Preview (There is a detailed schedule of class topics and readings at the end of this syllabus.)

We will begin at the core of contemporary political philosophy, with the book that people routinely discuss, to define and defend their own views, even (indeed especially) if they strongly disagree with it: John Rawls? A Theory of Justice (1971). It is the most influential and systematic attempt to provide a deep philosophical justification of the standpoint that Americans currently label “liberal,” a commitment to economic equality, to broad civil and political liberties and to the separation of conceptions of how best to live from political choices. A Theory of Justice revived political philosophy (which had spent decades in the backwaters), in part by providing a unified moral underpinning for what had seemed just a politically important collection of diverse doctrines, in part by offering a systematic alternative to utilitarianism, which had long dominated English-speaking political philosophy in spite of growing awareness of its problems.

The formative controversy for contemporary political philosophy is the confrontation between A Theory of Justice and the next book that we will discuss, Robert Nozick?s Anarchy, State and Utopia (1974). Nozick?s book is the most important philosophical expression of libertarianism. He argues that respect for capitalist free enterprise is a demand of justice, even if it generates economic inequalities that Rawls would oppose. Apart from developing an influential alternative to Rawls’ liberal egalitarianism, Nozick presents important arguments against Rawls’ case for equality in A Theory of Justice.

Political philosophers have responded to this formative controversy by developing a rich array of alternative conceptions of the role of equality, liberty and property rights in a just society. We will next look at some of these new options, which challenge both Rawls and Nozick. These include Joseph Raz?s attempt to base liberalism on an ethic of autonomy, Elizabeth Anderson?s construal of the ideal of equality in terms of equality of status, and appeals to a duty of concern for unmet needs as the basis for reducing inequality.

In Political Liberalism (1993), the next book that we will discuss, Rawls transformed the field of political philosophy a second time, defending a conception of how political questions are resolved in a just society which differs in important ways from the foundations on which Rawls seemed to rely in his first book. In his final view, political justification should ultimately be based on purely political values of free and equal citizenship and mutually respectful discussion; additional controversial moral commitments that seemed fundamental in A Theory of Justice must not play an essential role. While many have found this an attractive and realistic adjustment to the enduring pluralism of modern political culture, others have argued that the new basis for public political justification does not resolve urgent questions, cannot effectively motivate the pursuit of justice or cannot respond, in a effective and honest way, to the political demands of people who do not embrace pluralism in the traditional liberal spirit — for example, many people in fundamentalist religious groups.

The emphasis on free and equal citizenship in Rawls? later work should encourage deeper consideration of democracy, i.e., why it is valuable and what these values imply for justice as a whole. Going beyond Rawls? own skimpy discussion, we will consider classical and modern

arguments about the value and implications of democracy, by Edmund Burke, John Stuart Mill and

Robert Dahl, including Dahl?s argument that a proper valuing of democracy in government entails an aspiration to democracy in the workplace.

We will conclude by examining the radical standard of equality and community, based on ideals of personal life, that G.A. Cohen developed in the course of criticizing Rawls for half-way measures.

A Note on the Enrollment Cap: To keep the course small enough for lots of class discussion and make sure that there can be adequate comments on papers given available resources, I have had to limit the enrollment. However, graduate and law students who cannot register on-line have my permission to register, over the cap. Pam Hanna, in the Philosophy Department office (218 GS), can implement this permission, by manual enrollment.


The course will intersperse lectures with class discussions. There will be occasional optional sections for discussion of questions and views concerning the work we have discussed. I may lead a discussion section for graduate students taking the course.


There is no formal prerequisite for this course, since a variety of backgrounds have turned out to be good preparation. Normally, people taking the course either have taken a philosophy course or have done some prior coursework involving discussions of equality, justice, civil liberties, the general welfare or political obligation. This work might be in Government, Sociology, History, Economics, Law or ILR, for example. I’d be glad to give further advice on what preparation would be useful.


