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    Ranking races and classes by intelligence or ‘merit’ from Plato to Jensen.

    This paper is designed for those who are interested in problems that can be solved only by viewing psychology in the context of its relations with philosophy and other social sciences. These include: the race and IQ debate, a proper theory of intelligence, IQ increases over time, conceptions of justice, and how to defend humane ideals.

    About this paper

    Paper title Justice, Race and Class
    Subject Psychology
    EFTS 0.15
    Points 18 points
    Teaching period Semester 1 (On campus)
    Domestic Tuition Fees ( NZD ) $1,173.30
    International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.
    One of PHIL 103, POLS 101, PSYC 111, PSYC 112, SOCI 101
    Schedule C
    Arts and Music, Science
    May not be credited together with PSYC321 passed before 2005.

    Teaching staff

    Dr Abby Pigden

    Paper Structure

    Throughout this course, we discuss issues surrounding justice, race, and class by investigating the impact of philosophy and psychology in the development of those ideas. We compare the “Utopias” of Plato, Huxley, Skinner, and Nietzsche in a search for justice and consider whether Aristotle or Benedict are correct about the permissibility of cross-cultural comparisons.

    With a concept of justice and a set of humane ideals to defend, we consider some of the most controversial psychological debates centred on class, merit, race, gender, and IQ as a measure of intelligence. We discuss the role of the partition of IQ variance in these debates before moving onto the discovery of the Flynn effect and its implications for those debates.

    An overriding theme of the course is that philosophy and psychology enhance one another as disciplines. By employing both resources we can provide a critical response to Nietzsche’s elitism, defend humane ideals, and argue that environment is the most potent variable affecting modern intelligence.


    • 60% Final exam
    • 10% In-class short answer test
    • 30% Research Essay
    Teaching Arrangements

    Three 50-minute sessions each week for a total of 39. Seven are tutorials on the in-class test, essays, and general course review. The remainder are lectures, but class participation introduces a tutorial element.


    All assigned readings are available either on line or on reserve through the library. The following texts are essential texts for the course that are not currently available on eReserve.

    • Flynn, James R. Homage to Political Philosophy: The Good Society from Plato to the Present.
    • Flynn, James R. Race, IQ, and Jensen.
    • Herrnstein, R.J. & Murray, C. Bell Curve.
    • Huxley, Aldous, Island.
    • Plato, The Republic.
    Graduate Attributes Emphasised
    Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Research.
    View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
    Learning Outcomes

    Students who successfully complete the paper will have a better understanding of:

    • Intelligence and the variables which affect it
    • Critical evaluation as a tool for responding to controversial claims
    • How social science, politics, and philosophy can asist one another
    • Strategies for defending humane ideals
    • The epistemic limitation of narrow specialisations in education
    • The importance of supplementing education with additional reading and critical thinking


    Semester 1

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught On Campus
    Learning management system


    Stream Days Times Weeks
    A1 Wednesday 10:00-10:50 9-13, 15-22
    Thursday 10:00-10:50 9-13, 15-16, 18-22
    Friday 10:00-10:50 9-12, 15-22
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