Politics, Philosophy and Economics 2 (3):283-304 (2003)
What morality requires of us in a world of poverty and inequality depends both on what our duties are in the abstract, and on what we can do to help. T.M. Scanlon's contractualism addresses the first question. I suggest that contractualism isolates the moral factors that frame our deliberations about the extent of our obligations in situations of need. To this extent, contractualism clarifies our common-sense understanding of our duties to distant others. The second, empirical question then becomes vital. What we as individuals need to know is how to fulfil our duties to the distant poor. Moral theorists tend to base their prescriptions on simple assumptions about how the rich can help the poor. Yet a survey of the empirical literature shows how urgently we need more information on this topic before we can know what contractualist morality — or any plausible morality — requires of us. Key Words: Scanlon • contractualism • global justice • global poverty • aid effectiveness
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