Dr. Christine A. James


PHIL 3130 A Social and Political Philosophy   CRN 20890

T  5:00-7:45pm in WH 104 


This syllabus is available online, and may be updated, at


Office: 102 Georgia Avenue, the department house two doors down from the corner of Georgia and Patterson

Office Hours: MTWR 3:30pm-4:45pm and after classes and by appointment as needed.

Telephone:  259-7609 

Mailbox:  Philosophy and Religious Studies Department Office, 102 Georgia Avenue

Fax:  259-5011

E-mail address:


Course content: An introduction to social theory and practice, with special emphasis on survey of classical theories and the study of practical policy issues.


Requirements:  Class participation and attendance, two written examinations, two papers, various Blazeview assignments and discussions.  Pop Reading Quizzes may also be given during the semester.



In accordance with the revised learning outcomes for the Core Curriculum of the Georgia State System, and the VSU Core Curriculum, our course follows the Area C Learning Outcome:

"Students will analyze, evaluate, and interpret diverse forms of human communication."

(In the past, Philosophy courses at Valdosta State University contributed to the VSU General Education Outcomes listed at the link below, with special emphasis on numbers 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8. )


The Learning Outcomes for our PHIL 3130 on Social and Political Philosophy are:

1. To understand the distinctions among the various theories and philosophers in the history of social and political philosophy.

2. To recognize how philosophical inquiry applies to ‘real-world’ circumstances and to individual reflection on specific political issues and cases.

3. To become conversant with the history of philosophy as it relates to theories about social and political life. 

4. To recognize and define different world views, adopting a reasonably viable one and justifying it in a philosophically informed way that emphasizes critical reasoning and argument.

5.  To demonstrate the ability to discuss, in both oral and written discourse, the philosophical issues explored in the course.

6.  To be familiar with what academic philosophy is, and to understand how it can be applied to daily life as well as specific careers.

Members of the faculty in Philosophy and Religious Studies have verified that these outcomes are in line with the outcomes of the course as it is taught at peer institutions in the State System of Georgia.

These course-specific learning outcomes contribute to the departmental learning outcomes of the Philosophy and Religious Studies Major by enabling students better to

1. Explain and analyze central issues, topics, and philosophers in the history of philosophy, from the ancient to the modern periods.
2. Write and speak critically and logically, applying various theories to specific cases and examples.
3. Explain their own value system, evaluating their values in the context of a diverse range of ideas that inform contemporary controversies and social conflict.
4. Create independent philosophical research, synthesizing a variety of sources, including traditional primary philosophical texts and secondary source
5. Demonstrate a working familiarity with current research methods, citation styles, and presentation techniques.

All learning outcomes will be evaluated via formative and summative assessments, including research papers, formal presentations in class including verbal expression and Powerpoint presentations, and written work in Blazeview including Discussion postings, Assignment attachments of Word .doc or .docx format, and Assessment quizzes.



Required Texts:


An Introduction to Political Philosophy, revised edition, by Jonathan Wolff, Oxford University Press, 2006, 978-0-19-929609-5


Social Ethics: Morality and Social Policy, 8th edition, by Thomas A. Mappes, Jane S. Zembaty, and David DeGrazia, McGraw Hill, 2012, 978-0-07-353588-3



Be sure to do the reading before the class for which it is assigned. Please bring the relevant book(s) and/or article(s) with you to class, along with a designated notebook and some pens.


            (In addition, Philosophy and Religious Studies faculty encourage you to use Andrea A. Lunsford, St. Martin’s Handbook, 5th ed. which was required in ENGL 1101 and 1102 courses. These books are available for purchase at the VSU Bookstore. The St. Martin’s Handbook is shelved under ENGL 1101 and 1102.)


How grades will be calculated:


A          = 100 - 90%                              Class participation, attendance = 20%

B          = 89 - 80%                                2 Exams at 20% each = 40%

C          = 79 - 70%                                2 Papers at 20% each = 40%

D          = 69 - 60%                                Total = 100%

F          = 59 - 0%         


Please note that I am not obligated to accept late work or to allow “make up” work after the date an assignment or exam or paper is completed by the other members of the class.

I also make no promises about extra credit items, although I will routinely announce events on campus that can result in some extra credit points for you.


