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On the circumstances of justice

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-25
Number of pages23
JournalEUROPEAN JOURNAL OF POLITICAL THEORY
Volume19
Issue number1
Early online date5 Sep 2016
DOIs
Accepted/In press15 Jul 2016
E-pub ahead of print5 Sep 2016
Published2020

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Abstract

An epistemic account of the circumstances of justice allows one to make three important claims about the Humean and Rawlsian ‘standard account’ of those circumstances. First, and contrary to Hume, the possibility and necessity of justice are rooted not in limited beneficence or confined generosity, but in the epistemic insight that the knowledge relevant to deciding what to do with the fruits of social cooperation is for a variety of reasons uncentralisable. Second, and regardless of whether Rawlsian ethical disagreement is more persuasive as a circumstance of justice than Humean confined generosity, it does not explain the possibility and necessity of justice, for the uncentralisability of social knowledge would be decisive even under conditions of unanimity. Finally, the epistemic account not only shows what the circumstances of justice are but, contra Cohen’s critique of the standard account, also provides at least some guidance as to what justice itself may be.

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