Introducing Social & Political Philosophy (Spring 2014)

This page provides resources for Introducing Social & Political Philosophy, taught for Cardiff University’s Centre for Lifelong Learning during spring 2014. The course assumes no prior knowledge of philosophy.

Note that the official course page is on Learning Central and that all enrolled students should access content there.

Course Packet

Course Packet. Course packet excluding readings subject to copyright. Links to those sources are available in the reading schedule where available. Designed for duplex printing with binding on left.

Module Assessment

Note that except for the glossary entry, details of assessment are included in the course packet. Links provided in this section are intended merely as a convenience.

Note that all work must be submitted via Learning Central. This includes plagiarism detection. Please email me in case of difficulty.

Weekly Prompts

  1. Contractarianism
  2. Utilitarianism
  3. Liberal Egalitarianism (Rawls I)
  4. Libertarianism
  5. Feminist Liberalism
  6. Marxism
  7. Communitarianism
  8. Democratic Equality
  • Prompt Pitfalls. Discusses some common mistakes made in responding to weekly discussion prompts and offers some general strategies for making the most of such short assignments.

Glossary Entry

Glossary Entries

  • Advice on writing glossary entries, both specific and general.
  • Note that names are redacted in this version. See the version on Learning Central for these details.


Paper Topics


§1 The Philosopher’s Toolbox

§1.2 Essential Philosophical/Logical Concepts

Philosophical Bootcamp

§2 Historical Foundations

§2.1 Contractarianism


  • Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651).
  • John Locke, Second Treatise of Government (1690).

§2.2 Utilitarianism


  • John Stuart Mill, Considerations on Representative Government (1862), On Liberty (1859) and Utilitarianism (1861).

§3 Contemporary Liberalism

§3.1 Liberal Egalitarianism

Liberal Egalitarianism

  • John Rawls, ‘Justice as Fairness’ (1958).
  • Handout. Mostly greyscale slides. 2×3 up.

§3.2 Libertarianism

Libertarianism: Nozick

  • Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia (1974).
  • Handout. Mostly greyscale slides. 2×3 up.

§3.3 Feminist Liberalism

Feminist Liberalism: Susan Moller Okin & Martha C. Nussbaum

  • Susan Moller Okin, Justice, Gender and the Family (1989).
  • Martha C. Nussbaum, ‘The Future of Feminist Liberalism’ (2004).
  • Handout. Mostly greyscale slides. 2×3 up.

§4 Liberté, Egalité, et Fraternité

§4.1 Marxism


  • Karl Marx, ‘On the Jewish Question’ (1844).

§4.2 Communitarianism

Communitarianism I: Charles Taylor’s Anti-Atomism
Communitarianism II: Michael Walzer, Spheres of Justice

  • Charles Taylor, ‘Atomism’ (1985).
  • Michael Walzer, Spheres of Justice (1983).
  • Handout. Mostly greyscale slides. 2×3 up.

§4.3 Democratic Equality

Democratic Equality: Elizabeth Anderson

  • Elizabeth Anderson, ‘What Is the Point of Equality?’ (1999).
  • Handout. Mostly greyscale slides. 2×2 up.

§4.4 Feminist Challenges

Feminist Challenges

  • Virginia Held, ‘Taking Care: Care As Practice and Value’ (2004).
  • Claudia Card, ‘Evils and Inequalities’ (1998).
  • Handout. Mostly greyscale slides. 2×3 up.

Resources / Links

I’ve posted some resources / links which may be useful, interesting or amusing. Since this collection was created some time ago, some of the links may be broken. I’ve already weeded out one but would welcome further corrections.


You may enjoy this States of Nature experience, designed by students taking an introductory class in political philosophy. The game illustrates the State of Nature according to Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau. Be careful out there!

Distributive Justice?

Cultivation is a game which may get you thinking about principles of distributive justice, property rights and social relations. This is not a philosophy game and is not designed to illustrate any particular philosophical theory or principle that I’m aware of. (But you may also be interested in the author’s essay on the game.) It is essentially a simulated community of gardeners situated on an island with limited resources and every game is different. Available for Mac OS X (not sure about Intel), Windows (95/98/2000/XP) and as Unix source code. If you run Linux or similar, it is probably available through your package manager. In the version I have, the land looks just like the water which makes gardening a little trickier than it is supposed to be…

Sex, Gender & Justice

I’ve started a collection of links relevant to the issues we’ve been discussing about sex and gender at Gender Issues. Right now it contains a single link provided by a member of the class. Additional contributions welcome. (But note that I will only link to resources which are available either freely or through the library.)

%d bloggers like this: