Philosophy, Political science, Public policy

Course date

4 July - 15 July, 2011
Extended application deadline:
1 March, 2011
Course Director(s): 

Andres Moles

Department of Political Science/Department of Philosophy, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary

Zoltan Miklosi

Department of Political Science, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary
Course Faculty: 

Greg Bognar

School of Communication, Arts and Critical Enquiry, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Matthew Clayton

Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK

Janos Kis

Department of Political Science, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary

Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen

Institut for Statskundskab, Aarhus Universitat, Denmark

Peter Vallentyne

Department of Philosophy, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, USA

Andrew Williams

ICREA (Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies)/Pompeu Fabra University/University of Warwick

Ingvild Almas

Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration, Bergen, Norway
Course Manager: 

Orsolya Reich

Department of Philosophy, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary

The problem of justice occupies a special place in contemporary political philosophy. In the words of its most influential figure, Rawls, "justice is the first virtue of social institutions". That view seems to be shared by a majority of authors and theories. However, there is no comparable agreement regarding what justice demands, from whom and to whom. Proponents of different theories disagree about the content of the demands of justice: does it demand equality, priority to the worst off, or merely sufficiency? They also disagree about its currency: in what dimension should people be made equal: in their welfare, capabilities, resources, or something else? Likewise, there is disagreement about the scope of the demands of justice: is it people in general who owe and are owed the duties of justice to one another? Or is it only members of the same politically organized society? Another dispute concerns the kind of actors to which justice primarily applies: is it only social institutions that must discharge the demands of justice, or are the private choices of individuals equally under its application?

These questions have utmost relevance for political philosophers. However, their importance spill over other disciplines. Given that many choices policy makers make are distributive in nature, it is not surprising that issues of justice appear in many other spheres. The course will revise some contexts which raise important questions about justice: Most people agree that educational goods are important is shaping one's life prospects. But there is disagreement about how these ought to be distributed: How should educational opportunities be distributed? What is equal opportunity of education? What other competing values there are? Another important good that has enduring effects in people's life is health. Is health a special good, or is it one among others? If a person enjoys less health because of her previous actions should health care be sensitive to this fact? How should empirical data and people's attitudes towards their health enter into decisions about just health care?

Perhaps the most urgent problems we face right now have to do with environmental changes. Two different areas address problems towards the future: we will consider whether there is justice between generations. Egalitarians disagree about whether equality between generations is a value worth seeking. They also disagree about the 'span' of justice? Should people be equal their whole life or at different points of their lives? If we think that we have some moral obligations towards future people, then the urgency of mitigating the adverse effects of climatic change becomes clear. Who should bear the costs of mitigating those effects? What is the value of the environment?

Finally, we touch upon a long lasting controversy. Some people argue that some forms of taxation are unfair because they violate people's right to hold private property. We'll explore some controversies about it and different views that address this objection.