Liberty and Equality

Prof David Wiens | Spring 2017 | UC San Diego

Course Description

Tea Party activists protest taxes in the name of liberty. Gun lobbyists declare regulations on gun ownership an affront to liberty. Racial minorities complain that discriminatory police tactics restrict their liberty. Civil rights groups protest government surveillance of American citizens in the name of liberty.

Gay, lesbian, and transgender rights groups fought for marriage rights in the name of equality. Women's rights groups fight for workplace equality. Occupy Wall Street activists protest CEO salaries in the name of equality. Black Lives Matter activists lobby for policies to support race equality.

Liberty and equality are obviously important mantras in contemporary American political debates. How we think about these issues depends on how we think about these key concepts. What is liberty? What is equality? How are these values related? What are their practical political implications? How are liberty and equality manifest in political society? These and related questions will focus our attention in this course.


Elizabeth Anderson

The Imperative of Integration

Robert Nozick

Anarchy, State, and Utopia

Philip Pettit


John Rawls

A Theory of Justice

Debra Satz

Why Some Things Should Not Be For Sale

Learning Objectives

The aim of this course is to help you develop skills that empower you to formulate astute questions and think critically about potential answers. These skills include: (1) the ability to summarize and synthesize what you read; (2) the ability to reconstruct and critically evaluate others' arguments; (3) the ability to communicate clearly and construct compelling arguments; (4) the ability to collaborate with others to pursue mutual understanding. Class format and assignments are designed with these objectives in mind.



Opportunities to lead small group discussions of the readings.


Low-stakes opportunities to develop your understanding of the readings.


Opportunities to develop your ability to critically assess arguments.


End-of-term opportunity to put everything together.

What Students Are Saying

"Great instructor. Wiens is good at challenging students' arguments and encouraging them to think critically."

"Taking this course, expect it to be challenging, and expect to work, but you will find that in the end, you'll have walked out with an abundance of knowledge."

"All of the reading was excellent and provoked thoughtful and stimulating discussion and reflection."

"Professor Wiens was an amazing professor who challenged us as students and encouraged us to think on a deeper level. Overall, one of my favorite professors at UCSD."

"Professor Wiens is a very articulate and masterful teacher. His lecture grabs my attention and holds it."


Times and location to be determined.

Class sessions are primarily discussion format.

This course satisfies the Roosevelt College Upper Division Writing Requirement and the Marshall College "Significant Writing" requirement.