The following books are required.

John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, revised edition (Harvard) — i.e., the edition which appeared in 1999, but incorporates revisions that Rawls made in 1975.

Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia (Basic Books)

John Rawls, Political Liberalism (Columbia) — i.e., the 2005 edition, which ends with the important essay, ?The Idea of Public Reason Revisited.?

The rest of our assigned readings will be posted in the Content section of our Blackboard site. Course Requirements:

1. Participation in discussions is an important part of the course. The different perspectives and backgrounds that people bring to our topics always enrich understanding of our difficult material. Everyone enrolled in the course is expected to attend classes, coming prepared to participate on the basis of the reading assignment.

2. At the start of class each Thursday, except for 8/25, I will collect sheets with responses to the week?s readings: at least one question or comment on the material in the assignment for each class that week. These should not be longer than a single-spaced, typewritten page. Don?t think of this as an essay or quiz, but as an opportunity to state what is on your mind as an issue worth pressing in criticizing or clarifying readings. Describe points that you found unclear yet significant, criticisms that you think a writer needs to address, or gaps in the writer?s argument. Handwritten sheets are acceptable, if legible. I will read and grade all of these responses, and use them in devising my lectures and singling out points for discussion. At least nine response sheets should be turned in during the semester. They are due at the start of class, and may not be submitted by e-mail. If more than nine are submitted, the grades for the best nine will count toward your final grade. Graded

response sheets will be returned along with the mid-term and the term papers.

3. A midterm paper, about eight pages long, will be due at class on October 18. The midterm paper will be on one of a list of topics that I will distribute on September 27.

4. A term paper, 12-15 pages long, will be due December 8. I will distribute a list of possible term paper topics on November 8, asking people to consult with me before committing themselves to topics far removed from the list.

The weight of factors contributing to the final grade will be, approximately: participation and response sheets, 15%; short paper, 25%; term paper, 60%.

Office Hours:

My office is 329 Goldwin Smith (e-mail: My office hours are Tuesdays 4:30-5:30 and by appointment.

Avi Appel (who was the teaching assistant for this course last Fall) will be grading and commenting on undergraduate midterm papers and term papers, consulting with me in the process. He would be glad to help by discussing work on these papers and will be available throughout the semester to discuss questions about our readings, as well. His office is 223 Goldwin Smith. His office hours are Tuesdays, 12:15-1:15.

Course Schedule: 8/23: Introduction


8/25: The elements of justice as fairness: ATJ, secs. 1-4, 11-14. Sections are the basic, small units of the book. E.g., sec. 1 = pp. 3-6. Don?t worry if the discussions of graphs captioned ?The Difference Principle? (pp. 65-67) and ?Chain Connection? (pp. 70f.) don?t strike you as helpful. Few find them illuminating, and these representations are not important in the book as a whole.

8/30: The principles of justice and the original position — ATJ, pp. xviif., xi-xvi (from the Prefaces, clarifying today?s sections and others, too], secs. 15-17, 24, 26.

9/1: Further arguments for equality, and against utilitarianism — ATJ, secs. 27-30, 5.

9/6: A utilitarian critique, and Rawls’ reply — Harsanyi, “Can the Maximin Principle Serve as a Basis for Morality?” (orig.: American Political Science Review 69 (1975): 564-606); Rawls, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement (excerpts) (pp. 94-104, 116-20, 126-33.)

9/8: The priority of liberty: defined and justified — ATJ, secs. 31-33, 39- 40, 82.

9/13: The priority of liberty: challenged and revised — Daniels, “Equal Liberty and Unequal Worth of Liberty” (orig.: in Daniels, ed. Reading Rawls); and Rawls, PL [=Political Liberalism], pp. 299-330, 357-61, in Lecture VIII.

9/15: Rawls and the U.S. Constitution: Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade; Dworkin, “Roe in Danger” (also in his Freedom’s Law.)


