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Political liberalism has been both celebrated and lamented. The philosopher John Rawls is widely credited with reviving liberalism in the late 20th century and providing its most persuasive defense. In this tutorial, we’ll read portions of Rawls’ major works, A Theory of Justice and Political Liberalism, and trace how his theory evolved in response to an array of critics, including libertarians, perfectionists, communitarians, feminist philosophers, and critical race theorists. Among other things, these critics challenged Rawls’ interpretation and defense of the social contract framework, the ideals of freedom and equality, the content of principles of justice, political neutrality about the good, the nature of the self, the division between public and private spheres, and the distinction between ideal and non-ideal theory. We’ll examine these criticisms in depth. If time permits, we’ll also look briefly at some recent post-Rawlsian debates about the nature of distributive justice (e.g., luck vs. relational egalitarianism, or global justice).
Format: tutorial; This class will meet once per week at a time agreed upon by the instructor and participants.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
Six tutorial papers (5-6 pages in length) and six critiques (2-3 pages in length)
Two PHIL courses, or permission of instructor
Current and prospective philosophy majors
Students will write a tutorial paper (5-6 pages in length) every other week, and a peer critique (2-3 pages in length) in alternating weeks, evenly spaced throughout the semester. The instructor will provide timely comments on writing skills, with suggestions for improvement.