Philosophy 235
Political Philosophy
Fall 2021

Click here for the syllabus.
Also, Expanded Course Outline

Scroll to bottom for newest entry.  Please check this page frequently for announcements, additional reading assignments and videos, web links of interest, and so on.

To begin with, here are some sites you ought to get to know.  Our department web site includes this list of student research tools (with some amusements at the bottom). 

No course in political philosophy would be complete without this.

Optional additional reading:  The Essential Locke (PDFs and short videos)

Weekly response prompt #1 - you'll recall the syllabus includes this item: "Weekly response: each week, with one or two exceptions, I will ask you to respond to some question or reflect on some problem.  You will reply via email not later than Sunday at noon.  Your reply need not be more than a paragraph, but must demonstrate critical reflection and real engagement with the material."  This one is due Sept. 12th, and remember it must come from your @bridgew email account.   No fancy document formatting needed, just open a new mail message to me and write your brief reply.  Watch this short video on social cooperation - do you think that social cooperation can arise organically, or that, as Hobbes says, this is impossible?

Good explanation of useful concept from econ which we'll be needing.  Margins and Thinking at the Margin

Watch these short videos: More on the different senses of "value."  More on the football helmets example.  More on incentives and why they matter, and how unintended consequences may be a factor.

Weekly response prompt #2 -- Read this short parable by economist Russ Roberts.  Given the two senses of "rational" we discussed in class, explain how the woman at the opera who spoke to Prof. Roberts might be considered rational or irrational.  What sort of behavior is incentivized by the phenomenon Prof. Roberts describes?

Bonus short videos on property rights: one here, another here

Weekly response #3: your thoughts on Prof. Gregory's talk.

Regarding the division of labor and the coordination of dispersed knowledge, see the following two videos First is a video about a sandwich (this is a short version, but it contains links to longer versions), which is apparently another thing no one can really do, at least not without spending thousands of dollars. Then, similarly, a video about someone trying to make a toaster from scratch. These, like the essay "I, Pencil" in your book, demonstrate something not only about Smith's discussion of the division of labor, but also something about Hayek's point about dispersed knowledge. Keeping those in mind, here's
Weekly response prompt #4 -- While we primarily think of markets as competitive, and we often hear these words together, Smith more often offers cooperation as the central feature of market exchange. Can you explain why?

This is helpful. Pin Factory

Optional Additional Reading:
The Essential Smith (PDFs and videos)
The Essential Hayek (PDFs and videos)

First Paper Assignment:
No weekly response this week; get started on your first paper assignment.
First paper assignment: Even though this will be submitted electronically, the paper should be formatted as if for printing: 2-3 pages, double-spaced, in Times New Roman, 12-point, with 1-inch margins on all sides. Do not submit incorrectly formatted papers. Put your name, date, and "PHIL235" on the top right of page 1, and number the pages. Submit via Blackboard. If you have trouble doing that, you may email it as, as an attachment in Word sent from your email account. This is due in my inbox NLT 9:00 am Thursday October 28.
Topic: Revisit Weekly Response #1 in light of this week's readings and whatever you have said for Weekly Response #4. Do you now have a different understanding of social cooperation as an organic phenomenon? How do the readings from Smith, Hayek, and Read relate to your understanding of social cooperation?

Bonus short videos on the "concentrated benefits/dispersed costs" problem: one here, another here.

Here's the video from Prof. Munger on rent-seeking (you should coordinate this with his essay in chapter 10, p. 449) and  Prof. Thomas on the median voter theorem (this is discussed in the essay by Downs in chapter 10).  In addition to the concepts of "log-rolling" and "rent-seeking," there's also the concept of "regulatory capture."  I started talking about this and we'll continue next week, but here's some reading on how regulatory capture is facilitated by voter ignorance.  Also: not only is there corn in Coke, but there's corn in gasoline also.

Optional additional reading to supplement ch. 10 - e-text at this link: