Theories of Justice (PHIL*3230) | College of Arts

Theories of Justice (PHIL*3230)

Code and section: PHIL*3230*01

Term: Winter 2018

Instructor: Karen Wendling


Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum have pioneered the discussion of capabilities in political philosophy. Developed originally by Sen in the 1980s as an alternative to utilitarian conceptions of welfare, the capabilities approach has two components. First, it defines well-being in terms of capabilities, which are people’s real-life opportunities to do and be things that they value. Second, it claims that the most important aspect of political freedom is individuals’ freedom to develop their capabilities. In this course, we will discuss how Sen and Nussbaum work out the theory in their two recent books, The Idea of Justice by Sen (2011) and Creating Capabilities by Nussbaum (2013).

Course Outline

The University of Guelph resides on the land of the Between the Lakes Treaty No. 3, the territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit. This land is part of the Dish with One Spoon, a covenant between Indigenous nations to live peaceably on the territories of the Great Lakes region. We recognize that today this gathering place is home to many First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples and acknowledging them reminds us of our collective responsibility to the land where we learn, live and work.