Cohen's Equivocal Attack on Rawls's Basic Structure Restriction

Ethical Perspectives 23 (3):499-525 (2016)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

G.A. Cohen is famous for his critique of John Rawls’s view that principles of justice are restricted in scope to institutional structures. In recent work, however, Cohen has suggested that Rawlsians get more than just the scope of justice wrong: they get the concept wrong too. He claims that justice is a fundamental value, i.e. a moral input in our deliberations about the content of action-guiding regulatory principles, rather than the output. I argue here that Cohen’s arguments for extending the scope of justice equivocate across his distinction between fundamental principles of justice, i.e. principles that tell us what justice is; and regulatory principles of justice, i.e. principles that tell us what is required of us, all things – including justice – considered. Though Cohen initially had the regulatory sense of the word ‘justice’ in mind when critiquing the basic structure restriction, his replies to the problem of demandingness presuppose his own, fundamental sense of the word ‘justice’. The upshot is that he escapes demandingness at the cost of sacrificing regulatory justice’s capacity to provide clear guidance. I conclude by considering Peter Singer’s efforts to deal with demandingness in his own work on global poverty. Since Singer manages to deal with demandingness without giving up clarity, his work is a good a place to start in the search for regulatory principles that are suitable for the context of personal choice.

Links

PhilArchive

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Cohen’s Rescue.Jan Narveson - 2010 - The Journal of Ethics 14 (3-4):263-334.
Ought We to Do What We Ought to Be Made to Do?William A. Edmundson - forthcoming - In Georgios Pavlakos Veronica Rodriguez-Blanco (ed.), Practical Normativity. Essays on Reasons and Intentions in Law and Practical Reason. Cambridge University Press.
The division of moral labour and the basic structure restriction.Thomas Porter - 2009 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 8 (2):173-199.
On the Conceptual Status of Justice.Kyle Johannsen - 2015 - Dissertation, Queen's University
How Egalitarian is Rawls's Theory of Justice?Ian Hunt - 2010 - Philosophical Papers 39 (2):155-181.
Contractualism, reciprocity, and egalitarian justice.Jonathan Quong - 2007 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 6 (1):75-105.
What Is the Point of Justice?Andrew Mason - 2012 - Utilitas 24 (4):525-547.
Publicity and Egalitarian Justice.Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen - 2008 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 5 (1):30-49.
What makes a basic structure just?Miriam Ronzoni - 2008 - Res Publica 14 (3):203-218.

Analytics

Added to PP
2016-11-28

Downloads
965 (#7,784)

6 months
101 (#8,407)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Kyle Johannsen
Trent University

Citations of this work

Species of Pluralism in Political Philosophy.Kyle Johannsen - 2021 - Journal of Value Inquiry 55 (3):491-506.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Rescuing Justice and Equality.G. A. Cohen (ed.) - 2008 - Harvard University Press.
Famine, affluence, and morality.Peter Singer - 1972 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (3):229-243.
What is the point of equality.Elizabeth Anderson - 1999 - Ethics 109 (2):287-337.
Ideal vs. Non‐ideal Theory: A Conceptual Map.Laura Valentini - 2012 - Philosophy Compass 7 (9):654-664.

View all 41 references / Add more references