Lecture: Limits of the Neoclassical Synthesis

Ian Shapiro - Yale

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Lecture Description

Although the harm principle as introduced in the last lecture seems straightforward at first glance, today Professor Shapiro discusses its ambiguities. If it "must be calculated to produce evil to someone else," who will be doing the calculations? Second, what does "calculated" mean? Does committing harm imply mens rea, or should strict liability be observed? The class discusses such issues as prostitution, free trade, same-sex marriage, statutory rape, Good Samaritan laws, marital rape, discrimination, and tort adjudication (specifically the 1950s case on thalidomide). Professor Shapiro concludes that in calculating harm, one must make political choices, which places the Enlightenment ideal of replacing politics with science in jeopardy.

Course Description

This course explores main answers to the question "when do governments deserve our allegiance?" It starts with a survey of major political theories of the Enlightenment—Utilitarianism, Marxism, and the social contract tradition—through classical formulations, historical context, and contemporary debates relating to politics today. It then turns to the rejection of Enlightenment political thinking. Lastly, it deals with the nature of, and justifications for, democratic politics, and their relations to Enlightenment and Anti-Enlightenment political thinking. Practical implications of these arguments are covered through discussion of a variety of concrete problems.

from course: The Moral Foundations of Politics


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