In debating Patrick Devlin, H. L. A. Hart claimed that the “modern form” of the debate over the legal enforcement of morals centered on the “significance to be attached to the historical fact that certain conduct, no matter what, is prohibited by a positive morality.” This form of the debate was politically important in 1963 in Britain and America, and it remains politically important in these countries today and elsewhere; but it is not the philosophically most interesting form the debate (...) can take. An older form of the debate appealed to natural law or critical morality. It centered on the question of whether political authorities could properly use the criminal law to enforce critical morality, including prohibitions on conduct that was not harmful or disrespectful to others. This paper engages with this older form of the debate. It offers some reasons for thinking that there is a presumption in favor of the view that it is a proper function of the criminal law to enforce critical morality, including that part of critical morality that is not directly concerned with preventing harm or disrespect to others. It then defends this presumption against some arguments recently pressed by Ronald Dworkin. (shrink)
Abstract In his early work in political philosophy, Amartya Sen advanced an interesting and provocative thesis ? the egalitarian thesis. This is the claim that every conception of social justice that has received support in recent times is egalitarian. This paper argues that Sen's account of capabilities and his more recent critique of transcendental justice have implications for the truth of the egalitarian thesis. It also discusses how the rejection of the egalitarian thesis bears on the larger, and more general, (...) issue of the overall plausibility of egalitarian conceptions of social justice. (shrink)
In the wake of G. A. Cohen's masterful critique of Rawls's work, this paper discusses Rawlsian justice in general and the difference principle in particular. It argues that Rawlsian arguments for the difference principle present a puzzle and that to respond adequately to the puzzle we must engage in rational reconstruction. After explaining the puzzle and considering and rejecting a number of responses to it, the paper begins its reconstructive project. It presents the case for viewing the difference principle as (...) a maximizing prioritarian principle of justice, one that that contains no trace of commitment to equality as a distributive norm. The paper concludes by bringing out some of the implications of viewing Rawlsian justice in this light. (shrink)
In a number of publications, Gerald Gaus has presented an ambitious account of political morality that gives the ideal of public justification pride of place. This article critically discusses Gaus’s characterization and defense of the ideal of public justification in politics. It also presents an account and an argument in support of first-person political justification.
In this paper, we defend the ethics of clinical research against the charge of paternalism. We do so not by denying that the ethics of clinical research is paternalistic, but rather by defending the legitimacy of paternalism in this context. Our aim is not to defend any particular set of paternalistic restrictions, but rather to make a general case for the permissibility of paternalistic restrictions in this context. Specifically, we argue that there is no basic liberty-right to participate in clinical (...) research and that considerations of distributive fairness justify some paternalistic protections of research subjects. (shrink)
Many writers claim that democratic government rests on a principled commitment to the ideal of political equality. The ideal of political equality holds that political institutions ought to be arranged so that they distribute political standing equally to all citizens. I reject this common view. I argue that the ideal of political equality, under its most plausible characterizations, lacks independent justificatory force. By casting doubt on the ideal of political equality, I provide indirect support for the claim that democratic government (...) is only instrumentally justified. (shrink)
In his late work, Rawls makes strong claims about the status of political liberty. These claims, if accepted, would have significant implications for the content of "justice as fairness." I discuss the nature of these claims, clarifying Rawls's fair value guarantee of the political liberties and critically discussing the arguments that he and others have given for assigning special importance to the political liberties. I conclude that justice as fairness, properly understood, is not a deeply democratic conception of justice.
The issue of just savings between generations presents an important,and for the most part unappreciated, problem for Rawls's theory ofdistributive justice. This paper argues that the just savingsprinciple, as Rawls formulates it in his recent work, standsin tension with the difference principle. When thought through,the just savings principle – and more precisely the foundationon which it rests – give us reason to reject the differenceprinciple in favor of a less egalitarian principle ofdistributive justice.
Are liberalism and perfectionism compatible? In this study Steven Wall presents and defends a perfectionist account of political morality that takes issue with many currently fashionable liberal ideas but retains the strong liberal commitment to the ideal of personal autonomy. He begins by critically discussing the most influential version of anti-perfectionist liberalism, examining the main arguments that have been offered in its defense. He then clarifies the ideal of personal autonomy, presents an account of its value and shows that a (...) strong commitment to personal autonomy is fully compatible with an endorsement of perfectionist political action designed to promote valuable pursuits and discourage base ones. His study is a timely and original contribution to one of the most important contemporary debates in political philosophy. (shrink)