Spring 2010 and Spring 2011:
This course explores three fundamental questions about the idea of a just society and the place of the values of liberty and equality in such a society: (1)Which liberties must a just society protect? Liberty of expression? Sexual liberty? Economic liberty? Political liberty? (2) What sorts of equality should a just society ensure? Equality of opportunity? Of economic outcome? Political equality? Equality for different religious and cultural groups? (3)Can a society ensure both liberty and equality? Or are these opposing political values? We will approach these questions by examining answers to them provided by three contemporary theories of justice: utilitarianism, libertarianism, and egalitarian liberalism. To assess the strengths and weaknesses of these theories, we will discuss their implications for some topics of ongoing political controversy that exemplify our three fundamental questions about liberty and equality: the enforcement of sexual morality, financing schools and elections, regulating labor markets, affirmative action, and abortion. We will conclude by examining issues of global justice and human rights.
Questions of social and distributive justice are as ancient as Aristotle. Yet modern philosophy, with its developing notions of democracy and equality, has added much sophistication and subtlety to these questions, especially since the publication of John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice (1971). In this course we will deal with the different spheres of justice – personal relations, the concept of community, the notion of the State, and global justice. We will discuss, among other issues, the connection between justice and liberty, human rights in general and minority rights in particular, individuality and group affiliation, equality and affirmative action.