Social & Political Philosophy (PHIL*6600) | College of Arts

Social & Political Philosophy (PHIL*6600)

Term: Winter 2013


This course takes up some recent philosophical responses to the problems of
severe poverty and inequality. The growing gap between rich and poor — both
within and between nations — raises a number of ethical and normative
questions for us: Do the citizens of affluent states have any moral duties to
citizens of impoverished states, especially in the face of growing economic
globalization and interdependence? Do people deserve the good or bad fortune
of their country — or family — of birth, or is this but a random “life lottery” that
ought to be corrected through economic redistribution and open borders? If there
is indeed a moral imperative to aid the global poor, which political institutions and
strategies are best? Some processes of economic development and aid risk
reinforcing North-South inequality and exploitation and fail to treat the poor as
active participants in change. We will explore critical perspectives on
conventional approaches to reducing poverty and arguments for more radical
In addition to surveying the mainstream responses to problems of poverty and
inequality — Utilitarian, Kantian, contractarian, and virtue ethical approaches —
we will also engage more critical (feminist, Marxist, and post-colonial)
perspectives. Authors may include Thomas Pogge, Martha Nussbaum, Amartya
Sen, Alison Jaggar, Peter Singer, Mattias Risser, Suzan Ilcan, Rainer Forst,
Onora O’Neill, Fuyuki Kurasawa, Ayelet Shachar, and Charles Mills.


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