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PHILOS 4S03 Human Rights & Global Justice

Academic Year: Winter 2016

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Violetta Igneski

Email: igneski@mcmaster.ca

Office: University Hall 308

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23462


Office Hours: Friday 10-11am and by appointment

Course Objectives:

Course Description

Contemporary theorists of global justice share a commitment to respecting all human beings as having equal moral status.  But there is significant disagreement about what this commitment entails in terms of how we ought to treat all persons and how we ought to structure our political institutions.  Is it consistent with equal respect to treat our compatriots differently than persons beyond our national borders?  Liberal statists accept that we have humanitarian duties to aid persons beyond our borders (and are committed to a list of basic human rights for all) while our duties to our compatriots go much further (e.g. equality of opportunity, distributive equality, etc.).  Cosmopolitans go further than this and argue that we must seek justice for all.  They challenge the statist’s view that places such moral significance on borders.  But what would it mean to treat everyone equally?  What types of political institutions would be required?  What challenges does the cosmopolitan position face?

In this course we will read two current accounts of these different perspectives on global justice.  We will first consider Gillian Brock’s moderate cosmopolitan theory.  We will then consider David Miller’s new collection of essays that provides an account of justice at the global level (global justice) that is different from justice within national boundaries (social justice).  Both theorists defend principles they take to be feasible and applicable in the real world. 

Our goal will be to consider these arguments and evaluate them with an eye to developing our own views that we can support.  We will focus on developing critical reading and writing skills and oral presentation skills through our weekly discussions and various assignments. 

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Required Readings

Gillian Brock, Global Justice: A Cosmopolitan Account (Oxford University Press, 2009).

David Miller, Justice for Earthlings: Essays in Political Philosophy (Cambridge University Press, 2013).

Both books are available in McMaster bookstore and the Brock book is available on Oxford Scholarships Online.

Method of Assessment:

Course Requirements

Students are required to do assigned readings, attend class, participate in class discussions and regularly check Avenue to Learn.  In addition, you must complete the following requirements: an oral presentation, 10 weekly critical commentaries, an essay and a peer commentary on another student’s essay.

1.  Oral and Visual Presentation  (includes handout and/or powerpoint presentation)

Date: students will choose/be assigned a date on the first day of class

Value: 20%

2.  Essay (3 components: first draft, peer-commentary and final revised essay):

1.  First draft: Bring hard copy of paper to class on March 23.  I will pair you up with another student for the peer evaluation process.

2.  Peer-commentary: you must evaluate your partner’s draft (evaluation sheet on Avenue).  You must upload completed peer commentary on Avenue on March 30 before class and attend class bringing a hard copy to discuss comments with your partner.

3. Final revised essay: to be submitted on Avenue. Note: I may request a paper copy to be submitted and will notify you well in advance if this is the case.

Due Date of First draft: March 23 (no extensions). You must bring a hard copy of your paper to class that day.

Due Date of Peer-commentary: Upload to Avenue before class on March 30.  You must attend class that week to discuss paper with your partner.

Due Date of Final revised essay: Upload to Avenue before class on April 6.

Length:  8-10 pages (approx. 2500-3000 words)

Value of components:  Peer evaluation: 10%; Final draft 40%

Total Value: 50%

3.  10 weekly critical commentaries (one page each): raise/discuss philosophically interesting issue or critique that we can discuss in class

      Due: Upload on Avenue before class and bring a copy with you to class

Each worth: 3%

Total Value: 10 x 3 = 30%

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:


Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


Other Course Information:

Regulations and Policies

  1. Submission of assignments.  Assignments are to be submitted on Avenue to Learn.  They are due before class begins on the due date.  Please retain a copy of all assignments and any rough notes.
  2. Turnitin.com.  Essays submitted on Avenue will be checked automatically by Turnitin.com to reveal plagiarism, and will automatically be added to the Turnitin database. If you do not wish to have your essays added to the Turnitin database, send it to me electronically as an e-mail attachment. No penalty will be assigned if you submit your assignment this way. All submitted work is subject to normal verification that standards of academic integrity have been upheld (e.g., on-line search). To see the Turnitin.com policy, click here .
  3. Extensions.  Part of the university experience is learning how to prioritize and juggle all of your assignments—inevitably they will all be due around the same date.  Extensions will only be granted for special circumstances beyond the student’s control, in which case supporting documentation will be required.  Apart from emergency situations, extensions must be negotiated before the deadline.
  4. Late papers.  Your assignment is considered late if it is not handed in at the start of class on the day it is due.  Late papers will be penalized 5% per day.
  5. Course Changes: The instructor and the University reserve the right to modify elements of the course during the term.  The university may change the dates and deadlines for any or all courses in extreme circumstances.  If either type of modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes.  It is the responsibility of the student to check their McMaster email and Avenue to Learn weekly during the term and to note any changes.
  6. Grading.  The scale used by the Registrar’s office will be used to convert number grades to final letter grades.
  7. Course evaluations.  Course evaluations will be conducted at the end of the course.  However, any questions, concerns or ideas you have will be accepted and appreciated throughout the term.
  8. Classroom environment.  We will spend a significant amount of class time discussing and debating sensitive issues.  Some of you will feel more comfortable than others speaking; do your part to foster an open and comfortable environment for all.  I expect that you will treat everyone in the class with respect.