24.04J | Spring 2012 | Undergraduate



Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session



Course Description

This course explores the ideal of social justice. What we want to know is what makes a society just. Must a society protect individual liberties in order to be just? Which ones? Must a society ensure equality in order to be just? What kind? Can a society ensure both liberty and equality? We will approach these questions by studying three opposing theories of justice—utilitarianism, libertarianism, and egalitarian liberalism—each foundational to contemporary political thought and discourse.

Course Requirements


This course is a HASS-D/H and Communication Intensive (CI) subject; you must write three papers of 6–7 (double-spaced) pages each. You must also revise and resubmit at least one paper. The procedure for rewriting a paper is as follows. Once your first paper has been graded, it will be returned to you with comments. You may then decide whether you wish to rewrite the first paper. If you choose to do so, you must ensure that your rewrite is responsive to the comments on the first version. The grade on the rewrite will depend on how well you have addressed the comments. The grade on the rewrite may be lower than the original grade if the rewrite is not responsive to the comments.

You are not required to rewrite the first paper. You may rewrite the second paper instead. Or you may rewrite both the first paper and the second paper. However, there are no rewrites on the third paper. When you submit a rewrite, you must also include the original version with the grader’s comments.

The final grade for papers that are rewritten will be a weighted combination of the grade on the first version and the rewrite, with the rewrite counting twice as much as the first version. The paper topics will be given out ahead of time. If you wish to write on a topic of your own design, please submit a short proposal for approval. Papers on unapproved topics will not be accepted.


There will be three quizzes. The questions are designed to help you prepare for writing your papers. For each quiz, you must submit a response of no more than 1–2 (double-spaced) pages.


The remainder of your grade will be based on your oral participation—the oral communications part of the class. To pass this requirement, you must regularly attend lecture and recitation. To do well, you must participate thoughtfully in class discussions, in lecture and in recitation. The best way to prepare yourself to make informed and thoughtful contributions is to devote time to careful study of the assigned texts. You will need time and effort to understand and be able to evaluate the claims and arguments in them. To help you, there are questions listed after each reading assignment. Think about these questions as you are reading.


First paper 15%
Second paper 20%
Third paper 25%
Quizzes (3) 15%
Oral participation 25%

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2012
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Written Assignments