Politics, Philosophy & Law Minor

About the PPL Minor

We live in a time of polarization and conflict over fundamental questions of justice, legitimacy, and welfare. Many students are motivated by these ideals, and eager to shape their lives and careers around them. At the same time, many students find difficulty in articulating and defending the ideals with which they identify, or rigorously and critically engaging with the ideals they reject. Meanwhile, the large size of many Berkeley classes means that students can struggle to find the individual supervision they need to develop these capacities fully.

The ambition of a minor in Politics, Philosophy and Law is to gather together a cohort of highly motivated students who are interested in the foundations of democratic governance and public affairs, and to provide them with a coherent yet interdisciplinary program of study in politics, moral and political philosophy, and legal studies, with intensive training in both analytical writing and in presentation of their work. The Minor would be especially helpful for students interested in public service, including law, policy, and academia, who could particularly benefit from supplementary, individualized mentoring in writing, analysis and presentation. We are eager for the participation of students from all life backgrounds, as well as all majors and colleges at Berkeley, provided they are willing to put in the intensive effort to develop these skills. All Colleges have approved PPL for their students.

The Minor culminates in a senior thesis project, with mentorship from relevant faculty, as well as a strong sense of cohort identification among the students, ideally resulting in a lifelong professional and intellectual community. In the course of the Minor, students will participate in a range of intellectual events, including the workshops sponsored by the Kadish Center for Morality, Law and Public Affairs, special colloquia for students writing their capstone projects, talks by alumni and other professionals in the fields associated with the Minor, as well as extra-curricular outings to cultural events dealing with themes relevant to PPL.

The Minor has the following Learning Goals:

  1. Develop a broad, interdisciplinary framework for considering problems of justice and social welfare, at the local, national, and global levels, with an emphasis on analytical methods drawn from philosophy, law, and political theory.
  2. Develop strong analytic and expressive skills needed to identify issues of social justice and political morality, explore their many facets, and articulate an approach to resolving them.
  3. Understand historical and ideological differences in how different individuals and groups approach questions of justice.
  4. Identify and understand career paths in government, community service, law, and academia that can help students further their own visions of justice.

And it aims to instill the following skills:

  1. The ability to identify problems of social justice and political power, and to articulate arguments for their rational resolution.
  2. Development of writing skills for written projects of different forms and lengths, including analytical memoranda, persuasive writing, and research papers.
  3. Development of sensitivity to a range of diverging viewpoints on controversial matters of justice and politics.
  4. Development of skills at speaking before a cohort of other students, in exposition and debate.
  5. The ability to work synthetically among different methods in political analysis and argument.