questions, we will begin our class by looking at the moral and
legal foundations of the antidiscrimination project.  We will then apply the
ideals of that project to two concrete legal problems: affirmative action
and pornography.  After trying to understand each problem on its own terms,
we will also try to solve the problems as legislators and judges through
in-class simulations.  Throughout the course, we will test the adequacy of
antidiscrimination theory by applying it to particular cases.  We will also
test our understanding of the cases by examining them in light of the
antidiscrimination theory.  One of our most important goals throughout the
course will be to examine whether and how law (whether antidiscriminatory or
otherwise) can help us pursue social justice.

Is there a moral basis to politics?  If so, what is it?  In this class, we
read some great works in political philosophy -- itself a branch of moral
philosophy -- in order to address the role of morality in politics.
Specifically, we ask four questions.  1) Why obey the law? 2) What makes
government legitimate?  3) Which morality binds political actors? 4) Why
disobey the law?  By reading works in the canon of political philosophy, we
will try to clarify our understanding of real and contemporary political
problems.  Similarly, we will also use political problems to focus our
readings of the classic works.