Exams and Papers: The exams in our class will be “short answer” written exams.  Usually I ask six questions and a complete answer should be no less than four complete sentences.  These exams are “objective” in the sense that the answers can be directly related to class discussions and the textbook.  Reading and participating in class are important for your exam grades.  The papers involve more creative and independent thinking.  The papers should be no less than five pages long, double spaced, in a standard 12 point font like Times/ Times New Roman.  Expect to use the text and cite it with a consistent citation scheme (refer to the St. Martin’s Handbook you use in your English classes).  “Use direct quotes!”  Don’t use plastic paper covers, just a staple is fine.  The ability to write and edit well-constructed academic essays is an important skill that will come in handy throughout your college career and beyond. Again, these papers must be typed, double-spaced, in a standard 12-point font (e.g., Times) with one-inch margins at the top and bottom of each page and 1.25-inch margins on either side (the default settings in Microsoft Word). More specific topics are given out as we do the readings, and I always mention things that would make a good paper topic during our class meetings and discussions.


Here are some extra links, if you would like to use outside sources and secondary source material:  (click on “Full Text Journal Title List”) and

The direct link for the database (Academic Search Complete)  (Click on Academic Search Complete to open the first page with the search box.)

Attendance Policy: I do care that you attend class regularly.  As you know, VSU policy is that missing 20% of class meetings results in an automatic grade of “F”.  Faculty can also institute added attendance policies in their syllabi. Our class will have a 10% rule for absences.  You can miss up to 10% of the class meetings with no grade penalty.  10% of our 30 class meetings is 3.  On absence number 4, your final grade for the course will be reduced by one whole letter grade; on absence number 5, your final grade for the course will be reduced by two whole letter grades; on absence number 6, you will automatically fail the course.  Be considerate of your fellow students – don’t be late, and don’t leave your cell phones and pagers on.  Note that if you are regularly late to class, or leave class early, I will begin to count each as an absence.  Please note that this policy makes no distinction between excused and unexcused absences.


Special Needs:

Students requiring classroom accommodations or modification because of a documented disability should discuss this need with me at the beginning of the semester.  If you are such a student, but you are not registered with the Access Office, you should contact them too.  Students requesting classroom accommodations or modifications because of a documented disability must contact the Access Office for Students with Disabilities located in Farber Hall. The phone numbers are 229-245-2498 (voice) and 229-219-1348 (tty).





Once you arrive at class, make an effort to get involved in the conversation. Don’t hesitate to ask questions if you need clarification or would like more information: if you are confused, it is likely that others are too! The participation percentage you receive will depend on a variety of factors, including (but not limited to) the frequency and helpfulness of your contributions to class discussions and the care you take when peer editing.


Pop Reading Quizzes:

If I notice that there are many students who are not keeping up with the reading, I may periodically administer reading quizzes in class. These will not be announced in advance. No “make-up” quizzes will be given, and a missed quiz will result in a grade of zero.  These quizzes are a solid reward for attending class, participating, and keeping up with the readings.


Online Discussions:

During certain weeks of the semester, you also will be expected to participate regularly in on-line discussions using Blazeview. Use this opportunity to comment on the week’s readings, ask questions, raise objections, and respond to what others have written or said in class.


To use Blazeview, you will need access to a computer with an internet connection. Your computer and its software will also need to meet certain technical specifications. You are solely responsible for all technical matters. Although you do not need to be on campus in order to access Vista, it is worth remembering that computer labs are available at VSU. For technical help, please contact the VSU Help Desk (located in Odum Library, to the left of the Circulation Desk) at 229-245-4357 or by e-mail at


To log in to Blazeview and the course “shell,” go to the VSU homepage and click on the words Blazeview Login in the rectangle. Your username and password are the same as for your BlazeNet e-mail account. For instructions on getting started, go to:


When posting in an online bulletin board, like those in the Discussion area of Blazeview, you must (1) post at least one original message of your own, (2) read all the messages posted by others, and (3) respond substantively to at least one message from another student. Your postings are due the same day as the readings are listed in the schedule below (i.e., no later than 11:59 p.m. on the relevant dates.)


Your first message on a given topic should be about 200 words in length. That is roughly the length of two medium-sized paragraphs (e.g., this one and the next). Your second (response) posting can be about half that length, but it should be substantive (i.e., involving serious content). Try not to simply repeat what others have said already. Additional postings can be as long or as short as you desire. Be sure to give the first message an interesting title in the “Subject” line. This will help alert the rest of us as to what it will be about.


