Responsibility, Desert, and Justice

In Carl Knight & Zofia Stemplowska (eds.), Responsibility and Distributive Justice. Oxford University Press (2011)
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Abstract

This chapter identifies three contrasts between responsibility-sensitive justice and desert-sensitive justice. First, while responsibility may be appraised on prudential or moral grounds, it is argued that desert is necessarily moral. As moral appraisal is much more plausible, responsibility-sensitive justice is only attractive in one of its two formulations. Second, strict responsibility sensitivity does not compensate for all forms of bad brute luck, and forms of responsibility-sensitive justice like luck egalitarianism that provide such compensation do so by appealing to independent moral concerns such as equality. Desert-sensitive justice can deliver the appropriate compensation without relying on external moral resources. Finally, while responsibility-sensitive justice harshly refuses to provide for those whose basic needs are unsatisfied due to their own negligent actions, this result can be averted by desert-sensitive justice as it can take into account responsibility-independent considerations. In sum, desert-sensitive justice appears to offer a tighter fit with considered judgments about justice.

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Carl Knight
University of Glasgow

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