About this Course
What is the purpose of government? Why should we have a State? What kind of State should we have? Even within a political community, there may be sharp disagreements about the role and purpose of government. Some want an active, involved government, seeing legal and political institutions as the means to solve our most pressing problems, and to help bring about peace, equality, justice, happiness, and to protect individual liberty. Others want a more minimal government, motivated, perhaps, by some of the disastrous political experiments of the 20th Century, and the thought that political power is often just a step away from tyranny. In many cases, these disagreements arise out of deep philosophical disagreements. All political and legal institutions are built on foundational ideas. In this course, we will explore those ideas, taking the political institutions and political systems around us not as fixed and unquestionable, but as things to evaluate and, if necessary, to change. We will consider the ideas and arguments of some of the world’s most celebrated philosophers, including historical thinkers such as Plato, Hugo Grotius, David Hume, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, and more contemporary theorists such as Michelle Alexander, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Bryan Caplan, Angela Davis, Ronald Dworkin, Jon Elster, John Hart Ely, H.L.A. Hart, Michael Huemer, Andrew Rehfeld, and Jeremy Waldron. The aim of the course is not to convince you of the correctness of any particular view or political position, but to provide you with a deeper and more philosophically-informed basis for your own views, and, perhaps, to help you better understand the views of those with whom you disagree.
Globe

100% online course

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.
Clock

Approx. 18 hours to complete

Suggested: 3 hours/week
Comment Dots

English

Subtitles: English
Globe

100% online course

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.
Clock

Approx. 18 hours to complete

Suggested: 3 hours/week
Comment Dots

English

Subtitles: English

Syllabus - What you will learn from this course

1

Section
Clock
1 hour to complete

Introduction to Part II of the Course

An introduction to the course and to some of the fundamental problems in legal and political philosophy. ...
Reading
1 video (Total 7 min), 4 readings
Reading4 readings
Syllabus10m
Networks10m
Grading10m
Argumentative Reflections10m

2

Section
Clock
5 hours to complete

Political Community and Borders

This unit explores the issues of how our political communities are and should be defined. What is the basis of political community? Should we be allowed to change what political community we are a part of? If so, how easily?...
Reading
6 videos (Total 96 min), 5 readings, 2 quizzes
Video6 videos
Lecture 6.1: Voluntarism & Political Community 16m
Lecture 6.2: Alternatives to Voluntarism: Rehfeld's Random Constituencies 18m
Lecture 6.3: Political Community, Cosmopolitanism & World Government 12m
Lecture 6.4.0: Immigration & Exclusion 16m
Lecture 6.4.1: Immigration, Exclusion & Open Borders 19m
Reading5 readings
Relevant Readings10m
Relevant Readings10m
Relevant Readings10m
Relevant Readings10m
Relevant Readings10m
Quiz1 practice exercises
Political Community and Borders20m

3

Section
Clock
5 hours to complete

Representatives, Elections, and Lotteries

This unit examines how our political community, once defined, should make law and policy. Who should get to have a say? ...
Reading
8 videos (Total 119 min), 5 readings, 2 quizzes
Video8 videos
Lecture 7.1: The Case for Representatives15m
Lecture 7.2: The Case for Elected Representatives11m
Lecture 7.3.0: The Perils of Elected Representation: Part I14m
Lecture 7.3.1: The Perils of Elected Representation: Part II17m
Lecture 7.4.0: The Lottocracy18m
Lecture 7.4.1: The Promise of Lottocracy13m
Lecture 7.4.2: Concerns About Lottocracy21m
Reading5 readings
Relevant Readings10m
Relevant Readings10m
Relevant Readings10m
Relevant Readings10m
Relevant Readings10m
Quiz1 practice exercises
Representatives, Elections, and Lotteries18m

4

Section
Clock
3 hours to complete

Constitutions

This unit examines the role and importance of constitutions. Should we have a constitution? Why might we want one? What should be in it?...
Reading
8 videos (Total 102 min), 5 readings, 1 quiz
Video8 videos
Lecture 8.1: Constitutions as Limits13m
Lecture 8.2: The Mechanisms of Constitutional Limitations8m
Lecture 8.3.0: Pre-Commitment & Constitutional Authority17m
Lecture 8.3.1: Pre-Commitment Revisited7m
Lecture 8.4: Constitutions & Process Theory15m
Lecture 8.5.0: Constitutions, Judicial Review, & Constitutional Interpretation15m
Lecture 8.5.1: Constitutional Interpretation9m
Reading5 readings
Relevant Readings10m
Relevant Readings10m
Relevant Readings10m
Relevant Readings10m
Relevant Readings10m
Quiz1 practice exercises
Constitutions18m

5

Section
Clock
8 hours to complete

Prisons and Punishment & Conclusions

This unit considers the role of crime and punishment within a political community. What should be illegal? What should happen if people break the law?...
Reading
8 videos (Total 146 min), 5 readings, 3 quizzes
Video8 videos
Lecture 9.1.0: What is Crime? What Should be Criminalized?9m
Lecture 9.1.1: What Can be Criminalized? The Hart-Devlin Debate13m
Lecture 9.2: Theories of Punishment12m
Lecture 9.3.0: Theories of Punishment: Retributivism15m
Lecture 9.3.1: Retributivism Reconsidered12m
Lecture 9.4: Alternatives to Incarcerations: Restorative Justice11m
Reflections on Revolutionary Ideas: A Question & Answer Session with Prof. Guerrero58m
Reading5 readings
Relevant Readings10m
Relevant Readings10m
Relevant Readings10m
Relevant Readings10m
Relevant Readings10m
Quiz1 practice exercises
Prisons and Punishment & Conclusions18m
4.7

Top Reviews

By MRMar 13th 2016

Although at first I was a bit put off by the speaker's idiosyncratic voice, the content and thought ticklers presented were so good that this course rates a five.

By AGOct 13th 2015

Very engaging course. Particularly like the peer reviewed assignments which got one thinking more deeply about the concepts explained in the lectures.

Instructor

Avatar

Alexander Guerrero

Assistant Professor

About University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania (commonly referred to as Penn) is a private university, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. A member of the Ivy League, Penn is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States, and considers itself to be the first university in the United States with both undergraduate and graduate studies. ...

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Once you enroll for a Certificate, you’ll have access to all videos, quizzes, and programming assignments (if applicable). Peer review assignments can only be submitted and reviewed once your session has begun. If you choose to explore the course without purchasing, you may not be able to access certain assignments.

  • If you pay for this course, you will have access to all of the features and content you need to earn a Course Certificate. If you complete the course successfully, your electronic Certificate will be added to your Accomplishments page - from there, you can print your Certificate or add it to your LinkedIn profile. Note that the Course Certificate does not represent official academic credit from the partner institution offering the course.

  • Yes! Coursera provides financial aid to learners who would like to complete a course but cannot afford the course fee. To apply for aid, select "Learn more and apply" in the Financial Aid section below the "Enroll" button. You'll be prompted to complete a simple application; no other paperwork is required.

More questions? Visit the Learner Help Center