When you are ready to respond to someone else, do so by opening their message and hitting the “Reply” button. This will create a “thread” that others can add on to. Keep in mind that although it is fine to disagree with what someone else has said, it is important to do so in a way that is polite and constructive. If someone says something that makes you angry, pause and take a breath before firing off a reply! You can preview your message before you send it, but once you have hit “Post,” your message will no longer be editable.


Vista allows me to keep track of how many messages you have read and posted. I will monitor student activity and may from time to time add a message of my own.


Academic Honesty:

Members of the Valdosta State University faculty value honesty and integrity extremely highly and do not tolerate cheating of any kind. Anyone caught cheating will automatically fail the course. Cheating includes – but is not limited to – plagiarism, giving or receiving assistance on a quiz, having someone else do work on your behalf, doing work on someone else’s behalf, and working with a partner or in a group on an individual assignment. By enrolling in this course, you are in effect promising to maintain the bond of trust on which the professor-student relationship is based.  In addition, VSU has a new Academic Honesty Policy.  Here are links to the Academic Honesty Policies and Procedures, and the Report of Academic Dishonesty.



VSU policy mandates that all official communication by e-mail take place through VSU e-mail accounts or through the Blazeview Mail tool.  Please check your VSU ( e-mail account regularly.


Note: This syllabus is not a legal contract; the content of this course is subject to revision by the professor.






1/10 T

Introduction to the class.


First reading together: Academic Integrity






What is Philosophy?  Do Philosophy majors get jobs related to that major?  Here is some interesting information:


After this class, read An Introduction to Political Philosophy by Wolff, Preface, Intro, and section 1 on the State of Nature theories, up to about page 33. As you are reading it, you can review Dr. James's PowerPoints on social and political theorists like Locke, Hobbes, and Mill.


(Each date in the class after this one assumes that you will have read that day’s assigned discussion reading before class.)


1/17 T

Discussion of Social Ethics: Morality and Social Policy by Mappes et al., the first chapter on Abortion, up to about page 58.

(Try to read at least some of the debates in this section of the Mappes text before you come to class. We will discuss it in light of the social and political theorists we covered on 1/10; you might say that the topic of abortion is a test case or example to which we can apply those theories of Locke, Hobbes and Mill.)

Be sure to post in the online Blazeview Discussion board for our class.  Topics will be listed in the class, under the Discussion tool link.

1/24 T

Discussion of An Introduction to Political Philosophy by Wolff, the section on Justifying the State up to about page 61.

1/31 T

Discussion of Social Ethics: Morality and Social Policy by Mappes et al., the section on Euthanasia up to about page 104.

2/7 T

Discussion of Social Ethics: Morality and Social Policy by Mappes et al., the section on the Death Penalty up to about page 155.

2/14 T

First Exam Today due before class in the Blazeview Assessment Tool.

Discussion of An Introduction to Political Philosophy, the section on Who Should Rule? up to about page 103.

2/21 T

Going over the first exam in class.

Discussion of An Introduction to Political Philosophy, the section on The Place of Liberty, up to about page 132.

2/28 T

Preparing the First Paper

Discussion of Social Ethics: Morality and Social Policy by Mappes et al., the section on Sexual Morality up to about page 222.

3/6 T

First Paper Due Today in Blazeview Assignment Tool.

Discussion of Social Ethics: Morality and Social Policy by Mappes et al., the section on Pornography, Hate Speech, and Censorship up to about page 280.

3/13 T

Spring Break Week, No Class

3/20 T

Discussion of An Introduction to Political Philosophy, the section on Individualism, Justice, and Feminism, between pages 177-200.

3/27 T

Discussion of Social Ethics: Morality and Social Policy by Mappes et al., the section on Drug Control, Addiction, and Medical Use up to about page 339.

4/3 T

Discussion of Social Ethics: Morality and Social Policy by Mappes et al., the section on Terrorism, Human Rights, and Torture up to about page 390.

4/10 T

Discussion of An Introduction to Political Philosophy, the section on Distribution of Property, pages 133-176.

4/17 T

Second Paper Due Tonight

Discussion of Social Ethics: Morality and Social Policy by Mappes et al., the section on World Hunger, Poverty, Economic Justice and Individual Responsibility, pages 391-461.

