Fall 2023 Courses
Civitas Fellows teach courses on philosophy, politics, and economics. In the Fall 2023 term, Fellows offer the following courses for UT-Austin students.
This course examines ethical questions relating to organizations from theoretical and practical points of view. In an organizational context, these questions arise at several different levels. We can ask about my obligations
- to the organization
- to my coworkers
- to my supervisors
- to the people I supervise
- to shareholders
- to the public.
We can ask about the organization’s obligations to its members, its shareholders, and the public. And we can ask about ways of structuring institutions to encapsulate the values of the organization and minimize ethical risks. Finally, we can ask about the extent to which ethical problems can be addressed by formal codes, policies, and institutional structures.
Our hypothesis throughout the course will be that ethics, strategy, psychology, and organizational structure interact in important ways and need to be studied together. Readings will come from philosophers such as Confucius, Aristotle, Kant, Mill, and Ross, psychologists such as Peterson, Seligman, Kahneman, Tversky, and Haidt, anthropologists such as Fiske and Rai, and strategists such as Sun Tzu, Boyd, Axelrod, and Taleb.
How should I live? What kind of person should I try to become? What should I do? How do I decide? Those questions about how to live—what to be, what to do, how to decide—form the subject matter of ethics. This course examines classic texts of several different approaches to answering them. We will read selections from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Immanuel Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Jeremy Bentham’s Principles of Moralsand Legislation and Pannomial Fragments, John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism, and W. D. Ross’s The Right and the Good—classic statements of important approaches to ethical theory.
IDEAS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
Friedrich Nietzsche predicted that the twentieth century would be a century of great wars. It was. More than one hundred million people died in wars. About the same number died at the hands of their own governments. In its early years, philosophers, scientists, psychologists, artists, musicians, poets, and writers of fiction overthrew our understanding of the physical world, of human behavior, of thought and its limits, and of our understanding of art, creativity, and beauty. The challenge of totalitarianism confronted those committed to freedom. The devastation of two World Wars raised deep questions about the nature and meaning of human existence. This course will explore these themes as they develop in twentieth-century philosophy, history, literature, and art. Readings will be from authors such as Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Shaw, Doyle, Unamuno, Eliot, Yeats, Kipling, Christie, Fitzgerald, Freud, Ortega y Gasset, Pirandello, Churchill, Lewis, Camus, Borges, Ionesco, Hayek, Lyotard, Sontag, Didion, Rawls, Nozick, Havel, and Solzhenitsyn.
B A 286T (MBA Level)
This course focuses on the application of data analytic, statistics tools in business decisions. The main topic of the course is regression analysis. Students will learn how to use regression to analyze a variety of complex real-world problems. Numerous empirical examples from finance, marketing, economics, politics, sports, etc. illustrate applications of the material covered.
ADVANCED STATISTICS AND ECONOMETRICS IN R
STA 280N (MBA Level)
This course is on the use of advanced statistical and machine learning tools applied to economic questions. Loosely speaking, this is a class where “Economics” meets “Big Data Analytics.” The goal is to understand a number of modern statistical techniques and apply them to answer cause-and-effect questions in economics, finance, marketing, etc.
TRADE-OFFS, VALUES, AND DATA
This course is about policies and the trade-offs inherent in choosing which policies get enacted into law. To understand the current policymaking environment, students should understand three components: where we are as a society today (progress); what goals/values we are trying to attain/promote with policy (values); and how we evaluate the effects of these policies (empirical policy evaluation). We achieve these goals by exploring ideas in philosophy, economics and statistics.
GLOBAL POLITICAL ECONOMY
The course explores the relationship of business to its many stakeholders in the global context. These stakeholders include governments, bureaucrats and citizens. The goal of the course is to prepare students, as future managers in a global world, to develop effective business strategy. Because global business strategy involves both unforeseen risks and costly investment of resources, it is crucial to understand the sources of future opportunities as well as future uncertainty. We will see how applying political economic analysis can open the door to viable market and non-market strategies in global business.
The course is case-based, plus a few lectures. It is divided into two parts.
The first part is designed to gain a deep understanding of political economy from the experience of countries. A country-case is analyzed for its political economy context, followed by a business-case situated in this environment which requires strategic decision-making by a manager.
