PHIL 170.001 – Social Ethics and Political Thought

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Instructor: Nate Sharadin. This course meets MTWRF 9:45 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. in GL 317.

When is inequality justified? Do people have an exclusive right to what they earn in a market? How should the basic structure of society be organized? More generally: What is the right decision procedure for deciding on principles of justice? This course will focus on the answers given to these questions by arguably the most influential figure in 20th century political philosophy, John Rawls. We will read Rawls’s Justice as Fairness: A Restatement, together with selections from Political Liberalism and a Theory of Justice where appropriate.

We will also read several of Rawls’s critics, focusing especially on their critiques of Rawls’s account of distributive justice. Toward the end of the course we will turn our attention to extending Rawls’s theory to the international domain. No prior coursework in philosophy is either required or expected.