Egalitarianism: A course on the history and theory of egalitarianism and anti-egalitarianism (PHIL 174E/274E, POLISCI 138E, ETHICSOC 174E)
Egalitarianism is a conception of justice that takes the value of equality to be of primary political and moral importance. There are many different ways to be an egalitarian – it all depends on what we take to be the currency of egalitarian justice. Are we trying to equalize basic rights and liberties, or resources, opportunities, positions, status, respect, welfare, or capabilities? Is equality really what we should try to achieve in a just society? Or should we just make sure everyone has enough? Why do egalitarians think that such society would still be unjust; and how do they proceed to argue for equality?nnThis class will introduce students to egalitarian and anti-egalitarian thought by looking both at the history of egalitarian thinking and at contemporary accounts in defense of equality. It will provide an in depth introduction to the concepts that are used when inequalities are discussed by philosophers, economists, scientists and politicians. The class will attest of the varieties of approaches and perspectives to equality. For instance, we will learn from the 19th century debate on racial inequalities to understand how anti-egalitarian discourses are constructed; we will look into Rousseau’s conception of social equality in the Second Discourse and the Social Contract; and we will engage with contemporary egalitarian theories by studying Rawlsian and post-Rawlsian forms of egalitarianism.
Universal Basic Income: The Philosophy Behind the Proposal (PHIL 174B/274B, ETHICSOC 174B, POLISCI 134E, POLISCI 338)
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. The growth of income and wealth inequalities, the precariousness of labor, and the persistence of abject poverty have all been important drivers of renewed interest in UBI in the United States. But it is without a doubt the fear that automation may displace workers from the labor market at unprecedented rates that explains the revival of the policy in recent years, including by many in or around Silicon Valley. 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 need it and deserve it? Over the years, a variety of scholars have defended the policy on moral grounds, arguing that UBI is a tool of equality, liberal freedom, republican freedom, gender equity, or racial equity. Many others have attacked UBI on those very same grounds, making the case that alternative policy proposals like the job guarantee, means-tested benefits, conditional benefits, or reparations should be preferred. Students will learn a great deal about political theory and ethics in general but always through the specific angle of the policy proposal, and they will become experts on the philosophy, politics and economics of UBI. The seminar is open to undergraduate and graduate students in all departments. There are no pre-requisites.
Philosophy of Public Policy (PHIL 175B/275B, POLISCI 135E, POLISCI 235E, PUBLPOL 177)
From healthcare to voting reforms, social protection and educational policies, public policies are underpinned by moral values. When we debate those policies, we typically 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. We will ask questions such as: Is compulsory voting justified? Should children have the right to vote? Is affirmative action just? What is wrong with racial profiling? What are the duties of citizens of affluent countries towards migrants? Do we have a right to privacy? Is giving cash to all unconditionally fair? This class will introduce students to a number of methods and frameworks coming out of ethics and political philosophy and will give students a lot of time to practice ethically informed debates on public policies. At the end of this class, students should have the skills to critically examine a wide range of diverse policy proposals from the perspective of ethics, moral and political philosophy. There are no prerequisites. Undergraduates and graduates from all departments are welcome to attend.
Ethics of Sports (PHIL 21N, ETHICSOC 121N)
This seminar will be focused on the ethical challenges that are encountered in sport. We will focus on the moral and political issues that affect the world of sport and which athletes, coaches, sports commentators and fans are faced with. For instance, we will ask questions such as: what is a fair game (the ethics of effort, merit, success)? Is it ethical to train people to use violence (the ethics of martial arts)? Are divisions by gender categories justified and what should we think of gender testing? Is the use of animals in sport ever justified? Which forms of performance enhancements are acceptable in sport (the ethics of drug use and enhancements through technologies)? Should we ban sports that damage the players¿ health? Does society owe social support to people who hurt themselves while practicing extreme sports? nnThe class will be structured around small group discussions and exercises as well as brief lectures to introduce key moral and political concepts (such as fairness, equality, freedom, justice, exploitation, etc.). I will also bring guests speakers who are involved in a sport activity at Stanford or who have worked on sports as part of their academic careers. By the end of the seminar, students will have a good understanding of the various ethical challenges that surround the world of sport. They will be able to critically discuss sport activities, norms, modes of assessments and policies (on campus and beyond). They will also be prepared to apply the critical ethical thinking that they will have deployed onto other topics than sports. They will have been introduced to the normative approach to social issues, which consists in asking how things should be rather than describing how things are. They will be prepared to take more advanced classes in ethics, political theory, as well as moral and political philosophy.
Unequal Relationships (PHIL 378B, ETHICSOC 378B, POLISCI 338B)
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. This entails building societies free from a variety of modes of relating that are thought to be detrimental to our status as moral equals. The list of those inegalitarian relationships is long and includes oppression, domination, exploitation, marginalization, objectification, demonization, infantilization, and stigmatization. The relational approach to equality departs from the more distributive conceptions of equality that were offered in the 70s and after. The theories of justice proposed in response are still comparatively underdeveloped and need further elaboration, but they all concur in rejecting both the overly distributive paradigm and the preoccupation with individual responsibility central to most other egalitarian accounts. This graduate seminar will introduce students to the rich literature on equality in contemporary political philosophy, with a special focus on identifying and scrutinizing unequal relationships. Each week will be centered on a specific type of such 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. Although there are no formal pre-requisites, this class is primarily designed for students considering writing a thesis in political or moral theory as well as for students in other disciplines who want to advance their understanding of equality as a moral value. Seniors in philosophy and political science with a substantial training in political theory will also be considered and should email the PI to communicate their interest. 2 unit option only for Phil PhDs beyond the second year.