AP/PHIL4180 3.0 M: Seminar in Political Philosophy

Offered by: PHIL


Winter 2022






Calendar Description / Prerequisite / Co-Requisite

An intensive study of some selected normative and conceptual problems in contemporary political philosophy. Prerequisite: At least nine credits in philosophy including one of the following: AP/PHIL 3020 3.00 or AP/PHIL 3110 3.00. Course credit exclusion: GL/PHIL 4626 3.00 (may be waived with permission of the Department). PRIOR TO FALL 2009: Prerequisite: At least nine credits in philosophy including at least three credits from the following: AK/AS/PHIL 3110 3.00, AK/PHIL 3050 3.00, AS/PHIL 3020 3.00, AS/PHIL 3025 3.00 (prior to Summer 2006), AS/PHIL 3050 3.00, or AS/PHIL 3130 3.00 (prior to Summer 2001). Course credit exclusion: AS/PHIL 4180 3.00.

Course Start Up

Course Websites hosted on York's "eClass" are accessible to students during the first week of the term. It takes two business days from the time of your enrolment to access your course website. Course materials begin to be released on the course website during the first week. To log in to your eClass course visit the York U eClass Portal and login with your Student Passport York Account. If you are creating and participating in Zoom meetings you may also go directly to the York U Zoom Portal.

For further course Start Up details, review the Next Steps webpage.

For IT support, students may contact University Information Technology Client Services via askit@yorku.ca or (416) 736-5800. Please also visit Students Getting Started UIT or the Getting Help - UIT webpages.

    Additional Course Instructor/Contact Details

Professor Esteve Morera

Office:  S419 Ross

Phone: 736 2100, ext. 77591

Email: morera@yorku.ca

Office hours: Wednesday 9:30-10:30

or by appointment.

    Expanded Course Description

This course will focus on the central issues of political theory: justice, liberty, and equality, and race. These concepts are at the core of contemporary debates on the good society, the kind of society that is morally justified. Two distinct traditions will be examined, the liberal tradition and the socialist one. Readings for the course are drawn from contemporary debates in political philosophy. The course aims at developing the students’ understanding of political philosophy, its key issues, and approaches to this central aspect of philosophical work today.

    Required Course Text / Readings

PHIL 4180 KIT, available at the York Bookstore


Mills, Charles. '"Ideal Theory" as Ideology."

Hypatia , Summer, 2005, Vol. 20, No. 3 (Summer, 2005), pp. 165-184



Mills, Charles. "Retrieving Rawls for Racial Justice?: A Critique of Tommie Shelby" Critical Philosophy of Race , Vol. 1, No. 1, 2013), pp. 1-27



Matthew, Dale. "Purview and Permissibility."

Social Theory and Practice, Vol. 40, No. 1 (January 2014): 73-98.



Jeffers, Chike. The Cultural Theory of Race

Ethics , Vol. 123, No. 3 (April 2013), pp. 403-426


    Weighting of Course

Short paper  (Feb. 14) . . . . . . . . 30%

Research paper (April 4) . . . . .  . 45%

Presentation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15%

Participation. . . .  . . . . . . . . . . .  10%

    Organization of the Course

Seminar with weekly discussions of assigned readings.

    Course Learning Objectives

The student completing this course will

  • acquire a solid understanding of both the liberal and socialist approaches to political philosophy.
  • gaining a clear appreciation of contemporary debates on the ideas of liberty, equality, and justice.
  • appreciate the philosophical significance of 'race'
  • develop critical skills and a greater understanding of the normative foundations of political philosophy.
    Additional Information / Notes


  1. The first paper should be a critical analysis of one of the following articles: Berlin, Rawls (Theory of Justice), Nozick, Shue, Nussbaum, or Mills (Ideal Theory). It is not to be a mere summary of the text; rather, it should focus on its central argument, explore its soundness, draw its implications, and then either criticize its weaknesses, or if you deem it appropriate, attempt to strengthen the author's position. No secondary sources should be used. This essay should be of 6 to 8 pages (1500-2000 words) in length.
  2. The second paper should develop a thesis on an appropriate topic of your own choice. You must consult the instructor on your chosen topic.  This paper should be based on some research to explore different approaches to the subject matter of the paper.  However, the paper is not to be merely a report on the state of the debate, but rather a well-developed, systematic argument in defence of your well-considered thesis.  It must be of 10 to 15 pages in length (2500-3000 words).


  1. Presentations should be no longer than 15 minutes. They should present the central argument of the assigned readings, explicating the basic concepts and the conclusion or conclusions reached by the author. The main purpose of presentations is to stimulate discussion and understanding.



Sources for your papers must be chosen carefully.  Encyclopedias generally are not a very good source; they may provide some general information, but they do not provide the original research you should be learning from.  Wikipedia is not acceptable at all.  Use books published by good academic publishers, such as university presses, articles in academic journals, etc.  You should be particularly careful about internet publications.  Use Library materials only, whether they are in printed or electronic form.



Strunk, William Jr.  The Elements of Style.

Turabian, Kate. Manual for Writers



  1. Academic honesty and integrity:

In this course, we strive to maintain academic integrity to the highest extent possible. Please familiarize yourself with the meaning of academic integrity by completing SPARK’s Academic Integrity module at the beginning of the course. Breaches of academic integrity range from cheating to plagiarism (i.e., the improper crediting of another’s work, the representation of another’s ideas as your own, etc.). All instances of academic dishonesty in this course will be reported to the appropriate university authorities, and can be punishable according to the Senate Policy on Academic Honesty.

  1. Turnitin:

To promote academic integrity in this course, students will be required to submit their written assignments to Turnitin (via the course Moodle) for a review of textual similarity and the detection of possible plagiarism. In so doing, students will allow their material to be included as source documents in the Turnitin.com reference database, where they will be used only for the purpose of detecting plagiarism. The terms that apply to the University’s use of the Turnitin service are described on the Turnitin.com website.


  1. Late policy:

Assignments must be submitted on time.  No extensions will be generally granted for papers, other than in some officially documented exceptional circumstances (illness, bereavement, disability, special needs.)  Late papers will be penalized 5% per day.  There are no exceptions to this rule.



Additional Course Information


Jan. 10 Introduction to the Course
  17 Berlin (KIT 1), Raz (KIT 2)
  24 Nozick (KIT 3), Rawls (KIT 4)
  31 Rawls (KIT 5), Shue (KIT 6),
Feb 7 Okin (KIT 7), Baier (KIT 8)


  14 Nussbaum (KIT 9), Sen (KIT 10)

First Paper Due

  28 Nell (KIT 11) Gould (KIT 12 and 13)
March 7 Cohen (KIT 14 and 15)
  14 Nielsen (KIT 16) Sypnowich (KIT 17)
  22 Noonan (KIT 18 and 19)


  28 Mills, "Ideal Theory"; Mills, "Retrieving Rawls"
April 4 Jeffers; Matthew

Paper Due


    Relevant Links / Resources