Academic journal article The American Journal of Economics and Sociology

3 Rethinking Global Justice from the Perspective of All Living Nature and What Difference It Makes

Academic journal article The American Journal of Economics and Sociology

3 Rethinking Global Justice from the Perspective of All Living Nature and What Difference It Makes

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT. I begin this chapter with an account of what is deserved in human ethics, an ethics that assumes without argument that only humans, or rational agents, count morally. I then take up the question of whether nonhuman living beings are also deserving, and I answer it in the affirmative. Having established that all individual living beings, as well as ecosystems, are deserving, I go on to establish what it is that they deserve and then compare the requirements of global justice when only humans are taken into account with the requirements of global justice when all living beings are taken into account. I argue that the more adequate global justice that takes into account all living beings imposes some additional obligations on us that are absent from a less defensible human-centered global justice, but not as many as one might initially think.

I

Introduction

JUSTICE REQUIRES giving what is deserved. That in turn requires figuring out both what is deserved and who it is that deserves it. Here, priority should be given to who it is that is deserving rather than what it is that is deserved. This is because the more there are who are deserving, other things being equal, the fewer good things each of them can deserve. Political philosophers have long recognized this priority when they are trying to determine what the human members of a particular society or state deserve; they have acknowledged that this question cannot be conclusively resolved without taking into account distant peoples and future generations as also deserving. Unfortunately, most political philosophers tend to stop there; they do not take the next logical step of asking whether nonhuman living beings are also deserving. In this chapter, I begin with an account of what is deserved in human ethics, an ethics that assumes without argument that only humans, or rational agents, count morally. I then take up the question of whether nonhuman living beings are also deserving and answer it in the affirmative. Having established that all individual living beings, as well as ecosystems, are deserving, I go on to establish what it is that they deserve and then compare the requirements of global justice when only humans are taken into account with the requirements of global justice when all living beings are taken into account.

Needless to say, in human ethics, there is considerable disagreement over what it is that people deserve. For libertarian justice, what people deserve is determined by an ideal of liberty. For welfare liberal justice, it is determined by an ideal of fairness. For socialist justice, it is determined by an ideal of equality. For communitarian justice, it is determined by an ideal of the common good. And for feminist justice, it is determined by an ideal of a gender-free society. Now, I have argued elsewhere that when these five conceptions of justice are correctly interpreted, they all can be seen to support the same basic practical requirements. (1) Since I cannot in this paper lay out my entire practical reconciliation argument, what I propose to do is to focus on the most contentious part of that argument, where I attempt to show that libertarians should endorse a right to a basic needs minimum that extends to both the distant peoples and future generations before arguing that all living beings are deserving as well.

II

Liberty and Welfare

LET US BEGIN by interpreting the ideal of liberty as a negative ideal in the manner favored by libertarians. (2) So understood, liberty is the absence of interference by other people from doing what one wants or is able to do. Libertarians go on to characterize their political ideal as requiring that each person should have the greatest amount of liberty commensurate with the same liberty for all. (3) Interpreting their ideal in this way, libertarians claim to derive a number of more specific requirements, in particular, a right to life, a right to freedom of speech, press, and assembly, and a right to property. …

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