Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Political Theory Research Group Seminar: 'What's Arbitrary about Moral Arbitrariness?'

01 March 2012 | 4:00pm - 6:00pm | Seminar

EC Stoner Building, Seminar Room 9.90

The Political Theory Research Group in the School of Politics and International Studies present their 2011-12 seminars.These seminars are open to all.

  • Dr Gerald Lang, Department of Philosophy, School of Humanities (University of Leeds)

'What's Arbitrary about Moral Arbitrariness?'

John Rawls's theory of social justice, 'justice as fairness', takes exception to the distributive influence of 'morally arbitrary' factors, and is presented through the device of a hypothetical contract. Rawls has been heavily criticized both for the supposed redundancy of this contractarian apparatus (this is the 'redundancy challenge'), and for failing to advance a distributive master-cut as sensitive as that which is advanced by luck egalitarians such as Jerry Cohen (this is the 'crudity challenge'). In this talk, I want to present an interpretation of 'moral arbitrariness' which will help Rawls to deflect both these challenges. I will contend that Rawls's employment of the contractarian procedure isn't merely an accidental feature of his argument for justice as fairness, and that he is misinterpreted if he is taken to be a well-meaning but clumsy forerunner for luck egalitarianism.

Location Details

EC Stoner Building, Seminar Room 9.90

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