Washington and Lee University, Fall 2001

Philosophy 395: Advanced Seminar

TTh, HI hours (Newcomb 28A)

Ben Eggleston—EgglestonB@wlu.edu

office hours: M&F, 2–4; and T&Th, 9–11 (Newcomb 25)


Advanced Seminar: Distributive Justice


I.            Description


This course examines philosophical answers to the question of how the wealth, income, and other economic resources of a society ought to be distributed to its members. Should the resources of the rich be redistributed to improve the well-being of the poor? Should some people receive more than others, because they need more (due to disability, expen­sive tastes, or other factors) in order to be as happy as others? Should everyone simply take home whatever he or she can earn in a free-market economy? Proposals such as these, along with others, are developed and debated in the readings for this course.


II.            Requirements


Your active involvement in this course is crucial to the achievement of the objective just specified. So, 20 percent of your final grade will be based on your attendance, your intelligent and helpful participation in class discussions (which will based on the assigned reading), and your completion of some short in-class presentations. The remaining 80 percent of your grade will be based on three papers whose due dates and lengths are given below, in the schedule. (There will be no exam.) Further information about these assignments will be provided as needed, as well as upon request.


III.       Books


All of the required reading is contained in the following books:


Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (Basic Books, 1974).

John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, rev. ed. (Belknap Press, 1999). (Be sure to get the revised edition, not the original edition!)

Peter Unger, Living High and Letting Die: Our Illusion of Innocence (Oxford University Press, 1996).


IV.            Schedule


Following is a list of topics and reading assignments, using the following abbreviations:

ATOJ = A Theory of Justice

ASU = Anarchy, State, and Utopia

LHLD = Living High and Letting Die: Our Illusion of Innocence




topics and reading assignments (to be done prior to class, of course)

activities, tests, due dates for papers, etc.






H, 9/6


introductory discussion






T, 9/11

Part 1: Rawls

Part One: “Theory”

·       ATOJ, preface (pp. xvii–xxii; not the preface for the revised edition, unless you want to read that)

·       ATOJ, ch. I: “Justice as Fairness” (pp. 3–46)



H, 9/13

·       ATOJ, ch. II: “The Principles of Justice,” §§ 10–17 (p. 47 to the first paragraph break on p. 88)



T, 9/18

·       ATOJ, ch. III: “The Original Position,” §§ 20–26 (pp. 102–139)



H, 9/20

·       ATOJ, ch. III, §§ 27–30 (pp. 139–168)





T, 9/25

Part Two: “Institutions”

·       ATOJ, ch. IV: “Equal Liberty,” §§ 31–37 (pp. 171–206)



H, 9/27

·       ATOJ, ch. V: “Distributive Shares,” §§ 41–45 (pp. 228–262)

public-goods game


T, 10/2

·       ATOJ, ch. V, §§ 46–50 (pp. 263–292)



H, 10/4

·       ATOJ, ch. VI: “Duty and Obligation, §§ 51–56 (pp. 293–326)



T, 10/9

·       ATOJ, ch. VI, §§ 57–59 (pp. 326–343)

·       ATOJ, § 87 (pp. 506–514)

in-class readings of first paper (bring two copies)


H, 10/11

[ none ]

no class (reading day)










T, 10/16

Part 2: Nozick

Part I: “State-of-Nature Theory, or How to Back into a State without Really Trying”

·       ASU, preface (pp. ix–xiv)

·       ASU, ch, 1: “Why State-of-Nature Theory?” (pp. 3–9)

·       ASU, ch. 2: “The State of Nature” (pp. 10–25)

·       ASU, ch. 3: “Moral Constraints and the State” (pp. 26–53)



H, 10/18

·       ASU, ch. 4: “Prohibition, Compensation, and Risk”      (pp. 54–87)

paper no. 1 due (6 pages)


T, 10/23

·       ASU, ch. 5: “The State” (pp. 88–119)

·       ASU, ch. 6: “Further Considerations on the Argument for the State” (pp. 120–146)




H, 10/25

Part II: “Beyond the Minimal State?”

·       ASU, ch. 7: “Distributive Justice,” section I (pp. 149–182)



T, 10/30

·       ASU, ch. 7, section II to p. 213 (pp. 183–213)



H, 11/1

·       ASU, ch. 7, section II from p. 213 (pp. 213–231)



T, 11/6

·       ASU, ch. 8: “Equality, Envy, Exploitation, Etc.” (pp. 232–275)



H, 11/8

·       ASU, ch. 9: “Demoktesis” (pp. 276–294)

paper no. 2 due (7 pages)




T, 11/13

Part III: “Utopia”

·       ASU, ch. 10: “A Framework for Utopia” (pp. 297–334)






H, 11/15

Part 3: Unger

·       LHLD, ch. 1: “Illusions of Innocence: An Introduction”   (pp. 3–23)



T, 11/20

[ none ]

no class (Thanksgiving)


H, 11/22

[ none ]

no class (Thanksgiving)


T, 11/27

·       LHLD, ch. 2: “Living High and Letting Die: A Puzzle about Behavior toward People in Great Need” (pp. 24–61)



H, 11/29

·       LHLD, ch. 3: “Living High, Stealing and Letting Die: The Main Truth of Some Related Puzzles” (pp. 62–83)



T, 12/4

·        LHLD, ch. 4: “Between Some Rocks and Some Hard Places: On Causing and Preventing Serious Loss” (pp. 84–118)

·        LHLD, ch. 5: “Between Some Rocks and Rockier Hard Places: On Distortional Separating and Revelatory Grouping” (pp. 119–132)



H, 12/6

·       LHLD, ch. 6: “Living High and Letting Die Reconsidered: On the Costs of a Morally Decent Life” (pp. 133–157)

·       LHLD, ch. 7: “Metaethics, Better Ethics: From Complex Semantics to Simple Decency” (pp. 158–176)





paper no. 3 due by Wed., 12/12 (8 pages)


revised: 10/15/01