Imperfection and Impartiality: A Liberal Theory of Social Justice

By Marcel Wissenburg | Go to book overview
Save to active project

7

Do we not bleed?

The elements of principles of justice

Justice demands that we treat equals equally and unequals in proportion to their inequality-so we need a measure for (in)equality, a basis of desert or a criterion for eligibility as a recipient of justice. We now have our archpoint; the time has come to apply this device to these questions.

In this and the ensuing two chapters I shall introduce the elements of a measure of social justice separately and systematically, slowly erecting a multi-storey building. The present chapter starts by asking who or what the recipient of minimal justice ought to be. In fact, it deals with three different but inseparable questions: the criteria for recipiency, the criteria for calling someone a recipient of social justice in particular, and the criteria for ordering the recipients' claims to social justice. The reason for treating these three questions in one single chapter is that the answer to each of these questions depends on the identification of relevant differences: differences between rocks and humans, between members and strangers, between the fortunate and less fortunate.

Principles of distributive social justice determine who will give what to whom, on what grounds and in what quantities. 'From each according to his capacity, to each according to his needs', is perhaps the best classic example of a measure of justice. However, a formula like this leaves much unspecified: who exactly is 'each', what are needs and capacities, how are they to be measured? The same ambiguity would be present in a fictitious Lockean constitution giving each person an equal share in political power. The formula looks innocent enough until one realizes that in Locke's view servants and women could not count for real persons as they lack autonomy: they are expected to follow the will of their husbands and masters. Clearly, if it is our intention to present sensible and defensible principles of justice, we cannot dodge the issue of the criteria for attributing recipiency (that is the quality of being a potential recipient of justice). Should the concept of social justice be extended to include themes, persons and

-123-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Imperfection and Impartiality: A Liberal Theory of Social Justice
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 240

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?