Civil Liberties


All of us like to think of ourselves as true
champions of civil rights and civil liberties And yet, if we’re honest, we recognize that there
are reasonable people of goodwill who disagree with us about some
important rights and liberties issues. And they too regard themselves as champions
of civil rights and liberties. Most of us have had the experience of disagreeing
strongly with a friend or a colleague, or a relative on an issue like abortion, or euthanasia,
or affirmative action; yet we recognize, or should recognize, that someone can be a reasonable
and honorable person despite holding views that differ from our own,
even on important issues that we care deeply about. In this course, we try to think our way through
a wide variety of rights and liberties issues. We will carefully, dispassionately, and above
all critically consider the evidence, the reasons, the arguments presented by the best thinkers
and writers on the competing sides. Together we’ll explore the philosophical
foundations of important claims of civil rights and liberties, and read essays by thinkers
such as John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Hayek and Martin Luther King,
as well as important Supreme Court opinions. I have my own views on the issues we address
in the course, but there’s no “party line.” Whatever your views happen to be—liberal,
conservative, whatever—they will be sympathetically explored but also respectfully challenged,
just as my own will be. My goal is to encourage and empower you to
think about disputed questions of civil rights and liberties more deeply, more critically,
and for yourself, and to invite you and learners from around the world to participate in a
thoughtful conversation about some profoundly important topics.

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