PHIL 207 A: Issues Of Global Justice

Meeting Time: 
MW 9:00am - 10:20am
MLR 301
Jamie Mayerfeld

Syllabus Description:

Spring 2016
University of Washington
(revised April 26, 2016) 

Instructor: Professor Jamie Mayerfeld                                                                 Lecture:
Office: Gowen 35                                                                                                 Miller 301
Office Hours: Mon. 1:30-3:00 & Fri. 11:00-12:00                                                MW 9:00-10:20 am

TAs: Alex Lenferna, David Lucas, Yusri Supiyan

Overview: This course takes up the question of global justice. Is the current international system unjust, and if so, why? How (if at all) should we imagine a more just world? Does global justice require a change in the behavior of individual countries (such as the United States) and individual persons (such as you and me)? We will begin by contrasting four general theoretical perspectives on global justice: statism, cosmopolitanism, realism, and the postcolonial critique. We then address three contemporary issues of global justice: immigration, refugees, and climate change.

 Learning objectives: (1) understanding contemporary global issues from a range of disciplinary and theoretical perspectives; (2) learning how to critically evaluate normative arguments on contemporary global issues; (3) developing your own reasoned positions on these issues; and (4) communicating your positions in the form of clear and cogent argumentative essays.

 Readings. You are expected to complete the readings on time and come prepared to discuss them in lecture and quiz section. The texts are challenging, but also rewarding. You will get the most out of them though careful, critical reading (and re-reading).

 Texts: There are two texts: a course packet on sale at Rams Copy Center, 4144 University Way, and Climate Ethics: Essential Readings, ed. Gardiner et al. (2010), on sale at the University Bookstore. Both texts will be placed on reserve at Odegaard Undergraduate Library. A few required readings will only be available online.

 Quiz Sections: Quiz sections are your opportunity to explore and debate class material in greater depth. Students are expected to attend quiz sections regularly and to contribute informed comments to class discussion.

 Essays. Two essays, 4-5 pages long, will be assigned. You will be presented with a challenging question, intended to give you an opportunity for in-depth reflection on the texts and the questions they pose. Essays will be graded according to accuracy, clarity, and level of critical thought. The first essay will be assigned on Wednesday, April 6, and is due on Thursday, April 21. The second essay will be assigned on Monday, May 2 and is due on Tuesday, May 17.

Final Exam. There will be a final exam on Wednesday, June 8, from 8:30 to 10:20 am.

Grading: The course grade is calculated as follows:

First Essay                  30%                
Second Essay              30%                
Final Exam                  25%                
Participation                15%

Academic Integrity: Cheating and plagiarism are offenses against academic integrity and are subject to disciplinary action by the University. Plagiarism is copying someone else’s work and presenting it as your own (by not attributing it to its true source). If you are uncertain what constitutes plagiarism, please ask me or your TA. The Political Science/JSIS/LSJ/CHID Writing Center also offers guidance on plagiarism:

Students with Disabilities Provisions: If you wish to request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact the Disability Resources for Students Office (DRS), 011 Mary Gates Hall,, or 543-8924. If you have a letter from DRS indicating that you have a disability that requires special accommodations, please present the letter to me.

(Unless otherwise noted, readings are from the course packet.)
Reading assignments subject to change!


Mon. March 28: Introduction

Part I: Theoretical Frames

Wed. March 30: Peter Singer, “Famine Affluence and Morality” (1971)

Mon. April 4: David Miller, “Against Global Egalitarianism” (2005)

Wed. April 6: Thomas Pogge, “‘Assisting’ the Global Poor” (2003); Oxfam, Rigged Rules and Double Standards, Executive Summary (2002); Dambisa Moyo, “Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working And How There Is a Better Way for Africa” (2009)

Mon. April 11: Thomas Nagel, “The Problem of Global Justice” (2005)

Wed. April 13: Catherine Lu, “Colonialism as Structural Injustice: Historical Responsibility and Contemporary Redress” (2011)


Part II: Immigration and Refugees

Mon. April 18: Joseph Carens, “Aliens and Citizens: The Case for Open Borders” (1987)

Wed. April 20: Christopher Heath Wellman, “Immigration and Freedom of Association” (2008); Michael Blake, “Immigration, Association, and Anti-Discrimination” (2011)

**Thu. April 21: First essay is due.**

Mon. April 25: Joseph Carens, “The Case for Amnesty” (2009)

