Liberty Studies

A course syllabus from William Kline, director of the Liberty Studies Project at the University of Illinois, Springfield.

Syllabus Link:  Liberty Studies Syllabus

Course Description

What is liberty and why would we want it?  This course is an examination of the meanings and foundations of liberty.  Liberty Studies focuses on the foundations, meanings, and implications of what it is to be free.  It poses the fundamental question of “What can I do with my life?”  It questions the power of institutions and the legitimacy of the constraints they impose.  It explores freedom and liberty from multiple perspectives, including minorities and women in our own culture, and indigenous peoples of other times and places.  Liberty Studies examines the costs and benefits of free human interaction, the need of naturally social animals to be left alone, and ultimately wrestles with the questions of what freedom and liberty are and should be.

This course uses both philosophical and economic methods to identify different types of liberty and the implications these have for addressing current issues and events.  This course can count for either a general education humanities or general education social science course.

Required Texts, Technology, and Websites

David Schmidtz and Jason Brennan, A Brief History of Liberty, Wiley-Blackwell, Paperback: 280 pages  (app $25) ISBN-10: 1405170794, ISBN-13: 978-1405170796

Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom, Anchor; Reprint edition (August 15, 2000), Paperback: 384 pages (Approximately $20 or less.) ISBN-10:0195655265, ISBN-13:978-0195655261

Other required readings, and links to required readings and videos, are contained in the Blackboard section for this course http://bb.uis.edu
The website, www.libertystudies.org, will be referenced throughout the course as a source of information and further reading.

Course Objectives/Learning Outcomes

 Course objectives include the following: 

  • Identify key economic and philosophical assumptions associated with different theories of liberty
  • Recognize and discuss ethical values associated with liberty
  • Nuance understanding of different theories of liberty
  • Examine the relationship between liberty and the social responsibility of the individual within the larger community
  • Explore conflicts and syntheses of methodology in philosophy and economics
  • Define what we mean—both personally and collectively—when we use the terms liberty and freedom

Learning Outcomes include the following: 

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Read course materials effectively and reflect comprehension.
  • Understand the similarities and differences in different theories of liberty including their policy implications.
  • Identify the intellectual motivation of authors, institutions, and activists.
  • Engage in critical thinking by analyzing, evaluating, and articulating the strengths and weaknesses of arguments covered in class.
  • Understand the criteria by which we judge these arguments
  • Apply definitions of liberty to enhance critical examination of current events and issues.
  • Express ideas, facts and arguments in a written format that depicts competency in the use of syntax, organization, and style.

Course Format

On Campus:    On campus sections of this course will utilize in class discussions, readings in                           Blackboard, material from www.libertystudies.org, AND discussion board                               participation within Blackboard.

Online:            Online sections of this course will utilize material from Blackboard and                                     www.libertystudies.org.  Participation within online courses will be solely                                 via Blackboard discussion posts.

Expectations or Teaching Philosophy

My classes are student centered in multiple ways.  First, I expect no more of you than I do of myself.  You are a full time student with other classes and responsibilities.  I am a fulltime faculty, with other classes and responsibilities.  Making this a rewarding class means recognizing that it is not the only thing in our lives, but that it is an important part for at least the current semester.

Second, I am here to help you get the education you want. That is how I perceive my role as professor and facilitator.  I am completely dedicated to helping you with any questions or problems you encounter with the course material.  Within the rules laid out by this syllabus, I also do my best to help students balance other obligations with this course.  However, I do not read minds.  Getting the education you want requires that you communicate with me.

Third, helping students does not mean doing whatever they ask.  It also does not mean agreeing with everything that is said in class.  You are no more expected to agree with the professor than the professor to agree with you.  In fact my general philosophy in life comes to the fore here.  I will challenge you on your thoughts and arguments.  Most likely, in all our exchanges, I will never completely agree with you.  I will do my best to make sure of it.  My goal is to help you explore and formulate your ideas about liberty.  I do not believe this is best served by a great deal of head nodding.  I will also show you how this can be done in a supportive and civil manner.  Showing true respect for any idea means engaging that idea and asking the person why they hold that idea.  While it is hard work, it is an enjoyable process; it is also why they killed Socrates.  I will do my best, with your guidance, to strike a happy balance.

Finally, I enjoy answering questions.  Not everything is an argument.  There will be many occasions when we are mutually involved in an exploration of ideas and practices.  If there is something you do not understand, or would like clarified, please ask.  You can ask either on the Discussion Boards or by emailing me.  If your email is not of a personal nature, I may post the answer on my Blog as well as emailing it.

