Distributive justice and co-operation in a world of humans and non-humans: A contractarian argument for drawing non-humans into the sphere of justice

Res Publica 15 (1):67-84 (2009)
Abstract
Various arguments have been provided for drawing non-humans such as animals and artificial agents into the sphere of moral consideration. In this paper, I argue for a shift from an ontological to a social-philosophical approach: instead of asking what an entity is, we should try to conceptually grasp the quasi-social dimension of relations between non-humans and humans. This allows me to reconsider the problem of justice, in particular distributive justice . Engaging with the work of Rawls, I show that an expansion of the contractarian framework to non-humans causes an important problem for liberalism, but can be justified by a contractarian argument. Responding to Bell’s and Nussbaum’s comments on Rawls, I argue that we can justify drawing non-humans into the sphere of distributive justice by relying on the notion of a co-operative scheme. I discuss what co-operation between humans and non-humans can mean and the extent to which it depends on properties. I conclude that we need to imagine principles of ecological and technological distributive justice.
Keywords Distributive justice  Contractarianism  Animals  Artificial agents  Rawls  Liberalism  Imagination
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