Instructor(s): Peter Benson

For graduate students, the course number is LAW5057H.

Note: The Quercus program will be used for this course. 

There is wide agreement that John Rawls has provided the most important account of democratic justice since the great thinkers of the 19th century. As future lawyers in practice, government or academia, studying Rawls’ work can be transformative in developing one’s understanding of what justice in a liberal democratic society requires. He 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 so much more. The most important thing is that Rawls does all this on a reasoned basis which, he argues, could 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, 1999). Students will have the opportunity to read and discuss these books slowly and closely, thereby enabling them to develop an accurate and serious introductory understanding of Rawls’ great transformative work.  

Note:  This course does not presuppose any prior background in political or legal theory or philosophy. Rawls’ work is fully accessible to students without prior theory or philosophy and in past. 

Students have the choice of writing either one final paper or two shorter papers totalling of 6,250 to 6,700 words. Students may satisfy the Perspective Requirement and complete a SUYRP in this course.
Academic year
2022 - 2023

At a Glance

First Term
Perspective course



20 JD


T: 9:00 - 10:20 am
Th: 9:00 - 10:20 am