Imperfection and Impartiality: A Liberal Theory of Social Justice

By Marcel Wissenburg | Go to book overview

6

Dies Irae

Premises, premises
In the previous three chapters I gave an outline of the foundations of a liberal theory of social justice. One distinctive feature of this theory is the central role that a particular conception of impartiality plays in it; another is the sheer magnitude of this role. If we recall for a moment the picture of liberal theories of social justice as sketched in Chapter 2, we find that, in comparison, the significance of impartiality in those theories was much more modest. There, impartiality was merely one among several ideals that liberal theorists took as defining marks of a liberal theory of justice. Consequently, impartiality sometimes had to give way to more substantial ideals and views of the good. The conception of liberal justice sketched in this part, on the other hand, gives precedence to impartiality over any notion of the good or any other reason for acting. It starts from the idea that impartiality should be taken extremely seriously-in fact, that the implications of impartiality (tolerance, freedom, equal respect, moderate scepticism) make it the cornerstone of liberalism. The process of developing said new foundations has led us to the point where we, or our better selves acting on our behalf, should be able to formulate principles of social justice. Before we turn to this our second task, however, I want to complete our picture of the Archimedean point by adding two details. I have so far stacked condition upon condition, requirement upon requirement and level upon level. It seems appropriate to spend a section-this one-on a systematic synopsis of all these premises. I also owe the reader visualizations of archpoint and contract. I shall give these in the next section. In Chapter 3, I distinguished four views on justice in society:
(1) Eternal justice, or justice seen from a point of view outside time and life;
(2) Natural justice, or the categorical imperatives of justice;
(3) Minimal justice, or justice under conditions of impartiality; and

-113-

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Imperfection and Impartiality: A Liberal Theory of Social Justice
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Part I 1
  • 1 - Introduction 3
  • Part II - The Archimedean Point 17
  • 2 - Justice in Society 19
  • 3 - Between Community and Nature 39
  • 4 - The Archpoint 54
  • 5 - Impartiality and Information 83
  • Part III - Principles of Distributive Justice 111
  • 6 - Dies Irae 113
  • 7 - Do We Not Bleed? 123
  • 8 - The Distribution of Rights 153
  • 9 - Equalisanda 183
  • 10 - Principles of Minimal Justice 197
  • Notes 222
  • References 228
  • Index 236
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