TH 893-01 Seminar: Contemporary Theories of Justice
Boston College
David Hollenbach, S.J.
Spring, 2010, Thursday, 2:20-4:20 p.m.

(Please note the slight change from the announced time due to possible conflict with other seminars of importance to some students)
McGuinn 437

Instructor’s Office: 21 Campanella Way, Room 318
Office hours: Monday, 4:30 to 5:15, Tuesday, 3:45-5:00, and by appointment Phone: 617-552-8855
Since the publication of John Rawls' A Theory of Justice in 1971, the fundamental moral norm of justice has been extensively discussed and analyzed by moral, political and social philosophers in the English-speaking world. This seminar will study several major representative approaches to the meaning of justice in this recent discussion. The seminar will also explore some of the historical roots of these contemporary contributions. It will consider possible contributions these approaches can make to Christian social ethics, as well as contributions Christian ethical thought can make to the current philosophical and political-theory debates.
1. Participation in all class discussions and completion of assigned readings in advance of class.
2. Working in teams of two, students will introduce the class discussion several times during the semester (the number of times depending on course enrollment). Working together, they will prepare a one page hand-out, with copies to be distributed to all participants at the beginning of the class as a basis for discussion. This hand-out should contain:
(a) The three or four major theses of the readings for the day, stated in complete sentences. A thesis is not a list or summary of various points to be considered. It is a brief, simple, and direct statement of the position being affirmed by the author of the material read. At the beginning of class the students in the team for the day will be asked to state their theses, explain them, and briefly present the author's argument for them. This presentation of the theses should take no more than 15 minutes. The goal is to initiate class discussion that will determine and clarify the main argument of the assigned readings.

(b) One or two central questions the class should address in order to assess the significance and truth of the readings. These questions should concern central issues that must be addressed by the class to evaluate the author's position. The question or questions will be dealt with in the later part of the class discussion.

3. A final term paper, approximately 20 pages double spaced, on an aspect of the material covered in the course. The paper should deal with some aspect of a problem treated by one or several of the authors assigned or a question to which the authors studied can make direct contributions. Only by way of exception will approval be given for a paper dealing with author(s) or question(s) not directly dealt with in the course materials.

Schedule for development of the paper:

Students should meet with the instructor to discuss the topic of the paper by March 15.

By March 22 students should submit a written proposal for the paper, including proposed versions of the title of the paper, of the problem or question to be addressed, and a preliminary list of the main work(s) and/or author(s) that will be studied. The problem/question to be addressed should be clearly stated in whole sentences. This proposal should be at most two pages in length, double spaced. The instructor will provide written feedback on the proposal and may suggest the need of another meeting to discuss it. It is the student's responsibility to make the appointments for the meeting(s) mentioned above.

The paper is due by Tuesday, May 11. Students who need final grades submitted by a specified date in order to graduate should make arrangements for the date the paper will be submitted at the meeting where the proposal is discussed and give the professor written notification of the date by which the grade must be submitted.

4. Academic Integrity. Boston College values the academic integrity of its students and faculty. It is your responsibility to familiarize yourself with the university’s policy on academic integrity, at: If you have any questions about this matter, always consult your professor. Violations of academic integrity will be reported to the student’s class dean and judged by the academic integrity committee in the student’s school. If a student is found responsible for violating the policy, penalties may include a failing grade as well as possible probation, suspension, or expulsion, depending on the seriousness and circumstances of the violation.

Books marked * are available in the Boston College bookstore. Assigned books are also available on reserve in O'Neill Library.
1/21 Introduction to the course.
1/28 A Christian theological reflection on justice I

*Nicolas Wolterstorff, Justice: Rights and Wrongs, chaps. 1, 3-5, 9 (pp. 21-42; 65-131; 207-226). Scanned texts available on Blackboard Vista course site.


Michael Walzer, Exodus and Revolution.

Edward Said, "Michael Walzer's 'Exodus and Revolution': A Canaanite Reading,"
Grand Street 5, no. (1986), 86-106; and Walzer and Said, "An Exchange: 'Exodus
and Revolution,'" Grand Street 5, no. 4 (1986), 246-59. Online reserve.

Moshe Weinfeld, Social Justice in Ancient Israel and in the Ancient Near East.

Norbert Lohfink, Option for the Poor: The Basic Principle of Liberation Theology in Light of the Bible.

John R. Donahue, S.J., “What Does the Lord Require? A Bibliographical Essay on the Bible and Social Justice,” Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 25/2 (March, 1993), pp. 1-75. This issue of Studies is a valuable resource for further study on the use of the bible in social ethics, social ministry, and in the formation of a socially conscious spirituality.

