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Theories of Justice

Semester and Year SU 2014
Course Number IDSEM-UG1783
Section 001
Instructor Peter Rajsingh
Days Mon,Wed
Time 5:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Units 4.0
Level U
Foundation Requirement SOC, PREMOD


Session II: July 7 - August 15


Ideas of justice are central to discussions of morality, rule of law, politics and the good life in both the ancient and modern worlds. For instance, the concept of “liberty and justice for all” has potent normative force—undergirding narratives about legitimacy in liberal legalism, as well deployed to defend acts of civil disobedience. Justice has been invoked throughout history as belonging to a higher order moral scheme that supervenes over positive law and politics, serving as a way to endorse or critique social and political arrangements. But, while there tends to be broad acceptance of the general concept of justice, particular conceptions that instantiate the term continue to be matters of controversy and debate. This course explores ways in which conceptions of justice play out in politics, law and morality. We will examine particular forms of justice—distributive, retributive, procedural, substantive, restorative, constitutive etc., reading classic texts, legal opinions and journal articles. And we will discuss how accounts of justice are predicated on various kinds of arguments, such as naturalist claims concerning antecedent facts about the world, etc. We will also look at justice used in novel locutions, such as the term “environmental justice.” The approach will be interdisciplinary, drawing upon a variety of source texts ranging from Socratic propositions about justice (δικαιοσύνη) and virtue (ἀρετή) in Plato’s Republic and Crito to John Rawls’ Theory of Justice , landmark US Supreme Court cases and Albert Camus’ L’Etranger . Course objectives are to develop proficiency in moral theory, political philosophy, law and jurisprudential theory, using the concept of justice as the analytical window to highlight key moments in legal and political philosophy, and as a mechanism to understand conceptions of the good life from the ancient world into modernity. No prior knowledge of social and political philosophy is required or assumed.

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)

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