Here are some suggestions for final paper topics. They are just suggestions. Feel free to write on any topic that intersts you, though it probably makes sense to clear your topic with me first. Consider also that many (though not all) of the shorter prompts might be expanded into longer paper prompts.
Outside sources may be useful. But they are optional. If you do use outside sources, please don't look at more than two or three. I've suggested some sources in the prompts here. Another good resource is the bibliography found at the conclusion of Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy articles (these are always reputable sources and the articles are generally good to read as well—see plato.stanford.edu). Another way to scare up external sources is to ask me. I'm happy to help.
Susan Okin argues that Rawls’s principles of justice should apply to the family, and gives some sense of what that application would require. Present her argument, together with some of her proposals.
If you think Okin’s argument fails, you could discuss what you take an effective Rawlsian rejoinder would be, following up with an explanation of why Okin’s most plausible response fails. Could a weakened or altered version of Okin’s argument succeed? If you think there is a plausible Rawlsian response to Okin’s argument that fails, despite its plausibility, you could critically discuss this response (again, considering what kind of rejoinder Rawls might offer).
(It may be useful to consider Rawls's Justice as Fairness: A Restatement pp. 163-168, where he responds to Okin.)
Robert Nozick’s historical entitlement theory includes a principle of rectification, but Nozick offers little explanation of what this principle would look like. You might consider the case of past historical injustices against the background of Nozick’s theory. Some questions you can address: Does the theory need to rectify those injustices? What should such rectification look like? Is the rectification of injustices located in the distant past compatible with respect for the property rights of present day citizens?
(Here it could be useful to look at the piece by Jeremy Waldron we will read soon, and perhaps other discussions of historical injustice)
Sandel objects to Rawls’s conception of justice on the ground that it is committed to an unencumbered conception of the self. What does Sandel mean by this? After explaining Sandel’s objection, evaluate it. If you think it is a plausible objection defend it against one or several plausible responses that Rawls might offer. If you think the objection is implausible, explain why, then consider and reject a plausible response that Sandel could offer to your argument on behalf of Rawls.
(One useful resource to consider here is Mulhall and Swift Liberals and Communitarians)
Rawls argues for the lexical (absolute) priority of the first principle of justice (the liberty principle), over the second principle (the distributive principle). Explain why he thinks the parties to the OP would insist on the priority of the first principle over the second. Is this plausible? Why/why not? Consider a plausible argument against your view and explain how it goes wrong.
One useful paper to have a look at here is Richard Arneson's "Against Rawlsian Equality of Opportunity" in Philosophical Studies 93(1) 1999. Arneson's article also raises other concerns about Rawlsian FEO which you could discuss.
Martha Nussbaum advocates for a list of capabilities that, she claims, all persons require in order to live fully human lives. Develop an argument in support of Nussbaum's claim that in thinking about social justice we should focus on capabilities, responding to at least one plausible objection against your argument. Alternatively, develop an argument against the capabilities approach, responding to at least one plausible objection that an advocate of the capabilities approach might offer.
Some philosophers have argued that, in light of historical injustice, particular 'positive-discriminatory' or 'preferential-hiring' practices are permissible or required. Find a plausible argument in support of these practices in the philosophical literature and outline what practices, exactly, this argument justifies. Develop a moral argument in support of these practices, responding to at least one plausible objection that might be made against your argument. Alternatively, develop a moral argument against these practices, responding to at least one plausible objection against your view.
In writing this essay you should read Judith Jarvis Thomson's 1973 article "Preferential Hiring" (Philosophy & Public Affairs 2, 364-384)
Longer Essay: (40%, addresses Learning Outcomes 1-4.) A 2000 word essay. This
should have an introduction and a conclusion and display understanding and
engagement with the course readings. It should develop and argue for a particular
perspective – framed as an answer to the question – and consider, and respond to,
possible alternative views or objections to the view that is being developed.