AP/PHIL4185 3.0 A: Philosophical Perspectives on Justice

Offered by: PHIL


Fall 2019






Calendar Description / Prerequisite / Co-Requisite

An examination of contemporary perspectives on justice through the lens of practical political issues in Canada and the international arena. Topics may include: multiculturalism, ethnic conflict, racism, sexism, nationalism, cosmopolitanism, human rights, and 'humanitarian' intervention. Prerequisite: at least nine credits in PHIL.

Course Website

Many courses utilize Moodle, York University's course website system. If your course is using Moodle, refer to the image below to access it.

    Additional Course Instructor/Contact Details

Idil Boran


Office Location:  S426 Ross Building

Phone Number:  (416) 736-2100 Ext. 30138

Office Hours:  Monday 11:00 – 12:30 & Tuesday 2:30 – 3:30 and by appointment

    Expanded Course Description

This advanced seminar offers a historicized reading in close-up of well-known texts of political thought throughout the 20th century, in order to engage in critical explorations of questions of justice arising in today’s social, political, and cultural context. Unlike most courses of its kind, where perspectives on justice are catalogued into discrete themes, this course takes a distinctively historical approach to problems of political theory. Explorations on justice begin with the impacts of 19th century global transformations, creating fertile ground for intense discussions and contestations in early 20th century around prominent questions of political thought, including power and authority, race and gender against the backdrop of the legacy of colonialism. The seminar is premised on the idea that inquiry into justice is inextricable from historical circumstances, which thinkers were trying to grapple with. Their writings were not only shaped by the distinctive social, political, and cultural features of their times.  They were also forged, often unwittingly, by immediately preceding schools of thought forming an intellectual canvas for their work.


Exploring historical readings in this light will provide a dynamic framework for a critical examination of questions of justice arising today, including the interconnectedness across global environmental movement and sustainable development, forced migration, and other themes as historically situated. Through a blend of lectures, primary readings, and supplementary multi-media resources, exploration of justice will be juxtaposed to learning about the role of international organizations and multilateralism, non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations, social movements and civil society.

After this course, students will be in a good position to engage pursue reflection on justice anchored in shifts in world politics through late 19th century, early 20th century, the post-war era, the end of the Cold War opening up into the 21st century.

    Required Course Text / Readings

Primary reading (required):

Bailey, A., Brennan, S., Kymlicka, W., Levy, J. T., Sager, A., & Wolf, C. (Eds.). (2013). The Broadview anthology of social and political thought. Peterborough, Ont: Broadview Press.

Secondary reading (required – also available at no charge through York University Libraries as e-book):

Boran, I. (2019). Political theory and global climate action: Recasting the public sphere. London ; New York: Routledge.

Supplementary readings and material (TBA)

    Weighting of Course

Attendance, preparedness, and quality participation: 10%

Mid-term test (in class): 20%

Term assignment: 30%

Final assignment: 40%

    Organization of the Course

The following schedule is subject to change. All changes will be announced in class and on Moodle.

Author-based readings are from the Broadview Anthology, unless specified.


Sept. 10

Introducing Philosophical Perspectives on Justice

Sept. 17

Power and the State – early 20th Century

Read: Kamsler, “Intro to Power and the State” Broadwiew Anthology.

Read: Emma Goldman; Leon Trotsky (selections); John Dewey

Sept. 24

Power and the State – early 20th Century

Read: Weber; Hayek; Berlin

Oct. 1

Race and the legacy of imperialism

Read: W.E.B. Dubois; Mahatma Gandhi; Martin Luther King Jr

Oct. 8

Post-WWII era and critical perspectives on race and gender


The rise of global critical perspectives: development and environment

Read: Iris Young on race and gender; supplementary sources on development and environment (TBA)

Oct. 15

Fall reading week – no class – study for midterm

Oct. 22

Fall mid-term test in class

Oct. 29

Post-WWII era and its imprints on discourse on justice

Refresher: Rawls and post-Rawlsian perspectives

Read: John Rawls (selections TBA) and critics (selections TBA)

Habermas, historical sociology, and new perspectives on the public sphere

Read: Jürgen Habermas,

Nov. 5

Post-WWII: liberalism and neo-liberalism, global justice and environmental movements

End of the Cold-War and its effects on political thought

Read: Political Theory and Global Climate Action (selections); supplementary resources (TBA)

Nov. 12

Perspectives on Justice: inter-social approaches to forced displacement

Read: Political Theory and Global Climate Action (selections); supplementary resources (TBA)

Nov. 19

Term assignment due date: submit on Moodle by Nov. 19

Perspectives on Justice: goal setting for sustainable development

Read: Political Theory and Global Climate Action (selections); supplementary resources (TBA)

November 26

Conclusion: Rethinking the public domain in the 21st century

Dec. 3

No class – term paper study day

Final take home assignment to be completed and submitted during the exam period – submit on Moodle by due date: December 17

    Course Learning Objectives
  • Building advanced knowledge of key texts of political thought in the 20th century and beyond
  • Exploring current issues of justice within an inter-social framework of politics
  • Gaining familiarity with the trajectory of intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, and civil society and their impact on social change
  • Anchoring critical perspectives on justice against a historicized approach to world politics
    Additional Information / Notes



Attendance is required. Students must come to class prepared by reading the assigned texts beforehand. Students are expected to participate in guided classroom discussions heeding the values of collegial and inclusive learning environment.


Policy on late assignments


Assignments are due on the due date.  Late assignments will be accepted during a late submission period of seven calendar days (one week) following the due date, for a flat penalty of 10% (e.g., 3 points on an assignment marked out of 30).  After the late submission period, late essays cannot be accepted.  If there is a case of illness or emergency, official documentation will be necessary and will be subject to approval by the instructor. The late assignment policy does not apply to take-home exams.


Policy on missed exams and assignments


In cases of unforeseen acute illness or medical emergency, providing a doctor’s note is necessary. For other emergencies, supporting official documentation is required. No accommodation can be provided without documentation. However, a doctor’s note is not an automatic pathway to reschedule a test. It is subject to review and approval by the instructor.





Students can register with Student Accessibility Services (SAS), and must promptly notify the instructor. Accommodation requests made through SAS will be honoured.


Further information on Student Accessibility Services (SAS) at York University can be found at:



Further information on procedures for requesting alternate exams (ALT-Exams) can be found at:


    Relevant Links / Resources