9/20: Side-constraints and economic entitlements — ASU: Preface; chapter 2; pp. 26-35 in ch. 3; pp. 110-18 in ch. 5; pp. 149-60 in ch. 7.

9/22: Freedom versus equality — ASU, pp. 160-82, 235-38.

9/27: Problems for Nozick — Scanlon, “Nozick on Rights, Liberty and Property” [ Philosophy & Public Affairs 6 (1976): 3-25]; ASU, pp. 183-97 [the latter just to get a head start on the humongous critique of Rawls in ch. 7, sec 2, the topic of our next class]

9/29: Problems for Rawls — ASU, pp. 198-231 10/4: Rawls replies — PL, Lecture VII, secs. 1, 3-9.

10/6 Freedom as autonomy — Joseph Raz, The Morality of Freedom (1986), pp. 369-395, 407-421. [10/11: Fall Break]

10/13: From equality to sufficiency: Raz, The Morality of Freedom, pp. 145-57; Harry Frankfurt,

?Equality as a Moral Ideal,? [Ethics 98 (1987): 21-43. This is a punchier statement of Raz?s anti-egalitarianism, which he advances in a section of The Morality of Freedom that I recommend, but won?t assign, pp. 233-44.]

10/18: The sufficiency of equal status — Elizabeth Anderson, ?What Is the Point of Equality??

[Ethics 109 (1999): 287-337.]

10/20: The politics of concern — Richard Miller, ?The Ethics of Social Democracy?


10/25: New foundations for justice — PL: Introduction, pp. xvi-xxiii; Lecture I to p. 43 (ending at start of sec. 8), Lecture II to p. 66 (ending at start of sec. 4)

10/27: Pluralism and political legitimacy ? PL, Lecture IV; David Smolin, ?Regulating Religious and Cultural Conflict in Postmodern America? (excerpt) [Iowa Law Review 76 (1991), pp. 1094-1104.]

11/1: Liberal neutrality — Rawls, “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited”; 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, Mozert v. Hawkins County Board of Education.

11/3: Liberalism, goodness and community — PL, Lecture V JUST SECS. 5-8; Michael Sandel, Democracy?s Discontent (1996), pp. 4-17, 317-33.


11/8: Debating democracy — Edmund Burke, ?Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs,? excerpt;

John Stuart Mill, Considerations on Representative Government, chapter 3 and part of chapter 8 11/10: Democratic equality and unequal influence — Ronald Dworkin ?What Is Equality? Part 4: Political Equality? (1987)

11/15: Democracy as a way of life: Walt Whitman, “Mannahatta,” Preface to Leaves of Grass (1855) (excerpt); Elizabeth Anderson, “Democracy: Instrumental vs. Non-Instrumental Value.?

11/17: Political equality and the critique of corporate power ? Robert Dahl, A Preface to Economic Democracy (1985), pp. 52-75, 111-23, 162-63. [Don?t worry. These excerpts are from a book with small pages.]

11/22: Democracy and Development — People’s Republic of China, White Paper, Human Rights in China (1991 — excerpts); Thomas Christiano, “A Non-Instrumental Argument for a Human Right to Democracy” (excerpt); Ching Kwan Lee and Richard Miller, ?Has China?s One Party System Been Justifiable?? (a videoed debate).

[11/24: Thanksgiving]


11/29: A critique of selfishness (and Rawls) ? G.A. Cohen, “Where the Action Is: On the Site of Egalitarian Justice” [Philosophy & Public Affairs 26 (1997): 3-30.]

12/1: Comprehensive equality and personal solidarity ? G.A. Cohen, Rescuing Justice and Equality (2008), pp. 1-8, 152-61; G.A. Cohen, Why Not Socialism? (2009), pp. 3-6 [just to introduce the parable that to which Cohen refers in the next excerpts), 34-52 [reassuring note: this is from another small-page book].


