Equity and Justice: The Meaning of Equality in a Time of Systemic Oppression

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Course DatesLengthMeeting TimesStatusFormatInstructor(s)CRN
June 21, 2021 - July 21, 20216/21 - 7/214 WeeksOnlineWaitlistedOnlineLeonard Feldblyum

Course Description

From the workplace to government policy to schools and universities to city streets throughout the country, questions surrounding the meaning and value of equality are increasingly taking center stage. In this class, students will learn the history of egalitarianism and its philosophical basis, examine how well it withstands the objections of some of its strongest critics, and discuss how these ideas are influencing urgent debates about equity and justice in our society today.

In the process, students will develop several vital skills for the future: they will hone their critical reasoning, learn how to develop strong, rigorous arguments, and practice thinking clearly about sophisticated concepts and theories. Students will gain experience applying these skills by presenting and articulating their thoughts orally and in written work.

More specifically, we will begin with an investigation of how the idea of equality developed over the history of philosophy. Here, the focus will be on classic texts from Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, John Rawls, Mikhail Bakunin, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Then, we will engage with some of the strongest critiques of egalitarianism from various philosophical traditions, including utilitarianism, communitarianism, and Platonism. Readings will include selections from Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, Alasdair Macintyre, Plato, and Friedrich Nietzsche. Throughout the course, emphasis will be placed on applying what is learned to current events, especially the movement for racial justice in response to the death of George Floyd, and our society’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Students will engage with this material by writing short responses to assigned readings, working together in groups to prepare a presentation about one of these theories for the rest of the class, collaborating to develop their arguments for a class debate, and writing a final paper on a topic of their choice.

This course will help students develop their thinking and argumentative skills, which are vital for success in university and professional life. Students interested in ethics and political philosophy will also gain a foundation for further investigations of moral issues.

Prerequisites: None.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEPL0951

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences for students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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