Two ways to think about justice

This paper contrasts universalist approaches to justice with contextualist approaches. Universalists hold that basic principles of justice are invariant — they apply in every circumstance in which questions of justice arise. Contextualists hold that different principles apply in different contexts, and that there is no underlying master principle that applies in all. The paper argues that universalists cannot explain why so many different theories of justice have been put forward, nor why there is so much diversity in the judgements that ordinary people make. Several strategies open to universalists are considered and found to be wanting. Contextualism is defended against the charge that it cannot explain why contextually specific principles are all principles of justice, the charge that it can offer no practical guidance when principles conflict, and the charge that it inevitably collapses into a form of conventionalism. Key Words: justice • universalism • contextualism • conventionalism • Rawls • Walzer.
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DOI 10.1177/1470594X02001001001
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Johan Brännmark (2016). Moral Disunitarianism. Philosophical Quarterly 66 (264):481-499.

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