PHIL 170.001 – Social Ethics and Political Thought

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Instructor: Karl Adam. This course meets MWF 8:00 – 8:50 a.m. in CW 213.

The great 20th-century political philosopher John Rawls wrote that, “Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought.  A theory however elegant and economical must be rejected or revised if it is untrue; likewise laws and institutions no matter how efficient and well-arranged must be reformed or abolished if they are unjust.”

This course focuses on coming to understand what justice is.

Questions posed will include: what makes a community or an institution or a relationship just or unjust; and, what does justice require of individuals, groups, organizations, and communities?  Along the way we shall also investigate three other fundamental concepts in political philosophy the presence or absence of which is often thought to be necessary for justice namely freedom, equality, and oppression.

All readings for the course will be posted on Sakai or otherwise be available for free electronically.  Because this is intended as a class in political philosophy, not merely a class in western political philosophy, readings will draw on a wide variety of traditions of political philosophy from around the world.