“Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought.” A hypothesis might be elegant, but if it is proved false, then we discard it. Likewise, a public policy might be efficient and well-planned, but if it is unjust, then we have the strongest reason to discard it. If you can agree to that and if you are puzzled by what justice requires, and how it should be applied to policy choices, then this is your class.
John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice is the most important work in moral and political philosophy in the last century. It showed that philosophy can do more than ruminate on its own self-invented questions – that it can respond thoroughly and creatively to concerns that weigh on every adult citizen: How should we conceive of justice in a democratic society? What do we owe to our fellow citizens? This class will critically survey A Theory of Justice and related literature in order to provide a sound introduction to contemporary political philosophy.
Perhaps you care about public policy because you care about justice. But if you care about justice, then you must care to know what it is.
Jeremy Farris is a currently a DPhil candidate reading political philosophy at the University of Oxford, University College. He is also a Visiting Scholar in the Georgia State University Philosophy Department. He thinks about democracies, specifically about their legitimacy (what kind of praise should we confer on democratic law?) and their epistemology (how are “many heads better than one” in knowing the answers to public problems). He is also interested in questions surrounding egalitarianism and justice – questions about what we owe to each other. He thinks philosophy matters. (The School of Public Policy at Georgia Tech agrees.)