Wed. April 27: Movies on refugee issues to be announced. For Wednesday or Thursday, please read Louis Henkin, “Refugees and their Human Rights” (1995) (PDF on course website); UNHCR, “The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol” (2011); Guy S. Goodwin-Gill, “The International Law of Refugee Protection” (2014) (in course packet); Wikipedia article on the “European Migrant Crisis” (read about the first fifth of the article until discussion of individual receiving countries). Optional: Open Society Institute, “Understanding Migration and Asylum in the European Union” (2015); Council on Foreign Relations, “Europe’s Migration Crisis” (2015). For reference, here is the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees:

Mon. May 2: Michael Blake, “Philosophy & The Refugee Crisis: What Are The Hard Questions?”; Serena Parekh, “Moral Obligations To Refugees: Theory, Practice & Aspiration”; Kieran Oberman, “Refugees & Economic Migrants: A Morally Spurious Distinction” All three essays are taken from the January 2016 symposium “And Who Is My Neighbor?” in The Critique. Please find these articles on the symposium website, here. (The three essays we read are numbers 3, 6, and 7.)

Wed. May 4. Guest lecture by Professor Megan Ybarra of the UW Department of Geography. Please read Sonia Nazario, “The Refugees at Our Door,” New York Times, October 15, 2016


Part III: Climate Change

Mon. May 9: Tracey Skillington, “Climate Justice Without Freedom: Assessing Legal and Political Responses to Climate Change and Forced Migration” (2015). Optional supplementary reading: Peter Penz, “International Ethical Responsibility to ‘Climate Change Refugees’” (2010) (PDF on course website). 

Wed. May 11: Stephen Gardiner, “Ethics and Global Climate Change” (2004), in Climate Ethics

Mon. May 16: Dale Jamieson, “Ethics, Public Policy, and Global Warming” (1992); Stephen Gardiner, “A Perfect Moral Storm” (2006) in Climate EthicsHenry Shue, “Global Environment and International Inequality” (1999); Peter Singer, “One Atmosphere” (2002), in Climate Ethics

**Tue. May 17: Second essay is due.**

Wed. May 18: Henry Shue, “Global Environment and International Inequality” (1999); Peter Singer, “One Atmosphere” (2002), in Climate Ethics

Mon. May 23: Chukwumerije Okereke, “Moral Foundations for Global Environmental and Climate Justice” (2011) (PDF on course website); and Paul Baer et el., “Greenhouse Development Rights” (2010), in Climate Ethics; EcoEquity, Fair Shares: A Civil Society Equity Review of INDCs, summary (2015) 

Wed. May 25: Chris Cuomo, “Climate Change, Vulnerability, and Responsibility” (2011)

Mon. May 30: Memorial Day: No class

Wed. June 1: Paris Agreement on Climate Change, December 2015; “Will the Paris Agreement Make A Difference?” (2015) – Please read the introduction and blogposts by Jean Galbraith, Eric Orts, Cary Coglianese, and Sarah Light, here:; Stephen Gardiner, “A Call for a Global Constitutional Convention Focused on Future Generations” (2014)

**Final Exam: Wed. June 8, 8:30-10:20 am.**

Additional Details:

In the 21st century, issues of justice will often transcend national borders.  This course will introduce you to these pressing issues – and to a variety of disciplinary approaches that are useful in understanding them.  After a brief introduction to moral reasoning and reasoning about justice, this course will address a number of issues of global justice, including: 

Global poverty and aid:  Do the wealthy nations have an obligation to help the world’s poor?  If so, what should they do?  Should there be special attention to the status of women in developing countries?

Immigration:  Should everyone in the world have a right to move to any place they would like to live?  What kinds of limits on immigration, if any, can be justified? 

Transnational governance:  Should there be a single world democracy?  If not, should there be other transnational institutions—for example, an international criminal court to enforce human rights? 

Climate change:  What obligations, if any, do the nations of the developed world have to prevent or alleviate climate change?  What obligations, if any, do the nations of the less developed world have? 

Cultural relativism:  Are the ideas of justice, human rights, and democracy discussed in this course merely Western ideas or are they of global applicability?

Students will write one 3-page paper, one 5-page paper, and a final exam.  Satisfies I&S requirement and the context course requirement for the Human Rights Minor. Offered jointly with POL S 207 and VALUES 207.

TEXT: No Textbook Required.

Catalog Description: 
Introduces issues of global justice. Topics include: global poverty and aid, immigration, transnational governance, gender in global relations, climate change, and cultural relativism. Offered: jointly with POL S 207/VALUES 207.
GE Requirements: 
Diversity (DIV)
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
October 5, 2016 - 9:07pm