New York, USA: Routledge (2018)

Kyle Johannsen
Trent University
Conceptual analysis has fallen out of favor in political philosophy. The influence of figures like John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin has led political philosophy to focus on questions about what should be done, and to ignore questions about the usage of words. As a result, contemporary political philosophy lacks a shared understanding of the concept of justice, and a considerable amount of disagreement between political philosophers is, upon reflection, traceable to this. In my book, I call for renewed attention to the manner in which the word ‘justice’ is and should be used. Focusing on the late work of G.A. Cohen, I argue that two major debates in contemporary political philosophy: the debate over luck-egalitarianism and the debate over whether justice imposes demands on citizens’ personal lives; are really just conceptual. Whereas some philosophers have been using the term ‘justice’ to refer to one among a plurality of values, others have been using it to refer to institutional rightness. Though the latter use of ‘justice’ is presently more dominant, I argue that much is to be gained from thinking of justice as one value among many. Doing so sheds light on the nature of both democracy and legitimacy, and, paradoxically, makes better sense of the idea that justice is ‘the first virtue of institutions’.
Keywords John Rawls  G.A. Cohen  Distributive Justice  Democracy  Legitimacy and Authority  Ideal and Non-Ideal Theory  Luck-Egalitarianism
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On the Conceptual Status of Justice.Kyle Johannsen - 2015 - Dissertation, Queen's University
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