Course Descriptions

16:730:583 Seminar in Social and Political Philosophy

  • Semester: Fall 2021
  • Instructor: Darby, Derrick
  • Description:

    We use many labels to describe who we are: black, Latinx, female, lesbian, Catholic, Republican, jazz musician, Mets fan, military veteran, union member, prison abolitionist, and Scarlet Knight. Not only do these social identities give meaning to our lives, ethically, they also impact our social and political projects. Holding representatives accountable for collective projects is an important ideal of democracy. It pertains to partisan politics as well as participation in social movements and organizations. Working from this ideal we ask, are social identities bad for democracy? Identity skeptics such as Francis Fukuyama say they are while identity optimists such as Stacey Abrams disagree. Here are questions we will resolve to pick a side: what are social identities and what purposes do they serve?, how should we account for identity heterogeneity and its challenges?, how are social identities related to democratic representation?, and what have skeptics said against them and optimists said in defense?. In addition to theoretical work by Anthony Appiah, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and Iris Young, we will read empirical research in political science, psychology, sociology, and ethnic studies to tackle these questions.