Instructor(s): Peter Benson

For graduate students, the course number is LAW5057H.

This section of the course is for students studying remotely. This course will meet once a week, via audio-visual conference. To enrol in this course all students must meet or exceed the tech requirements for enrolment in University of Toronto courses, which can be found here []

There is wide agreement that John Rawls has provided by far the most important, the most fully reasoned and the most thought-provoking account of democratic justice since the great thinkers of the 19th century. As future lawyers in practice, government or academia, studying Rawls’ work is indispensable to developing our understanding of what justice in democratic society requires and can be. It explores questions of constitutional law, the role of basic liberties, requirements of distributive justice, the relation between public and private law, the role of the family, a conception of just health care and justice between generations, just principles for international relations, and much more. The most important thing is that Rawls does all this on a reasoned basis that, he argues, would be ideally acceptable to all citizens who seek democratic justice. The course focuses on his two last books, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement (Harvard U Press, 2001) and The Law of Peoples (Harvard U Press, 2001). 

Note:  This course presupposes no prior background in political or legal theory or philosophy. Rawls’ work is fully accessible to students without prior theory or philosophy and in past classes students without prior philosophy have often led the class with their final papers. The aim is to read these books as carefully and closely as possible, thereby providing all students with an accurate and serious introductory understanding of Rawls’ great transformative work.

10% will be based on doing seven (7) very short (can be as few as 100 words) weekly comments about the assigned readings for a class to be submitted before the class. The remaining 90% will be based on a final paper of 6,250 to 6,700 words. Students may satisfy the Perspective Requirement and complete a SUYRP in this course.
Academic year
2020 - 2021

At a Glance

Second Term
Perspective course



20 JD


Th: 11:00 am - 12:20 pm (AV Conference)