2/4 A Christian theological reflection on justice II
*Nicolas Wolterstorff, Justice: Rights and Wrongs, chap. 11 (only pp. 241-248); 13- 17; Epilogue (pp. 241-248; 285-393. Scanned text available on Blackboard Vista course site.


Gene Outka, Agape: An Ethical Analysis (Yale University Press)
Paul Ramsey, Basic Christian Ethics, chaps. 7 and 9.
Gerard Gilleman, The Primacy of Charity in Moral Theology, pp. 330-341.
Reinhold Niebuhr, An Interpretation of Christian Ethics, chap. 4.
Reinhold Niebuhr, the Nature and Destiny of Man, Vol. II, chap. IX.
Paul Tillich, Love, Power, and Justice
John Haughey, ed., The Faith that Does Justice
Karen Lebacqz, Six Theories of Justice: Perspectives from Philosophical and
Theological Ethics.
Jon Sobrino, The True Church and the Poor, esp. chap. 2, "The Promotion of Justice as an Essential Requirement of the Gospel Message," pp. 39-63.
David Hollenbach, Justice, Peace, and Human Rights, chaps. 2-7.

2/11 From covenant to social contract--Locke and liberalism
*John Locke, Second Treatise of Civil Government, ed. C. B. Macpherson, (Hackett).
John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration.
2/18 Kant, freedom, and the self
*Immanuel Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, trans. James W. Ellington (Hackett).
Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason.
2/25 Rawls I: Justice as fairness
*John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, original edition, 1971, Harvard University Press, §§ 1—19, pp. 3—117. (Note, the revised edition of 1999 is also acceptable, though we will prefer to refer to the original edition in class discussions and the original edition has been ordered at the BC bookstore.)
Rawls, A Brief Inquiry into the Meaning of Sin and Faith: With "On My Religion," Harvard University Press, 2009. Rawls's senior undergraduate thesis at Princeton, submitted in 1942. With introductions and commentary by Thomas Nagel (Editor, Introduction), Joshua Cohen (Introduction), Robert Merrihew Adams (Commentary).
Rawls, Political Liberalism, Columbia University Press, 1995.
Rawls, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement, ed. Erin Kelly. Harvard University Press, 2001.
Rawls, The Law of Peoples, Harvard University Press, 1999.
3/4 No class. Boston college spring break
3/11 Rawls II: Justifying and institutionalizing justice as fairness
*Rawls, A Theory of Justice, §§ 20-30, 33-35, 39--44 (pp. 118-192, 205-221,
3/18 Justice in Thomas Aquinas.
*Thomas Aquinas, On Law Morality and Politics, second edition, ed. by William P. Baumgarth and Richard J Regan, selections from Thomas Aquinas on pp. 97-148, 188-189.


Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book 5.

Jean Porter, “The Virtue of Justice (IIa IIae qq. 58-122),” in Stephen J. Pope, ed., The Ethics of Aquinas, pp. 272-286.

Martin Rhonheimer, “Sins Against Justice (IIa IIae qq. 59-78),” in Stephen J. Pope, ed., The Ethics of Aquinas, pp. 287-303.
3/25 Justice, human rights and natural law--a retrieval of Thomas Aquinas.
*Jacques Maritain, Man and the State (Catholic University of America Press).
4/1 No class. Holy Thursday, Easter holiday.
4/8 Justice in Interpersonal Relationships

*Margaret A. Farley, Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, pp. 174--296
4/15 Sen I, Justice in a pluralist and interdependent world.
*Amartya Sen, The Idea of Justice, Introduction, and chaps. 1, 4, 6, 7.

Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom.
Martha Nussbaum, Women and Human Development, esp. Intro. and chap. 1.
4/22 Sen II, Justice in a pluralist and interdependent world.
*Amartya Sen, The Idea of Justice, chaps. 11, 12, 15-18.
4/29 Sandel: Justice, community and the common good.
Michael Sandel, Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do, chaps. 9-10. Scanned texts available on Blackboard Vista course site.


Michael Sandel, Justice: A Reader, Chaps XII and XIII. Includes:

MacIntyre, After Virtue, ch. 15
Sandel, Democracy’s Discontent, pp. 7-17
Walzer, Spheres of Justice, pp. 6-10, 86-91, 312-314
Rawls, Political Liberalism, pp. 3-15, 29-35, 144-58
Sandel, "Political Liberalism"

5/6 Revisiting the debates from a Christian ethical standpoint
National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All: A Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy, and “A Decade after ‘Economic Justice for All.’” Both documents are available in the Tenth Anniversary edition of the Pastoral Letter. Economic Justice for All is in O’Brien and Shannon, Catholic Social Teaching: The Documentary Heritage. Also available on the website of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Office of Social Justice, at: