Story in the College of Arts & Sciences
Matt Zwolinski '97, '03
This alumnus' years as a political philosophy undergraduate seasons him in the art of debate.
Professor Matt Zwolisnki loves a good argument. Which makes the title of his new book particularly apt: Arguing About Political Philosophy. The textbook includes classic and contemporary theorists, including big names such as Hobbes, Marx, Rousseau, Rawls, Nozick, and Dworkin, as well as a few surprises, such as Kurt Vonnegut's short story titled "Harrison Bergeron."
An assistant professor at the University of San Diego, Zwolinski has published on disparate topics including sweatshops, libertarian political philosophy, and price gouging. He was drawn to understanding the big questions as an undergraduate political science and philosophy double major at Santa Clara—prompting him to go on to pursue a doctorate in philosophy.
"For me, questions about the minutia of public policy—whether the tax rate should be progressive or flat, whether electoral systems should be proportional or first-past-the-post—were never as interesting as the questions philosophers asked like, 'Why should we have government at all?'"
It was the readings and seminars at Santa Clara that he remembers as most riveting. "My book is really just an attempt to convey the excitement I felt about political philosophy as an undergraduate to the undergraduates of today," he says.
He jokes that he has gotten increasingly radical as he gets older. "I've become a cynic and a near anarchist. The more you learn about politics and sausage, I guess, the less you want to partake of them!"