The second part is issue-based, covering International Institutions, Trade Disputes, Global Supply Chains, the Resource Curse and Monopolies. Institutional cases and business cases that highlight an issue in the political economy context of a country will be used. How do we approach business strategy in such circumstances?
SURVEILLANCE, LIBERTY, AND PRIVACY
This course explores rapidly evolving debates around government surveillance, new technologies, civil liberties, and personal privacy. It considers surveillance by the U.S. intelligence community, police, and U.S. allies and adversaries abroad, examining key legal instruments and court decisions in light of broader policy debates. The class will also examine the interbranch allocation of responsibility for authorizing, implementing, and overseeing surveillance programs. In particular, the course will focus on surveillance activities affecting new and emerging technologies and those technologies’ potential to shift the balance between citizen and state.
Alexander Pruss (Baylor) and I will cover recent developments in Aristotelian metaphysics and philosophy of nature. First, we will delineate and categorize the variety of contemporary accounts that claim the label ‘hylomorphism,’ exploring the logical space beyond both physicalism and various kinds of dualism or vitalism. Second, we will investigate whether hylomorphic models can shed light on problems in the interpretation of contemporary scientific theory, including quantum physics, chemistry, and biology. Third, we will fill out a distinctively Aristotelian account of the metaphysics of space, time, causal powers, grounding, and essence. Fourth, we will look for an Aristotelian third way between standard versions of Platonism and nominalism, evaluating its advantages and costs.
CLASSICAL PHILOSOPHY AND LITERATURE
An introduction to the philosophy and literature of ancient Greece and Rome, including Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Sophocles’ Antigone, selections from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Cicero’s On Obligations, and Virgil’s Aeneid. The course will include a historical simulation from Reacting to the Past (developed at Barnard College), set in ancient Athens at the time of Socrates’ trial. Students will be assigned different roles, e.g., Thrasybulus, a radical Democrat, Oligarch, Supporter of Socrates, Rich Athlete–derived from the historical setting. Students will determine on their own, however, how best to attain their goals, receiving guidance from important texts in the history of ideas. Before and after the game, the course will be conducted in a seminar style, with heavy emphasis on student participation.
This course will introduce you to government and politics in the United States. We will cover topics such as the Constitution, political institutions, elections and public opinion, rights and freedoms, and public policy. We also introduce approaches to the social scientific study of politics, particularly data analysis, and make comparisons between American government and Texas government throughout. The class begins with the basic principles of politics, followed by a discussion of the creation of the nation and its fundamental features, including the Constitution, the development of democracy, the importance of federalism, and fundamental rights and liberties. We then explore the institutional building blocks of government – the Congress, presidency, bureaucracy, and federal courts. The class then examines public input into the political system, particularly public opinion, elections, political parties, interest groups, and the mass media. We conclude with the key social, foreign policy, and economic issues facing the nation.
INTRO TO MICROECONOMICS
The purpose of the class is to provide a firm understanding of the structure and workings of the micro-economy; topics include: supply and demand; elasticity; efficiency and equity; markets in action; utility; preferences and choices; the theory of the firm; output and costs; market structures; behavioral economics; and public goods and externalities. Microeconomics is the basic building block for all upper-level courses.
WEALTH AND WELL-BEING
This class provides a firm understanding of the structure and workings of the economy and surveys the ethical frameworks in order to evaluate whether the market outcomes observed in the economy are ethical or not. This course equips students to be better citizens, become knowledgeable decision makers, and be able to discern good economic policy.
MONEY IN U.S. POLITICS
GOV 370R/LAH 350
This course explores the nature and consequences of money in American politics and why, at this point in history, we find ourselves embroiled in the most significant debate over campaign finance reform in well over forty years. The debate goes to the heart of the U.S. Constitution, pitting the First Amendment rights of speech and assembly against notions of equality challenged, some claim, by the scale and distribution of money in contemporary US politics.
Campaign finance issues lie at the crossroads of a bewildering number of analytical perspectives. We examine the work of historians, social scientists, legal scholars, and interested parties on all sides of the argument in an effort to assess current policy debates and to understand how we got here.
The objective of the course is not to persuade you of any particular point of view but, rather, to arm you with the substantive knowledge, theoretical foundation, and analytical tools needed to be resolute in whatever conclusions you draw from this experience.
