Instructor(s): Peter Benson

For graduate students, the course number is LAW5057H.

Note: Familiarity with philosophy is not presupposed.

The central aim of this course is to introduce John Rawls theory of justice as it applies both to domestic justice (constitutional democracy) and to international relations between peoples. Rawls work is universally recognized as the single most important contribution in the twentieth century to the theory of social and political justice. Reading Rawls will deeply and permanently affect the way one understands and appreciates the ideal and limits of democratic justice as well as proper and fair relations among states. It will affect your basic approach to public and international law. The course focuses on two of his last books, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement (Harvard U Press, 2001) and The Law of Peoples (Harvard U Press, 1999).

The course as a whole including the presentation of texts, lectures, class discussions, and evaluation presupposes no background whatsoever in philosophy of any kind or in legal theory.

Participation will count for 10% of the grade for all students. Students may choose one of the following: 1. Write a paper of about 6,800 words (90%). Paper topics should be discussed in advance with the instructor. If submitted on a timely basis, drafts will be read and commented upon. 2. Write three shorter papers (each about 2,300 words) (90%) drawn from questions distributed to students during the term, well before the exam period. Questions are based only on course readings and discussions and require no additional or outside reading. Students who choose this option must elect to do so before the first assignment is due. This format is geared to allow students to focus exclusively on course readings, secure in the knowledge that their efforts to come to terms with the texts will be directly reflected in their mode of evaluation. Students may satisfy the Perspective Requirement and complete a SUYRP in this course.

At a Glance

Second Term
Perspective course


20 JD


T: 10:30 - 11:50
Th: 10:30 - 11:50