UIS Academic Integrity Policy

I support the UIS policy on Academic Integrity, which states, in part: “Academic integrity is at the heart of the university’s commitment to academic excellence. The UIS community strives to communicate and support clear standards of integrity, so that undergraduate and graduate students can internalize those standards and carry them forward in their personal and professional lives. Living a life with integrity prepares students to assume leadership roles in their communities as well as in their chosen profession. Alumni can be proud of their education and the larger society will benefit from the University’s contribution to the development of ethical leaders. Violations of academic integrity demean the violator, degrade the learning process, deflate the meaning of grades, discredit the accomplishments of past and present students, and tarnish the reputation of the university for all its members.”

Academic sanctions range from a warning to expulsion from the university, depending on the severity of your violation and your history of violations. Whatever the sanction, I will file a report of academic dishonesty to the Office of the Provost.

You are responsible for understanding and complying with the UIS Academic Integrity Policy available at http://www.uis.edu/campussenate/academicintegrity.htm

Course Requirements

Short Papers:

The purpose of the short papers is to relate class readings to current issues and events.  Papers will be due the end of weeks 5, 10 and 15.

Papers will relate the readings done up to that point to a current event or issue.  Students are free to choose their own topics but must get instructor approval.

Each paper should be between 850 and 1,000 words.  Students will have a chance to improve their grades on their first papers by editing based on my comments.

Citations:  Students are required to cite the sources of all information they use for any of the papers.  Students must use one of the following four styles:  APA, Chicago, MLA, or Turabian.  See http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/using/instruct/citation.html  or Wikipedia for help on citations.  Also, students are welcome to use the Zotero download for Firefox, or any other computer program, to make their citations.  See http://www.zotero.org/ for Firefox Zotero.

Paper Grading:

Papers are graded in the following categories.  Each category is worth 10 points.

  • Grammar, spelling, typographical errors, correct word usage, and standard use of the language.
  • References to readings or class discussions, accurate citations, good use of examples or quotations, demonstration that the author has knowledge about the subject.
  • Creativity, innovative or impressive use of style, cleverness, innovation, avoiding tedious style or cliché, synthesis, novel ideas about application.
  • Sound argument, synthesis, comparison, good thinking, presentation of ideas with follow-up to support or back up ideas, use of reasoning to support positions, evaluation, persuasiveness, analysis.
  • Accomplished goals of assignment, or addressed goals of assignment. Demonstrated achievement of course learning goals or objectives. The student did what they were asked to do in the description of the assignment.

Exams:

Exams are open book open note.  I will give you at least 90 minutes for each exam.  Exams will consist of multiple choice, true/false and short essay questions covering the readings, lecture notes, and discussion boards.

Participation:

Both online and on campus students are required to participate in the discussion boards for this class on Blackboard.  This may sound odd for on ground students, but the reasoning is simple.  In class there is a limited amount of time.  Allowing for lecture and other exercises, there simply is not enough time for everyone to participate.  Furthermore, some students do not like to talk in class.  Since this is not a class on public speaking it is unfair to judge these students poorly.  Finally, some would like to take their time in formulating responses.  I wish to encourage this reflection.  Discussion board posts are a legitimate topic of general conversation for both online and on ground classes.  I also realize this may be the first time many of you have worked on Blackboard, so this is an opportunity for me to help you learn about this format.

Students are expected to contribute to discussions the week they are due.  Except for the “General Questions” thread, all discussion Boards close on the Monday of the following week.

There will be multiple discussion questions.  Unless stated otherwise, students are expected to at least substantively answer one discussion question and comment on the post of one other person.  That makes for at least two meaningful posts each week.  Students may also post, and comment on, an outside article or blog as part of their required participation.  Remember, good posts are thought out and articulate. Simply pasting a link you like is not participation without thoughtful comment.  You should post these under the “Current Events” thread.

Participation Grading:

Redundant posts count for less.  Do not say the exact same thing, literally or figuratively, as someone before you.   If you think you are too close, you probably are and should move on to answering another question.

Please also take note that posting a discussion question and commenting on the post of one other person is the required minimum.  To earn an “A” in participation with two posts, both must be excellent.  Additional good posts can help your participation grade.  While no list can be exhaustive, this list is a guide to how I judge the quality of a post.

No Credit C B A
Simply repeating   what someone else says.One word answers orpurely emotive responses e.g. “Yeah, that was great!  I was thinking the same thing.”

 

 

Thread that bears no relation to the topic at hand.

 

 

 

 

Failure to use any grammar or punctuation.  Thread composed of texting language e.g. “ur gr8”

 

 

Thread contains some similarities to other posts.Brief answers that do not explain the topic.  e.g. “For Hobbes, justice is property.” 

