Justice and Moral Philosophy (10 Weeks)
F 2017


This study group, patterned after the Harvard University course by the same name, utilizes lecture videos and reading materials provided by Harvard through the edX platform. It is an introduction to moral and political philosophy and their effect on justice. It explores classical and contemporary theories of justice, and applies these theories to contemporary legal and political controversies.

Topics include affirmative action, income distribution, same-sex marriage, the role of markets, debates about rights (human rights and property rights), arguments for and against equality, and dilemmas of loyalty in public and private life. The SD/G invites participants to subject their own views on those controversies to critical examination. The principal readings are texts by John Locke, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, and John Rawls. We also read some contemporary court cases and articles about political issues that raise philosophical questions.

Pre-meeting:  Thursday, August 10th, 2017 at 1:00 pm.

Weekly Topics

1.    Doing the right thingThe lifeboat case

2.    Utilitarianism: Jeremy Bentham & John Stuart Mill

3.    Libertarianism: Free Market philosophy. Do we own ourselves?

4.    John Locke: Property rights; Individual rights and majority rule

5.    Markets and morals: Military service; Surrogate motherhood

6.    Immanuel Kant: What is freedom? The supreme principle of morality; A lesson in lying

7.    The morality of consent; John Rawls: The case for equality

8.    Distributive Justice: Who deserves what?  Arguing Affirmative Action

9.    Justice, community and membership; Dilemmas of loyalty

10. Debating same-sex marriageConclusion: Justice and the good life



There is no 'Bibliography' per se. All relevant reading materials are provided online by Harvard University to SD/G participants.