TOCQUEVILLE’S DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA
The course will consist in a close reading of the two volumes of Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. The purpose of the course is to introduce students to Tocqueville’s moderate defense of liberal democracy. In contrast to the extreme views held in his day––the radical aristocratic view seeing democracy as inherently tyrannical and the radical democratic view seeing democracy as inherently just––Tocqueville’s study of America was a qualified vindication of democracy as a political order in which liberty and equality, enlightenment and religion, self-interest and the common good, regard for human greatness and respect for the little guy, could be substantially harmonized, given the right laws and political institutions and, most importantly, the right mores. One among many valuable lessons that students can draw from Tocqueville’s book is how deeply a thinker can criticize democracy while remaining its thoughtful friend—as opposed to its flatterer.
In the first volume, we will cover the following topics: (a) Tocqueville’s analysis of America’s political institutions, particularly at the local level, as they existed in the 1830’s, (b) his study of the interplay between American democracy and prominent civil institutions (e.g., political parties, the press), (c) his diagnosis of and prescription for the peculiar democratic ailment he calls “tyranny of the majority,” (d) his understanding of the relation between religion and liberty, and (e) his account of the political and social relations between the “three races” that compose the United States and of what those relations portend for the future of American democracy.
In the second volume, we will cover the following topics: (a) Tocqueville’s concern with the diminution of the intellectual horizon of the democratic mind, (b) his argument about how to “enlighten” self-interest in democratic times, (c) his account of the high status that pity occupies in democratic times (d) his general outlook on the prospects for liberty and the preservation of man’s humanity in democratic times.
AMERICAN AND TEXAS GOVERNMENT
This course is an introduction to American government and politics. While our main focus is on the national level, additional attention is paid to the state and local governments of Texas. In some instances, the American case is placed in a comparative context derived from the experience of other western democratic nations. In other instances, we focus on changes over time within the American political system to demonstrate how principles often change with context. At all times, we are interested in a better understanding of how this particular system has developed and what it means for citizens of the United States.
There are three primary objectives in this course. The first is to provide basic descriptive information about the American and Texas political systems by examining important political processes, institutions, and actors. The second is to develop analytical skills with which to understand complex relationships and phenomena. The third is to introduce the work of the political scientist by concentrating on the paradigms and techniques of the discipline.
This course focuses on the role political parties play in representative democracies. We will study the variables that distinguish party systems in different countries, the historical development of parties, and the nature of parties in contemporary democratic societies. We will also explore how parties mobilize mass populations for political purposes, as well as the character of party elites, activists, and supporters.
The first three weeks of the course are largely general and theoretical. Examples are drawn from different countries to illustrate questions and arguments. The remainder of the course deals almost exclusively with the American parties.
My approach will be thematic. By studying institutions and processes that are generally characteristic of parties in democratic systems, you will recognize that many features of the American parties are a particular configuration of more general phenomena. Through the readings and lectures on the U.S. party system you will develop a conceptual and theoretical understanding of not only the American parties, but of political parties across the globe.
DESCARTES: ORIGINS OF MODERNITY
Descartes is a pivotal figure in the history of philosophy, so much so that he is often described as the founder of modern philosophy. In this course, we will consider whether that title is warranted and what was new about Descartes’ thinking by reading Descartes’ Discourse on Method, Meditations, Principles of Philosophy, and Passions of the Soul. We will look backwards, by considering Descartes’ difference from classical thinkers, and forwards, by considering his influence on modern thinkers. But above all we will be taking a deep dive into Descartes’ own texts to try to understand his fundamental reflections.
AFRICAN AMERICAN SOCIAL & POLITICAL THOUGHT
This course will apply a core text approach to the study of the African American experience in America from the institution of slavery to the struggle for civil rights in the 1960s. Additionally, it will conclude with a look at contemporary authors on racial equality today. This course will focus on four core thinkers and their critics. Elements of the biographies of these core thinkers will be consulted to situate their ideas in context, but the primary focus will be on the content of their ideas.
- Frederick Douglass: Douglass will serve as the foundation for the course because the other three are in some ways building on or departing from his project. He knew the evils of slavery personally. Nevertheless, Douglass argued that America could and should be home to African Americans even though they did not have equal status in a white-dominated society.
