Political Theory: Justice and Equality - Group 1

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Course Description: 

The course focuses on a few of the most fundamental problems of normative political philosophy regarding the ground and scope of the authority of the state to make and enforce rules that bind its citizens. Most people would agree that the state indeed has such authority and that citizens are usually under a moral obligation to comply with the rules made by the government. However, there are deep disagreements concerning the source of this authority as well as about its proper limits: what are the goals that the government may or must rightfully pursue, and by what means? Under what circumstances are its citizens exempt from the obligation to obey its laws? These are among the questions that will be examined in this course. First, we will discuss different theories of political obligation, i.e. theories about the moral basis of our obligation, if any, to comply with laws. The theories discussed will include consent theories, justice-based theories, and fair-play theories. Second, we will attend to the problem of distributive justice: are material inequalities between citizens unjust, and if so, under what circumstances? Is the state required to pursue some profile of the distribution of goods in society, and if so, what characterizes that profile? We will discuss utilitarian, egalitarian, and libertarian accounts of justice.


• To trigger an understanding of central arguments of contemporary political philosophy.
• To foster the ability to analyse and discuss arguments in political philosophy.
• To develop the ability to link and apply arguments of political philosophy to social and political issues.
• To foster the ability to communicate both orally and in writing arguments in political philosophy.
• To develop the capacity to learn new ideas and approaches, and to apply them in research.

Learning Outcomes: 

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student shall be able to:
• Understand the main arguments for and against the basic principles of liberal egalitarian thought.
• Understand the key positions within contemporary political philosophy.
• Produce critical and well-structured arguments in political philosophy.
• Balance and contrast the weakness and strengths of different positions in contemporary debates in liberal egalitarian thought.
• Summarise arguments clearly and succinctly.



• 10% class participation: questions by mail and in-class participation.
• Two 15% reaction papers: To be delivered in week 3 and week 9.
• 20% Midterm exam: 24 hours to deliver in Moodle (week 7)
• 40% final paper: 2,500 words essay on a problem in political philosophy related to the course topics.

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