A term paper of twelve to fifteen pages. I will accept papers shorter than twelve pages and longer than fifteen (up to twenty five pages.) But it will be hard to explain, criticize and compare arguments on relevant topics in sufficient detail in much less than twelve pages, and an outstanding term paper can be written within the twelve to fifteen page norm. My advice is to aim for twelve, but to accept that a few more pages may be needed to clarify, criticize or adequately respond to objections that strike you as important. Please turn in your paper as hardcopy via the Philosophy Department office, 218 Goldwin Smith. If the office is closed, you can use the slot in the door. If it is open, there is an inbox for turning in papers which you will see as you enter.

Here are some topics that will work. Most, as you’ll see, are, more properly, clusters of topics from which you will want to pick and choose. Some overlap certain midterm paper topics. If you are thinking of working on a topic significantly overlapping your midterm paper, be sure that you are pursuing new aspects of it in sufficient depth, consult with Avi Appel, our grader (, or me if you have any doubts, and turn in your midterm paper along with your term paper.

In addition to the topics described below, you are welcome to write on any topic that is relevant to our readings and class discussions. If you would like to write on a topic different from any I’ve proposed, you should see Avi or me to discuss tactics, resources and potential problems. In any case, you are welcome to discuss term paper work with us.

It is certainly possible to write a fine term paper on the basis of assigned readings. Indeed, thinking through assigned readings in light of class discussions should be your first priority, even if you consult other sources. However, you may find additional readings helpful. I make a number of suggestions. (R= Uris Reserve).

1. In the United States, people often say it is wrong for the government to take their hard-earned money and give it to the poor, beyond whatever may be required to provide bare necessities to the truly needy. What light do Rawls’ and Nozick’s writings shed on this response to proposals for redistribution toward those worst off? (Of course, one might reject both Rawls’ and Nozick’s assessments of complaints about redistribution. This dissatisfaction might also be the basis for a good term paper.)

2. Many people have wondered whether Nozick is in a position to stop short of anarchism. Nozick himself worries about this possibility throughout Part I of ASU. An illuminating discussion of this worry might touch on such questions as these: Can Nozick establish the legitimacy of the minimal state without undermining side-constraints on which he insists in economic matters? Is Rawls’ theory of justice the basis for a more satisfying account of political obligations? In ATJ, Rawls discusses the grounds for political obligation briefly in sec. 18, and at length in secs. 51-59.

3. In addition to Nozick’s criticisms from the libertarian right, A Theory of Justice has been criticized from the left as being overly respectful of the status quo or overly restrictive toward radical alternatives. A good term paper might develop and critically examine one or two such criticisms.

Mary Gibson “Rationality” (Philosophy and Public Affairs 6 (1977), pp. 193-225), Norman Daniels “Equal Liberty and Unequal Worth of Liberty” and my “Rawls and Marxism” in Daniels, Reading Rawls (R — don’t assume my current views are just the same), and the article by Gerald Cohen, ?Where the Action Is: On the Site of Egalitarian Justice,? Philosophy & Public Affairs 26 (1997): 3-30, which we will read for November 29, suggest some options. (To avoid overlap, do not emphasize Daniels’ essay if it played a substantial role in your midterm paper.)

4. The role of equality of opportunity in social justice is another broad area in which you may be able to find a productive term paper topic. One focus might be Rawls’ position on fair equality of opportunity. Even though most discussion of Rawlsian economic justice focusses on the difference principle, Rawls gives priority to a principle of fair equality of opportunity. Some critics regard this principle as too weak, even in the context of Rawls’ other principles ? for example, because of its acceptance of different prospects of success due to differences in natural aptitude. Others take the principle to demand too much; for example, while Nozick is more receptive to appeals to equality of opportunity than to other appeals to economic equality, he rejects the reduction of such inequality as a political goal. A term paper might assess one or two important criticisms of Rawls’ position. Here, the interpretation of Rawls is challenging and important. In addition to sections 12 through 14 of A Theory of Justice, you will want to consider other relevant passages in the book, listed in the superb index under “equality of fair opportunity.” Richard Arneson presents objections to Rawls’ position in “Against Rawlsian Equality of Opportunity,” Philosophical Studies 93 (1999): 77-112 ? lots and lots of objections, so you will want to single out one or two major ones if you use this article in your paper. Nozick’s critique is on pp. 235-8 of Anarchy, State and Utopia. Another important question about equality of opportunity is the extent to which respect for family life and legitimate parental goals ought to limit efforts to reduce inequality of opportunity. Harry Brighouse and Adam Swift discuss this issue in “Legitimate Parental Partiality,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 37 (2009): 43-80.

