PHIL 220:   Social and Political Philosophy

Fall Semester 2013 | Evening | Vancouver Harbour Centre Campus


INSTRUCTOR:  J. Johnson (johnson at


Social and political philosophy addresses the question of how we should organize our collective life.  In this course, we will focus on answering the following interconnected questions:  When is the authority of the state justified and what is the nature of the just society?  How should we balance the demands of respecting individual rights or freedoms and providing social equality?  There is considerable consensus that a just political system will strive to ensure that there is some degree of equality amongst its citizens.  But there is a further question of how equality, in this context, should be understood:  is it equality of resources, welfare or opportunity?  We will also look at the related problem of distributive justice.  What makes a particular distribution of the benefits and burdens of society just?  In addressing these questions, we will look at social contract theory, Marxism, liberalism, and libertarianism.


  • Readings in Political Philosophy:  Theory and Applications, Diane Jeske and Richard Fumerton (eds.), Broadview Press.  ISBN:  978-1551117652  


  •  Attendance, participation - 5%                                      
  • Reading response papers - 10%                                
  • 1250 word paper - 20%                                                      
  • Final exam - 35%                                                               
  • 2000 word paper - 30%                                                     

All written assignments must be submitted to, which is a plagiarism-detection website.

 PHIL 220 may be applied toward the Certificate in Liberal Studies.