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Instructor: Simone Gubler. This course meets TR 12:30 – 1:45 p.m. in GS 1374.

John Rawls calls justice the “first virtue of social institutions”. David Hume thinks it “a jealous virtue” that wouldn’t be necessary in an environment of abundance. Frederick Douglass tells us that where justice is systematically denied, neither persons nor property can be safe.

This course will explore the nature of justice, and its relation to notions of rights and the common good, by engaging with three competing visions of society: (1) utilitarianism, (2) libertarianism, and (3) liberal egalitarianism. Each of these traditions plays a major role in contemporary political debates. In learning about these theories, we will focus first on the state, and on questions about which goods it – as an important social institution – should secure. Should the state aim to protect individual liberties, equality, and/or happiness? And what about the other major institutions of society? Many of us spend a large part of our lives at work and in the context of families. So, we shall also ask: does it make sense to talk about justice at home and in the workplace? And, if so, what bearing does it have on the larger project of a flourishing and just society if the family or the workplace are sites of injustice?


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