5. Joseph Raz?s autonomy-based liberalism is a powerful effort to base justice on the proper valuing of freedom. Yet people worry that this form of liberalism would, ironically, be oppressive, using the state illegitimately to impose one conception of how to live. One way of discussing Raz?s rich work in a term paper would be to ask whether autonomy-based liberalism is an effective basis for criticizing Nozick?s libertarianism, capturing its grain of truth while avoiding its excesses.

Alternatively one could consider whether Raz?s approach to justice is superior to Rawls?. Here, you might focus on A Theory of Justice or on Rawls? effort, in Political Liberalism, to provide an adequate grounding for his theory of justice while avoiding reliance on a full-fledged ethic of autonomy. In assessing this last endeavour, you might want to have a look at Joseph Chan,

?Legitimacy, Unanimity and Perfectionism,? Philosophy & Public Affairs 29 (2000: 3-30), an argument that someone with Rawls? political goals cannot dispense with evaluations of ways of life.

6. In ?What Is the Point of Equality??, Elizabeth Anderson criticizes a well-established approach to distributive justice, luck egalitarianism, and argues for its replacement by her own alternative, democratic equality. How effective are her criticisms of luck egalitarianism? Does democratic equality succeed in describing the extent of the political responsibility to reduce equality among fellow-members of one?s society? Each of these questions touches on a variety of important issues. So you may want to emphasize one or the other, i.e., the critical or the constructive part of Anderson?s project. Richard Arneson, ?Luck Egalitarianism and Prioritarianism,? Ethics 110 (2000):

339-49 would serve as a helpful contrast to Anderson?s essay, whichever focus you choose.

7. In ?Equality as a Moral Ideal,? Harry Frankfurt argues against the inherent moral importance of economic equality, proposing that what is important is non-comparative, i.e., that everyone have enough. To what extent has he undermined important egalitarian ideals? For example, are his arguments a basis for effective criticism of Rawls? theory of justice? Is he right to substitute the pursuit of sufficiency for the comparative projects he criticizes? Arneson?s ?Luck Egalitarianism and Prioritarianism? is relevant to this topic. So is Scanlon, ?The Diversity of Objections to Inequality,? which I will post under Course Information.

8. A discussion of Nozick?s critique of Rawls and the best reply available to Rawls was an option for the midterm paper. You might discuss the Rawls-Nozick dispute as your term paper topic. If you did this for your midterm, though, be sure that most of what you say will be new and different.

9. The assessment of Nozick?s theory of economic justice, a topic for the midterm paper, could be the theme of a term paper. Again, if this was your midterm paper topic, be sure that what you say will be new and different. In addition to the critical material by Scanlon and Raz that has been assigned and the essay by Scheffler mentioned in the midterm paper handout, Gerald Cohen, Self-ownership, Freedom and Equality (R), includes a long series of essays, starting in 1977, in which Cohen criticized Nozick?s libertarianism, ending with some new thoughts. If you read the Introduction (just for orientation), Chapter 1 and Chapter 10, you?ll learn some interesting things and have a basis for deciding whether to delve further.

