Content: The idea of justice occupies a central place both in our daily lives and in political philosophy. We apply it to actions of individuals and groups as well as to laws and public policies. When confronted with unjust actions, laws or policies, we take this to be a strong reason to reject them. However, what does it mean to say that a particular state of affairs is just or unjust? Generally speaking, a situation can be called “just” if everyone involved in it has received “their due”. This means that the study of justice is essentially concerned with the following normative question: What do we owe to each other? This question has three aspects: (1) What is owed? (2) Who owes it? (3) And to whom is it owed? This course explores each of these aspects of the idea of justice in relation to, and as they arise in, a variety of issues. These include: animal treatment, armed conflict (war and terrorism), capital punishment, famine, future generations, immigration, and secession. What does justice demand in each of these cases? The course provides a critical overview of some of the main political philosophical approaches and positions in contemporary academic debates on these issues of justice.
Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:
• various aspects of the idea of justice (who owes what to whom?);
• some of the main political philosophical approaches and positions in contemporary academic debates on issues of justice;
• how these approaches and positions are related;
Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:
• describe, distinguish and compare some of the main political philosophical approaches and positions in contemporary academic debates on issues of justice;
• spell out the practical implications of these approaches and positions;
• evaluate and criticize, both orally and in writing, these approaches and positions;
• write, present and critically review an essay in which a reasoned perspective is defended regarding a specific issue of justice discussed during the course.
Mode of Instruction
Seminars. This is not a lecture-based course. Instead, it is designed to be student-centered. This means that the classes are based on the idea of cooperative learning. They have the form of a seminar or forum in which students critically discuss the main issues in contemporary debates on justice. This educational mode fosters a learning environment in which students “learn with each other from each other”. As the “instructor”, my in-class role will be to keep the conversation going and keep it on track. As a student, your task is to direct (the lion-share) of your own learning. The value of this learning method is proportionally reflected in our grading scheme to encourage its success and reward its participants.
A selection of articles and book chapters (to be announced in syllabus on blackboard)
• Participation during course meetings: affects the final grade by a maximum of 1 point (positively or negatively);
• Weekly critical notes on course literature: counts for 15% towards the final grade;
• Individual presentations and critical reviews during the final conference: counts for 15% towards the final grade;
• Individual paper: counts for 70% towards the final grade.
See preliminary info
This course is earmarked for the specialisation Political Legitimacy and Justice