Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Elizabeth Anderson on Rawls and G.A. Cohen

Professor Elizabeth Anderson has posted a new paper on SSRN:

"Cohen, Justice, and Interpersonal Justification"

"G. A. Cohen had a great insight into the requirements of egalitarian justice: that claims of justice must be interpersonally persuasive within the community subject to those claims. He used this insight to criticize Rawls's Pareto-based justification of income inequality. In this paper, I argue that the idea of interpersonal justification lies at the heart of contractualist theories of justice. However, Cohen's use of this idea to criticize Rawls's difference principle borrows a luck egalitarian premise -- the claim that accidental inequalities are unjust -- that cannot be vindicated from an interpersonal stand-point. In addition, Cohen did not consistently follow through on his insight, and indeed explicitly rejected it in advancing his own idea of what justice is. I argue that most of the disagreements between luck egalitarians and contractualists that Cohen articulates can be traced to an underlying disagreement over whether justification in matters of justice is essentially interpersonal, or rather appeals to impersonal claims about the desirability of particular states of the world."

Elizabeth Anderson is Professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies at University of Michigan. She has a new book coming out this fall: "The Imperative of Integration" (Princeton University Press, October 2010).

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