10. Disputes over public education often pose important challenges to liberal principles of neutrality among alternative conceptions of the good, including both the neutrality that Rawls imposed in A Theory of Justice by putting special conceptions of the good behind the veil of ignorance and the neutrality embodied in his requirement of ultimate reliance on liberal political values rather than comprehensive doctrines in Political Liberalism and ?The Idea of Public Reason Revisited.? Our November 1 class included discussion of Mozert v. Hawkins County Board of Education, a U.S. Court of Appeals decision concerning the complaints of Christian fundamentalist parents over a public school reading program exposing their children to unwanted encouragement of imaginativeness, critical inquiry and openness to other faiths and ways of life. What response to such complaints is suggested by Rawls? view of liberal neutrality? Is this an appropriate response, or does it reveal that Rawlsian neutrality is either too neutral to sustain a basic structure or, alternatively, so committed to placing a high value on autonomy that its claim to neutrality is hypocritical?

To make this topic manageable, you will want to choose among a number of possible emphases. You could emphasize the question of justice that the school board faced, or emphasize the legal question faced by the court, asking what interpretations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments are suggested by Rawls? work. You might want to choose between ATJ and Rawls? later political liberalism. You might want to make the case itself your focus, without so much emphasis on Rawls, bringing Rawls to bear as just one possible source of insight.

Some other influential discussions of these issues are William Galston, “Two Concepts of Liberalism,” Ethics 105 (1995): 516-534; Harry Brighouse, “Civic Education and Liberal Legitimacy,” Ethics (1998):719-45 (often a critique of Galston, and addressing the larger question of

the duty of the state to provide an autonomy-facilitating education); and Stephen Macedo, “Liberal Civic Education and Religious Fundamentalism: The Case of God v. John Rawls?”, Ethics 105 (1995): 468-96.

A closely related Supreme Court opinion, which I will post under ?Course Information,? is

Wisconsin v. Yoder, which concerns a practice of the Old Order Amish: they withdraw their children from school after the eighth grade, to prevent their exposure to the more worldly environment of regional high schools and begin their participation in a way of life that discourages curiosity and the pursuit of intellectual complexity in favor of simplicity, community, religiosity and deference to Amish elders. In Wisconsin v. Yoder, the Supreme Court ruled that First Amendment religious freedoms prevented Wisconsin from compelling the Amish to observe the normal requirement of education through tenth grade. Several of the readings that I have cited most directly concern Yoder. It, too, could be the focus of a case study of liberal neutrality and the challenge of public education.

11. Rawls’ “idea of public reason”, his conception of the norms that ought to govern political deliberations, is probably the most controversial aspect of his political liberalism. Many have found it arbitrary, oppressive, hypocritical or self-destructive for Rawls to insist that citizens should try to confine their important political choices to those that could ultimately be justified through purely political values interpreted through principled arguments among reasonable fellow-citizens who do not appeal to their comprehensive doctrines. In particular, some have challenged Rawls’ norms of public reason as too dismissive of the proper role of religious convictions in public life. David Smolin, “Regulating Religious and Cultural Conflict in Postmodern America, Iowa Law Review 76 (1991): 1069-1104, which we have read in part, vigorously presses this challenge. His immediate target is Michael Perry, but what he says is certainly relevant to the assessment of Rawls? political liberalism. Thomas Nagel, “Moral Conflict and Political Legitimacy,” Philosophy & Public Affairs

16 (1987): 215-40 and Macedo, “Liberal Civic Education and Religious Fundamentalism” seek to answer charges of arbitrary dismissal such as Smolin’s.

Much of Michael Sandel, Democracy?s Discontent (R) is a challenge of a different kind: Sandel thinks that Rawls? restrictions devalue public discourse itself, arbitrarily dismiss considerations of what kinds of life are best that ought to play a role in political discourse, and destroy ties of community that are essential resources for Rawls? egalitarianism. The excerpts from Democracy?s Discontent assigned for November 3 convey the gist of his argument.

