Colin Bird headshot

Colin P. Bird

Associate Professor
Unit: College of Arts and Sciences
Department: Department of Politics
Office location and address
S495 Gibson Hall
1540 Jefferson Park Ave
Charlottesville, Virginia 22903
Columbia University, Ph.D. Political Science

Colin Bird is Associate Professor of Politics and Director of the Program in Political Philosophy, Policy and Law at the University of Virginia. His research interests include: the nature of individualism; questioning the identity and character of a ‘liberal’ tradition of political thought; the coherence of contemporary libertarianism; concepts of freedom; the nature of toleration and respect; the political relevance of ideals of self-respect; democratic theory and the notion of self-government; notions of state neutrality and ‘public justification’; the concept of dignity; ideals of fraternity; the role of ordinary language in political analysis; and the explication of the distinction between a political ‘left’ and a political ‘right’.

His work has appeared in such journals as Ethics, Political Theory, The American Political Science Review, Philosophy and Public Affairs, and The European Journal of Philosophy. He is the author of two books, both published by Cambridge University Press: The Myth of Liberal Individualism (1999) and An Introduction to Political Philosophy(2006). He is currently completing a further book tentatively entitled:‘After Respect: a Critique of Dignitarian Humanism.

In 2001-2 Bird was a Laurance S. Rockefeller visiting fellow at the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University, and in 2008-9 an NEH Fellow at the National Humanities Center in North Carolina.

PLPT 1010: Introduction to Political Theory
Credits: 3
Introduces political philosophy as a mode of inquiry, and consideration of selected problems and writers in Western political theory.
PPL 2010: Morality, Law and the State
Credits: 3
The importance of moral philosophy to the study of the legal and political institutions of the modern state. In addition to exploring the nature of morality and moral reasoning, the course deals with basic questions about the concept of law and the justification of the state. Possible topics include inalienable rights, distributive justice, civil disobedience, secession, and the priority of liberty. For more details on this class, please visit the department website at
PLPT 3020: Modern Political Thought
Credits: 3
Studies the development of political theory from the Renaissance through the nineteenth century.
PPL 4005: Thesis Preparation
Credits: 1
This course aims to prepare final year PPL students for their capstone thesis in the Spring semester. By the end of the Fall semester, in conjunction with PPL 4005, PPL students will have completed a proposal for their capstone thesis, compiled a viable bibliography, and obtained an advisor to work with them in the Spring
PPL 4500: Special Topics in Public Policy and Law
Credits: 1–3
Topics related to Public Policy and Law
PLPT 4990: Honors Core Seminar in Political Theory
Credits: 9
A critical analysis of important issues and works in political theory from diverse perspectives. Students are required to write weekly analytical essays and actively participate in small seminar discussions on issues including: theories of common good, economic justice, toleration and free society, and radical criticism. Prerequisite: Admission to Politics Honors Program.
PLPT 5010: Nature of Political Inquiry
Credits: 3
Important conceptual issues encountered in the scientific study of politics, including an introduction to the philosophy of science; classic contributions to the scientific study of politics; and the problems of 'value free' science, and studying 'meaningful' behavior. Prerequisite: Instructor permission or graduate status.
PLPT 5500: Special Topics in Political Theory
Credits: 3
Investigates a special problem of political theory such as political corruption, religion and politics, science and politics, or the nature of justice.
PPL 5993: Independent Study in Public, Policy and Law
Credits: 1–6
Independent study under faculty supervision, for students who are preparing for intensive research on a specific topic. Prerequisite: Instructor permission.
PLAP 5993: Selected Problems in American Politics
Credits: 1–3
Independent study under faculty supervision, for students who are preparing for intensive research on a specific topic. Prerequisite: Instructor permission.