- Booker T. Washington: Washington argued that through industrial training and hard work African Americans could elevate their status in society. Washington described the status of African Americans in the aftermath of slavery, particularly addressing the practical problems they faced as they sought a more equal station in society.
- W. E. B. Du Bois: Du Bois was critical of Washington’s “gradualist” approach, instead encouraging the most intellectually capable to pursue higher education to elevate their race as a whole. Du Bois will also help to illustrate the conditions African Americans faced in the first half of the of twentieth century.
- Martin Luther King, Jr: King is the final core thinker who represents a time approximately a century following the Emancipation Proclamation. This section will explore the principles and goals of King’s nonviolent direct action program as well as the content of the “dream” he spoke of in 1963.
- Critics of Core Thinkers: We will study critics who opposed the four core thinkers, directly or indirectly, including Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, and Kwame Ture & Charles Hamilton, among others.
- The Dream Today: The question of whether Martin Luther’s dream has been attained will provide the transition point to reading some modern-day authors who have different views on the status of African Americans today. Contemporary authors to be examined include Cornel West, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Ibram X. Kendi, and John McWhorter
Yul Min Park
STATISTICAL ANALYSIS IN POLITICAL SCIENCE
This course teaches students the skills needed to unlock valuable and important knowledge from data within the field of political science, and more broadly, the social sciences. Students will learn how to obtain data, how to manipulate them into a useful format, how to analyze them to produce insights, and how to present these findings effectively. These skills will be useful in future coursework as well as in a wide range of professional contexts.
INTRODUCTION TO POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY
The state is a unique thing. It can demand our wealth in the form of taxes, our obedience in the form of laws, and even our lives in the form of the draft. No other entity exerts such power over our lives. In this course, we will explore some of the basic questions about the state through a close study of the foundational texts in the history of political thought. We will begin with Aristotle’s Politics, one of the first works of political theory. Through that work, we will become familiar with one of the main approaches to political thought, an approach which holds that the goal of political life is to promote the common good—the happiness of the citizen body. We will then examine some of the writings of the early modern thinkers who developed an alternative political philosophy, namely, liberalism, which holds that the state’s purpose is not to promote anyone’s good but to protect the freedoms of her citizens. And finally, we will conclude the semester by considering some of the criticisms of liberalism that have been formulated more recently by contemporary thinkers.
In the course of this survey, we will reflect on a number of questions, including the following: What is happiness, the goal at which political life (according to some) is supposed to aim? What authority does the state actually have to intervene in the lives of her citizens to promote their happiness? If the state’s purpose is not to promote the happiness of her citizens, what is its purpose? To secure liberty? To promote equality? What liberties do we in fact have? And why after all is liberty so important? Is civil disobedience ever justified? Should there be a free market? What are the virtues of citizenship? And should the state intervene to help promote those virtues?
CONSTITUTIONAL PRINCIPLES: CORE TEXTS
This class is devoted to the underlying principles of liberal democracy in America and American political life. We will proceed mainly through a close reading of primary sources. Topics discussed will include: contemporary critiques of liberal democracy; the principles of the Declaration of Independence; the debate over the Constitution of 1787 between the Federalists and the Anti- Federalists; the nature of democracy as a social condition; the tyranny of the majority; the phenomena of individualism and materialism; the problem of slavery in the founding and the early republic; the moral and constitutional issues at stake in the Civil War; and the question of civil disobedience. The class carries a Cultural Diversity in the U.S. Flag: our final unit will explore the writings of Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, and other African-American authors. The class also carries an “Ethics” flag: we will consider the difficult practical questions faced by leaders such as Douglass, Washington, Du Bois, Lincoln, Madison, and others.
CONSTITUTIONAL PRINCIPLES: CORE TEXTS
Citizens of American liberal democracy live under the oldest codified constitution in use today. Yet the age of a constitution does not permit us to take its principles for granted. Far from it. Each of us, in one way or another, is deeply shaped by these principles – in what we admire and detest, praise and blame, fear and love, in our opinions on the mundane and the lofty alike. Therefore, if we wish not to take our opinions for granted, if we wish to achieve genuine self-knowledge, and if we are to be responsible democratic citizens, we must engage in a searching and thoughtful analysis of the theoretical basis for the American Constitution and the ways of life it fosters and requires. Such an analysis is all the more necessary today; liberal democracy now draws criticism not only from abroad but also from home on both sides of the political spectrum. If we are to meet those criticisms adequately, we owe it to ourselves to recover the original intention of those who shaped our regime. This course is designed to help students begin such a recovery.