4/24 T

Discussion of Social Ethics: Morality and Social Policy by Mappes et al., the section on The Environment and Global Climate Change, pages 513-573. Review Day for Final Exam -  The Final Exam will be in the Blazeview Assessment Tool, due by Thursday May 3 at 7:15pm, the time assigned as the final time for our class.




The last official class day for all Fall Semester classes is Monday April 30.



For classes that normally meet T at 5pm, the Registrar has set the official exam time as Thursday May 3 at 7:15pm in the usual room.  For our course, we will have an online exam in the Assessment Tool of Blazeview that will be due by the time this final would begin.


If you are not sure about how the final exam times are assigned for your other courses, use this link, and check the Final Exam Schedule here:


Online Course Evaluations

Student evaluations are extremely important in helping faculty members plan and revise their courses.  Rather than completing these evaluations during class time, students will need to access evaluation forms via BANNER and complete them in a period during the last few weeks of class.  Please take the time to complete this important evaluation (or opt out of providing an evaluation) during the designated period.  If you do not do so, you will not be able to access the grade for this class, scheduled to be posted on the Monday after the final examination days. They will be in Banner under Answer a Survey.

At the end of the term, all students will be expected to complete an online Student Opinion of Instruction survey (SOI) that will be available on Banner (where you registered for classes). Students will receive an email notification through their VSU ( email address when the SOI is available (generally at least one week before the end of term.) SOI responses are anonymous to instructors/administrators. Instructors will be able to view only a summary of all responses two weeks after they have submitted final grades. While instructors will not be able to view individual responses or access any of the responses until after final grade submission, they will be able to see which students have or have not completed their SOIs, and student compliance may be considered in the determination of the final course grade. Some professors give extra credit for completing the SOI and some do not, please do not pressure any faculty member about giving extra credit - it's an individual instructor choice. These compliance and non-compliance reports will not be available once instructors are able to access the survey and a timetable for this term is available at


Tips for doing well in Philosophy classes, adapted from a handout by Robert Scott


1.  Read text with a pencil, underline the important ideas and key concepts. Write down technical ideas, key terms, key distinctions between two terms, definitions, diagrams, etc. to help you remember them.


2.  Write questions or reactions you have to the text in the margin of the book.  Ask about these questions in class, and keep them in mind, since they may provide good points to make about that author in papers you will write for class.


3.  Read ahead to see the ultimate objectives of the chapter and of the individual readings.  Keep in mind the overall picture of the chapters given in the introductory sections to each chapter in the book.


4.  Work with the new terminology frequently, and try to apply it to situations outside of class.  I would recommend flash cards to help you memorize the meanings of new terms quickly.


5.  For longer readings, be sure to review the reading as a whole after you have read it section-by-section.  What was the main question the author wanted to address? What were the answers? What concepts were used to make the points?


6.  When confronted with a difficult reading or question, break it down into parts, and into individual ideas.  This will at least help to clarify the question, even if it might not give the answer.  And for philosophy, clarifying the question is really half the battle!


7.  Ponder an unsolved problem and return to it every so often to see if it will give.  Inspiration may happen at an unexpected time, and the subconscious mind does work on problems even when we aren't consciously aware of it.


8.  Begin work on all the class tasks early, and spread out your work over time so as to maximize your chances for comprehending the readings accurately, memorizing the information, and grappling with the questions for papers.


9.  If you do need to meet with an instructor outside of class, be sure to have your questions for the instructor planned out ahead of time, to make the meeting as productive as possible.


10.  Always think about the philosophical issues for yourself, rather than waiting to be told what to think or believe.


11.  Study for all exams on a daily basis, for at least a week before the exam date. You will need to know who said what, from memory.


12.  Try to anticipate the questions that will be asked on an examination beforehand.  Questions may come from the readings or from lectures and class discussions, but in either case, certain terms and concepts will be emphasized more than others.


13.  Listen carefully to different points of view, and actively respond (when you read, when you are in class, and when you write your philosophy papers)!


14.  Philosophy involves skills, like learning to appreciate a good debate, learning to imagine the world differently than we assume it to be, and appreciating the world with a sense of wonder.



(1) A really great website for students about how to write academic papers is maintained by the Dartmouth Writing Program:

In addition to lots of helpful general information, it has special pages on "Writing the Religion Paper" and "Writing the Philosophy Paper."


(2) A great website that explains the importance of critically evaluating web resources is maintained by Robert Harris: