Politics, Philosophy and Economics 6 (1):75-105 (2007)
Can contractualism yield a suitably egalitarian conception of social justice? G.A. Cohen has forcefully argued that it cannot - that one cannot be both a contractualist and an egalitarian. Cohen presents a number of arguments to this effect, the particular target of which is John Rawls’s version of contractualism. In this article, I show that, contra Cohen, the Rawlsian model of contractualism, and the ideal of reciprocity on which it relies, can coherently yield egalitarian principles of distributive justice such as the difference principle. I also defend Rawls from the further claim, pressed by Cohen and others, that relying on the idea of mutual or reciprocal advantage will leave the infirm or severely handicapped outside the scope of egalitarian justice. I argue that Rawlsians can account for the claims that the infirm or severely handicapped have on others in terms of a natural duty to aid. Key Words: G.A. Cohen • John Rawls • duty to aid • incentives • inequality • difference principle • social contract
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