We will focus on the fundamental principles of American political life: democracy, equality, and liberty. Our guides – a select few authors of the American political tradition’s foundational texts – will show us how these principles took hold in the US and what arguments were made for and against them. Our authors will not always agree with each other – they will even vehemently disagree. But from their agreements and disagreements alike, we can begin to recover for ourselves those crucial questions informing our country, and hopefully start on the path towards genuine intellectual liberation.
We will read Aristotle, John Locke, The Federalist Papers, select Anti-Federalists, Alexis de Tocqueville, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Baldwin, Abraham Lincoln, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
THE CLASSICAL QUEST FOR JUSTICE
It is obvious that a concern for justice affects our expectations of one another and our obligations to others. It also lies at the foundation of our thinking about governmental policies and our hopes for political society. And yet, despite of our continued concern for justice, we seldom, if ever, pause to reflect on its nature. What is justice? What does it require of individuals and political communities? In this course, we will focus on these and other fundamental questions of political philosophy through a careful study of seminal texts from antiquity. Beginning with Sophocles’ Antigone, we will attempt to think through the questions of justice, civic and familial obligation, nobility, mortality, and the relationship of the human to the divine, and to understand Sophocles’ artful and complex presentation of the deepest puzzles connected with those themes. We will then read Xenophon’s Regime of the Lacedaemonians and Plutarch’s Life of Lycurgus to examine one legislator’s attempt to attain perfect justice in a city through institutional and educational reforms aimed at total devotion to the common good, and to appreciate the authors’ ironic treatment and subtle criticisms of that regime. Turning then to Plato’s Apology of Socrates, Plato’s Republic, and Aristotle’s Politics, our focus will be on the relationship of the philosopher to the political community, the meaning of Socratic philosophy as a way of life, its need for a political defense, and the distinctive forms that that defense takes in the works of Plato and Aristotle.
CONSTITUTIONAL PRINCIPLES: CORE TEXTS
This course will introduce students to the study of politics by considering the constitutional order of the United States. The course examines the ideational roots of the United States’ foundational principles as instantiated in the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and in classical political and legislative writings that informed the Founders’ Constitutional Designs.
Throughout the semester, students will interrogate the relationship between practical politics and constitutional design by reflecting upon the following questions: How does the U.S. Constitution lay the foundation of American government and organize its powers in a manner that affects our safety and happiness? In what ways has our original constitutional design been either advanced or frustrated by historical developments with respect to our political institutions? How democratic was the founding? Is democratization always conducive to deliberation? Does institutional rivalry rooted in separation and blending of constitutional powers foster increased deliberation in republican self-government, or does it merely cause political gridlock? When is a constitutional commitment to limited government in tension with the necessities required to protect our civil rights and liberties?
Careful reflection upon these perennial questions in American political thought will enable students to establish connections between foundational ideas in classic political texts and established theories of liberty and equality, in a manner that forges innovative insights on how to strengthen our public institutions.
Sarah Beth Kitch
CONSTITUTIONAL PRINCIPLES: CORE TEXTS
The purpose of this course is to help students carefully engage texts that shed light on constitutional principles and their role in the American story. The themes the founders set forth in the Declaration—equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—frame our inquiry. We begin with an Introduction on thinking about the American founding. Then in Part I, we examine traditions that shape Americans’ pursuit of happiness. Part II leads us to investigate the meaning of liberty as well as its conditions. Part III invites us to consider equality in America in light of our common humanity as well as our uniqueness as persons. We conclude with a reflection on ethical imagination in the work of justice.
To examine these themes, we’ll think with authors such as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Aristotle, John Locke, Alexis de Tocqueville, John Stuart Mill, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Madison, Harriet Jacobs, W.E.B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington, James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes, Malcolm X, Fannie Lou Hamer, Martin Luther King, Jr., Margaret Walker, Hannah Arendt, and James Baldwin. Along the way, we attend to ethical awareness and moral courage as essential to our work.