 

 

Thread that bears minimal relation to the topic.  It makes people pause and think “How is this related?”

 

Thread containing 3 to 4 mistakes in grammar or spelling.

Thread is new. 

Sufficient answer to the question.  Defines terms and references readings.  Reader understands clearly what the poster is talking about.

 

Thread is relevant to the topic.  People do not need to pause and think “How is this relevant?”

 

 

Thread Contains 1-2 grammar or spelling errors.

Thread is new. 

Goes over and beyond.  Poster displays a command of the subject line.  Poster understands trade-off between length and clarity.

 

Thread is relevant to the topic and makes reader see topic in a new light.

 

 

Thread contains 0-1 grammar or spelling errors.

Methods of Evaluation

3 short papers – 50 pts each

2 exams – 50 pts each

Participation – 100 pts

Total Possible – 350 points

Grading

Grading Scale

  • A range: 90 ≤ total score ≤ 100
  • B range: 80 ≤ total score < 90
  • C range: 70 ≤ total score < 80
  • D range: 60 ≤ total score < 70
  • F: below 60

Delivery Method

Online and Onground.

 

Course Calendar or Schedule

Each week consists of approximately 60 pages of reading.

Week
Topic Assignment

1

Introduction Introduction: Conceptions of Freedom pp. 1 – 30 A Brief History of Liberty (BHL)Chapter 1:  A Prehistory of Liberty: Forty Thousand Years Ago pp. 30-60 (BHL

2

The Importance of Choice and Opportunity James S. Taylor – “Autonomy and Liberty”
Amartya Sen – Chapter 1 “The Perspective of Freedom” (DF) pp. 3-13.Kant – (selections)

3

Ancient Liberty:  Direct Democracy Plato – Crito & ApologyBenjamin Constant – “Liberty of the Ancients and Liberty of the Moderns”

4

Democracy and Law Chapter 2:  The Rule of Law pp. 60-93 (BHL)Chapter 5:  Civil Liberty pp. 169-208 (BHL)
U.S. Constitution, Declaration of Independence
Federalist 10

5

The Flourishing City Amartya Sen – Chapter 2 “ The Ends and Means of Development” pp. 35-54 (DF)
Chapter 3 “ Freedom and the Foundations of Justice”  pp. 54-87 (DF)

6

 

Ancient Liberty Revisited Chapter 5 “ Markets, State, and Social Opportunity” pp. 111-146 (DF)Chapter 6 “ The Importance of Democracy” 146-160 (DF)

7

Modern Liberty Berlin – “Two Concepts of Liberty”
Hayek – “Liberty and Liberties” (Chapter 1, Constitution of Liberty)

8

 

Rights:  contracts and self-ownership Thomas Hobbes – Leviathan (Selections)
John Locke – Second Treatise of Government(Selections)David Hume – “Of the Original Contract”
Murray Rothbard – The Ethics of Liberty

9

The Evolution of Rights Sugden, Robert – “The Evolution of Rights, Cooperation, and Welfare” (selection)
David Hume – Enquiries Concerning Principles of Morals (Selections)

10

Rights and Utility: Thinking like an Economist Mill – Utilitarianism, Chapter IIJohn Stuart Mill – Utilitarianism, Chapter V

11

 

The Harm Principle Mill – On liberty, Chapter I

12

 

Liberty and Markets Mill – Principals of Political Economy(Laissez faire is not Principle of Liberty)Ludwig von Mises – “Economic Foundations of Freedom” 

Chapter 4 “Poverty as Capability Deprivation” (DF) pp. 87-111

Adam Smith – Wealth of Nations (Selections)

13

 

Free Trade Chapter 4: “Freedom of Commerce” (BHL) pp. 120-169.
F.A. Hayek – “The Use of Knowledge in Society”
Leonard Read – “I Pencil”

14

 

Prices and Property as Communication Norman Barry:  The Tradition of Spontaneous Order: A Bibliographical Essay
Hans Sennholz – “The Formation and Function of Prices”Carol Rose – “Possession as the Origin of Property” and “Property as Storytelling: Perspectives from Game Theory, Narrative Theory, Feminist Theory” pp 11-47)

15

Freedom of Speech and Thought Mill – On Liberty, Chapter II
Chapter 3: Religious Freedom pp. 93-120 (BHL)
Michael Polanyi –  “Economic and Intellectual Liberties”, Zeitschrift für die gesamte Staatswissenschaft / Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics, Bd. 106, H. 3. (1950), pp. 411-447

16

Finals

 

Date Syllabus Prepared:  11/11/11

 

About William Kline

William Kline is an associate professor in the department of Business Administration at the University of Illinois, Springfield.
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