Junior Seminar: Obligation, Authority, and Disobedience

Course Description

 The Junior Seminars are intense writing seminars which focus on the research area of the faculty member teaching the course. The seminars provide an opportunity for students to have direct intellectual interactions with faculty members while also giving the students an understanding for faculty research. This junior seminar falls within the Political Theory subfield, and can fulfill an upper division requirement for the major.

Description: Do we have an obligation to obey the law?  If so, what is its basis?  If not, is anarchy the only theoretical alternative?  What makes a state legitimate?  When and how may we or must we disobey the laws?  We will examine these questions via close readings and discussions of canonical texts and recent philosophical essays.  We will discuss justifications of political obligation based on consent, gratitude, fairness, natural duty, and associative allegiance.  Readings will include selections from Plato, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Marx, Thoreau, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Hannah Arendt; as well as analyses by Hanna Pitkin, John Rawls, Joseph Raz, A. John Simmons, Ronald Dworkin, Leslie Green, George Klosko, and others.


Assignments will include one term-paper or two shorter papers.  Attendance and active participation are required.

In addition to the academic requirements, those wishing to enroll in the course will be required to provide a short statement of interest.  Students will be placed on the waitlist and then contacted about this requirement.


Political Science Majors of Junior and Senior status, with a minimum overall GPA of 3.3. Students must place themselves on the waitlist through TeleBEARS. Selection and notification will occur around January 10, 2010.