Principles or imagination? Two approaches to global justice

Journal of Global Ethics 3 (2):203 – 221 (2007)
Abstract
What does it mean to introduce the notion of imagination in the discussion about global justice? What is gained by studying the role of imagination in thinking about global justice? Does a focus on imagination imply that we must replace existing influential principle-centred approaches such as that of John Rawls and his critics? We can distinguish between two approaches to global justice. One approach is Rawlsian and Kantian in inspiration. Discussions within this tradition typically focus on the question whether Rawls's theory of justice (1971), designed for the national level, can or should be applied to the global level. Can and should Rawls's Difference Principle be globalized, as Thomas Pogge argues? Is this proposal superior to Rawls's Law of Peoples (1999)? Another approach to global justice has been developed by Martha Nussbaum in Cultivating Humanity (1997), Poetic Justice (1995), and other work. I will construct her view and critically examine it by looking at her arguments about the relation between empathy, literature, and global justice. At first sight, these two approaches seem to be opposed. The former puts an emphasis on principles, universal reason, and the moral aspects of institutions and their policies, whereas the latter is rather concerned with the relation between imagination and justice, with the particular, and with the individual moral development. But is this necessarily so? I will show that both approaches could benefit from each other's insights to strengthen their own position. Moreover, I will argue for middle way between, or an integration of the two approaches that combines principles and imagination. In this way, we can move towards a more comprehensive account of global justice.
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