You will want to organize your discussion of the idea of public reason around one especially powerful critique of Rawls? view of public reason, or, in any case, one important and tempting departure from the norms that Rawls proposes. This is the only fundamental dimension of political liberalism in which Rawls made substantial changes after Political Liberalism appeared. So if you write in this area, you may want to read the original doctrine, in Lecture VI of PL as well as Rawls? final statement, “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited”, our assigned reading on this topic. There is more discussion of public reason by Rawls in the “Introduction to the Paperback Edition,” Political Liberalism, pp. l-lx, including commentary on the difference between his initial view and ?The Idea of Public Reason Revisited.? However, for reasons of space, you should probably direct your term paper exclusively at the final doctrine in ?The Idea of Public Reason Revisited.?

12. Rawls’ political liberalism has often been challenged as inadequately appreciating the importance of ties of community. Sometimes, these doubts are instrumental, suggesting that Rawls’ overlapping consensus and process of public reason will not produce mutual concerns needed to motivate

sacrifices that his political goals require. Sometimes, these doubts involve the ascription of an intrinsic, politically relevant value to community that Rawls denies. Both charges figure in Sandel’s critique of Rawls in Democracy’s Discontent, so an investigation of Sandel’s communitarian critique of Rawls might give a useful focus to a term paper on this aspect of political liberalism. How fair and effective is Sandel’s critique of Rawls for inadequate attention to communal ties? Does Sandel offer a genuinely different, superior account of the relevance of community? The gist of Rawls? response is in Lecture V of PL.

13. Is equality of political influence morally important as such? In our readings on November 8 and 10, Mill and Dworkin deny that this type of equality is fundamentally important, despite their general support for democratic institutions. Two articles on the other side are Elizabeth Anderson, “Democracy: Instrumental vs. Non-Instrumental Value,? assigned for November 15, and Stephen Darwall, ?Equal Representation,? which I will post under Course Information.

14. What are the implications for economic arrangements of the democratic values that ought to shape political institutions? Do they require substantial change in the current situation of people in capitalist economies? Robert Dahl argues that they do in A Preface to Economic Democracy. We will discuss excerpts on November 17, and I will put the whole, short book on reserve for this course at Uris. One way of approaching the topic would be by presenting an account of especially strong arguments of Dahl?s and assessing criticisms, including Richard Arneson?s in “The Supposed Right to a Democratic Say,” which I will post in Course Information.

15. Should representative democracy (in our sense, including genuine competition among political parties) be the form of government of all or nearly countries now, with perhaps some minor exceptions, such as small, isolated, traditionalist societies? In “An Instrumental Argument for a Human Right to Democracy,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 39/2 (2011), which will be assigned in part for our November 22 class, Thomas Christiano defends this claim. A useful focus for assessing it would the most important country that is not a representative democracy, China. In 1991, the government of China defended China?s lack of democracy in a so-called White Paper, Human Rights in China. I will ask you to read the part that presents a rationale worth taking seriously (which was accompanied by baloney about the situation in China). For now, I will post it under Course Information, together with part of a paper of mine ?After the American Century: The Moral Challenge of China?s Rise,? which is somewhat sympathetic to this argument and has further references, and ?Charter 08 for Reform and Democracy in China,? a manifesto signed by 330 intellectuals, human rights activists and businesspeople whose main organizer, Liu Xiaobo, received a Nobel Peace Prize and is serving an eleven-year sentence for subversion.

16. In A Theory of Justice, Rawls usually seems to endorse a social life in which people?s private interests typically involve no special concern for the worst-off; they confine their attention to economic inequality to political deliberations over the basic structure. Gerald Cohen has argued that this distinction between public and private attitudes is arbitrary and leads most Rawlsians to underrate the extent to which justice requires economic equality. ?Where the Action Is: On the Site of Egalitarian Justice,? our reading for November 29, is part of this radicalization of Rawls? egalitarianism. Has Cohen identified the real implications of A Theory of Justice? Is there an adequate justification for Rawls? distinction between political and private duties?


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