PHIL 576 - Topics in Social-Political Philosophy
Fall 2022, Section 001
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: Philosophy (PHIL)
Department: LSA Philosophy
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Waitlist Capacity:
Advisory Prerequisites:
Graduate standing.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:


This seminar focuses on the interface between moral rights and social norms. Individuals have moral claims to be treated in particular ways, classically articulated in terms of how other individual people must regulate their behavior. Social norms complicate this picture by reshaping the consequences of individual action, altering incentives, and even introducing new possibilities for coordinated action. Social norms change what is in our power to do, for better and worse. We'll begin by reviewing classical theories of the nature and grounds of moral rights, and the basic structure and function of social conventions and norms. Then we'll investigate how theorizing about social norms can complicate (and illuminate) our understanding of moral rights. We'll give special attention to how social norms can be leveraged to solve problems for groups of individuals (e.g. public goods problems, prisoner's dilemmas, stag hunt coordination problems), and to exploring how failing to attend to them distorts our understanding of what constitutes 'fair treatment' in contexts ranging from self-defense and consent to market negotiations. We'll pursue questions like "when (if ever) does the fact that our choices are socially shaped make a difference to what we owe each other, morally?" And "can we be (individually) answerable for failing to change our (collective) social norms?" We'll finish with a critical discussion of social norms of civility and privacy.

We’ll use my book manuscript Rewriting Rights (in progress) as a through-line for many of the topics, with supplementary readings from texts like O'Connor (Origins of Unfairness), Bicchieri (Grammar of Society), Thomson (The Realm of Rights), Ellickson (Order Without Law), and other recent work on the topics. 

Intended Audience:

Previous work in philosophy or political theory would be helpful, but there are no prerequisites for this seminar. Dedicated, interested graduate students from all disciplines are welcome.


PHIL 576 - Topics in Social-Political Philosophy
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
 In Person
1Graduate Standing
Tu 4:00PM - 6:30PM
Note: Moral Rights and Social Norms
002 (SEM)
 In Person
TuTh 2:30PM - 4:00PM

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