Course Syllabus

JUSTICE (GOVT E-1045) - UPDATED, February 2016



Michael Sandel                   


Head Teaching Fellow

Sergio Imparato                       


Teaching Fellows

Aaron Shapiro                        


Abhinaya Swaminathan 


Sections time and location

Mondays, 10:30 AM - ONLINE (

Mondays, 5:30 PM - ONLINE (

Tuesdays, Noon - IN-PERSON (Emerson Hall 106)

Wednesdays, Noon - ONLINE (

Fridays, 7 PM - ONLINE (                              


Technical Assistance

DCE Academic Technology Support

Time Sensitive: (617) 998-8571

Non-Time Sensitive:

Web-Conference Info:


Course Overview

This course explores critical analysis of classical and contemporary theories of justice, including discussion of present-day applications. Topics include affirmative action, income distribution, same-sex marriage, the role of markets, debates about rights (human rights and property rights), arguments for and against equality, and dilemmas of loyalty in public and private life. The course invites learners to subject their own views on these controversies to critical examination. The principal readings for the course are texts by Aristotle, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, and John Rawls. Other assigned readings include writings by contemporary philosophers, court cases, and articles about political controversies that raise philosophical questions. The recorded lectures are from the HarvardX course Justice.


Course requirements and important dates

Section and discussion blog participation: 30% of course grade.

Five quizzes (20 minutes to complete, 5 multiple choice questions each): 20% of course grade. Quizzes are due on the date they appear in the class schedule by 11:59 PM. Please note, once you start the quiz you have 20 minutes to complete it. 

Nineteen polls (until 11:59 PM EST on the due date to complete, 1 multiple choice question, and 1 short answer): 20% of course grade. Polls are due on the date they appear in the class schedule by 11:59 PM. Please note, once you start the poll you have until 11:59 PM on the due date, to complete it. The polls are graded based on completion; there is no correct answers for the polls.

Final exam (45 minutes to complete, 5 multiple choice questions, 5 short answers, 5 minutes oral presentation): 30% of course grade. The final exam is due on the date it appears in the class schedule by 11:59 PM. Please note, once you start the final exam you have 45 minutes to complete it.


The quizzes will be posted on the course website on the following Fridays, at 6 PM (EST), and will be due on the same days at 11:59 PM (EST)*:

Quiz 1 – Friday February 12

Quiz 2– Friday February 26

Quiz 3 – Friday March 4

Quiz 4 – Friday March 11

Quiz 5 – Friday April 1


*Remember, you have 20 minutes to complete the quizzes, once started. Please, plan accordingly.


The final exam will be conducted online, on the course website. It will be posted on Wednesday May 4 at 6 PM (EST), and it is due on the same day at 11:59 PM*.


*Remember, you have 45 minutes to complete the final exam, once started. Please, plan accordingly.


Final essay option (graduate students only): upon approval from their TF, graduate students have the option to write a 450-600 words final essay, in lieu of the final exam. Final essay prompts will be distributed on April 1, and students must obtain permission from their TF no later than April 16. The final essay accounts for 30% of the course grade, and is due on the course website on May 4, at 10 PM (EST).


Course policies

The course depends on informed participation and discussion; students who enroll should be prepared to keep up with the course readings and assignments, on a weekly basis. Viewing of all lectures, at least one weekly participation in the discussion blog (either as a post or a reply), and weekly attendance in sections are required and count toward the course grade.

Students are expected to submit all assignments on time. Extensions can only be granted by the Head TF, and will be given only for the most compelling reasons (e.g. a family emergency or major illness). A heavy workload is not sufficient. Late assignments will be penalized 0.5 points per day.


Collaboration policy

While Justice is a course that encourages active discussion amongst students, you are expected to do all graded material alone. You are not allowed to look up answers to the quizzes, assignments or final exam before submitting your responses and you can not ask others for help; please do not post any questions about the quizzes or final exam in the discussion board.


Academic integrity

You are responsible for understanding Harvard Extension School policies on academic integrity ( and how to use sources responsibly. Not knowing the rules, misunderstanding the rules, running out of time, submitting the wrong draft, or being overwhelmed with multiple demands are not acceptable excuses. There are no excuses for failure to uphold academic integrity. To support your learning about academic citation rules, please visit the Harvard Extension School Tips to Avoid Plagiarism (, where you will find links to the Harvard Guide to Using Sources and two free online 15-minute tutorials to test your knowledge of academic citation policy. The tutorials are anonymous open-learning tools.


Course website

The website contains the video lectures, discussion board, and all the course readings, quizzes, and exams. Please, check the website for updates and announcements, on a daily basis.


Course schedule


Lecture 1: Doing the Right Thing (January 25)


Lecture 2: The Lifeboat Case (January 27)


Lecture 3: Utilitarianism: Jeremy Bentham (February 1)


Lecture 4: Utilitarianism: J.S. Mill (February 3)


Lecture 5: Libertarianism: Free Market Philosophy (February 8)


Lecture 6: Libertarianism: Do We Own Ourselves? (February 10)


Quiz #1 (February 12)


Lecture 7: John Locke: Property Rights (February 15)


Lecture 8: John Locke: Individual Rights and Majority Rule (February 17)


Lecture 9: Markets and Morals: Military Service (February 22)


Lecture 10: Markets and Morals: Surrogate Motherhood (February 24)


Quiz #2 (February 26)


Lecture 11: Immanuel Kant: What is Freedom? (February 29)


Lecture 12: Immanuel Kant: The Supreme Principle of Morality (March 2)


Lecture 13: Immanuel Kant: A Lesson in Lying (March 2*)


*Please watch both Lecture 12 and Lecture 13 on March 2.


Quiz #3 (March 4)


Lecture 14: The Morality of Consent (March 7)


Lecture 15: John Rawls: The Case for Equality (March 9)


Lecture 16: Distributive Justice: Who Deserves What? (March 9**)


Quiz #4 (March 11)


**Please watch both Lecture 15 and Lecture 16 on March 9.


-- Spring Recess, March 12-20 --


Lecture 17: Arguing Affirmative Action (March 21)


Lecture 18: Aristotle: Justice and Virtue (March 23)


Lecture 19: Aristotle: The Good Citizen (March 28)


Lecture 20: Aristotle: Freedom vs. Fit (March 30)


Quiz #5 (April 1)


Lecture 21: Justice, Community, and Membership (April 4)


Lecture 22: Dilemmas of Loyalty (April 6)


Lecture 23: Debating Same Sex-Marriage (April 11)


Lecture 24: Conclusion: Justice and the Good Life (April 13)


Review Sections (Weeks starting April 18, and 25)


Final Exam/Essay (May 4)


*Excerpts from JUSTICE: WHAT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO? by Michael J. Sandel. Copyright © 2009 by Michael J. Sandel. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

CAUTION: Users are warned that this work is protected under copyright laws and downloading is strictly prohibited.  The right to reproduce or transfer the work via any medium must be secured with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.


Course Summary:

Date Details Due