Questioning for the Common Good
In this Foundation Seminar, we will consider what it means to think, write, and discuss critically ideas and activities related to issues of social justice. Thinking critically means questioning the way things are done, in order to improve them. Writing critically is a way to clarify our thinking and communicate it to others. Discussing our ideas and actions helps us all to learn from each other in ways that enrich our thinking, communication, and action.
Although we will discuss a range of social justice issues, we will focus especially on those related to income inequality and violence. A service-learning experience is part of the course.
Feed the World
In this course, you will be invited to join an ongoing dialogue about what constitutes social justice, how various dimensions of justice are connected to issues of economic justice, and how best to advocate for social change.
In order effectively to participate in this dialogue, you will need to become informed about theories and practices that underlie efforts to manifest social change. We will examine competing theories — by Robert Nozick, John Rawls, Amartya Sen among others — of what social justice entails and how our economic system supports and/or undermines social justice. We will then apply these perspectives to understand ways in which social injustices, such as domination on the basis of economic class, gender, race/ethnicity and sexual orientation, are interrelated and how they might be addressed. Finally, you will be asked to examine social movements that seek to eliminate these injustices in order, ultimately, to articulate your own position on how to change the world.
What civic duty or moral obligation do we have to obey laws that we regard as unjust? What types of protest, resistance, or rebellion are legitimate in order to combat oppression and to further social justice? How effective are strategies of civil disobedience, and must they remain committed to nonviolence?
This seminar focuses on the topic of civil disobedience and its implications for issues such as the nature of social justice, the rule of law, and an individual's relationship to the state. We will begin by examining classical and contemporary debates concerning the conditions of a just society. We will then examine competing arguments concerning one of the primary problems of political philosophy: how to justify the moral duty of citizens to obey laws. Finally, we will analyze both historical and current examples of movements that have sought to advance social justice through forms of civil disobedience.