Egalitarianism and Anti-egalitarianism
This class seeks to understand how our existing conceptions of equality came to be by looking at the history of egalitarian and anti-egalitarian thought. We will study a variety of strategies employed in modern history to argue for and against equality – from Douglas and Cugoano to the 19th century pseudo-scientific racialism to Rousseau’s conception of social equality to Wollstonecraft to African Socialism, we will explore a rich and complex history of egalitarianism. We will end with an exploration of contemporary egalitarianism: looking at recent modes of normative argumentation and asking what kind of equality we should try to achieve in a just society.
PHIL 174E/274E, POLISCI 138E, ETHICSOC 174E | Syllabus
Winter 2017; taught next in AY 2022-23
The Philosophy of Universal Basic Income
Universal basic income (or UBI) is a regular cash allowance given to all members of a community without means test, regardless of personal desert, and with no strings attached. Once a utopian proposal, the policy is now discussed and piloted throughout the world. Among the various objections to the proposal, one concerns its moral adequacy: Isn’t it fundamentally unjust to give cash to all indiscriminately rather than to those who deserve it? We will study the thinkers who have defended the policy on moral grounds (arguing that UBI is a tool of equality, liberal freedom, republican freedom, gender equity, or racial equity) and those who have argued against UBI on those very same grounds (making the case that alternative proposals like the job guarantee, means-tested benefits, conditional benefits, or reparations should be preferred).
PHIL 174B/274B, ETHICSOC 174B, POLISCI 134E, POLISCI 338 | Syllabus
Winter 2020, Winter 2018, Winter 2017; taught next in AY 2022-23
Philosophy of Public Policy
From healthcare to voting reforms, social protection and educational policies, public policies are underpinned by moral values. When we debate those policies, we appeal to values like justice, fairness, equality, freedom, privacy, and safety. A proper understanding of those values, what they mean, how they may conflict, and how they can be weighed against each other is essential to developing a competent and critical eye on our complex political world. In this class, we will ask questions such as: Is compulsory voting justified? Should children have the right to vote? Is affirmative action fair? What is wrong with racial profiling? Do we have a right to privacy? This class will introduce students to various methods and frameworks coming out of ethics and political philosophy through a practice of ethically informed debates on public policies.
PHIL 175B/275B, POLISCI 135E, POLISCI 235E, PUBLPOL 177 | Syllabus
Fall 2019, Spring 2017; taught next in AY 2022-23
Ethics of Sports
This seminar explores the ethical challenges that are encountered in the world of sport and which athletes, coaches, sports commentators and fans are faced with. We will seek to understand the values of effort and courage in sport, as well as the notions of sportsmanship and of a fair game. We will also explore the important topic of how differences and disabilities are handled in sports, including through the issue of gender segregation and gender testing. Through the example of sport’s ethics, we will learn about fundamental philosophical concepts like equality, respect, choice, and merit.
PHIL 21N, ETHICSOC 121N | Syllabus
Fall 2019, Spring 2017; taught next in 2023
Over the past three decades, a relational egalitarian conception of equality has emerged in political philosophy. Proponents of the view argue that the point of equality is to establish communities where people are able to stand and relate as equals, free from inegalitarian relationships that are thought to be detrimental to our status as moral equals, including oppression, domination, exploitation, marginalization, objectification, demonization, infantilization, and stigmatization. This graduate seminar will introduce students to the rich literature on equality in contemporary political philosophy. Each week, we will scrutinize a specific type of unequal relationship, trying to understand how it operates, what social function it serves, and what makes it specifically harmful or wrongful to groups and individuals.
PHIL 378B, ETHICSOC 378B, POLISCI 338B | Syllabus
Winter 2020; taught next in AY 2022-23