Topics in Legal Philosophy

This seminar will focus on three principal topics. The first is The Public Reason Debate, initiated by a central idea in John Rawls’s Political Liberalism and his later essay on “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited.” We will read relevant portions of Rawls’s reflections on the ideal of confining political arguments to the demands of public reason in the political forum as well as significant criticism by thinkers such as Ronald Dworkin, Michael Sandel, Jeffrey Stout, Kent Greenawalt, and others. The second topic draws upon Dworkin’s recent book, Is Democracy Possible Here? He argues for a common ground for political debate on contemporary issues such as terrorism and human rights, religion and dignity, and taxation and legitimacy. Our task will be to take up his challenge to show him why he is wrong, if he is, to reach the conclusions he advocates. Tentatively, the third topic, will focus on either or both of the following two books: Sanford Levinson, Our Undemocratic Constitution: Where the Constitution Goes Wrong (And How We the People Can Correct It), and Samuel Fleischacker, A Short History of Distributive Justice. The latter book also relates to Rawls’s own theory of distributive justice.
Credits: 2

Type: SEM