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A Complementary Developmental View on Morally Arbitrary Contingencies in Rawls’s Theory of Justice
Linköping University, Department of Religion and Culture.
2007 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

The paper explores theoretical shortcomings in the egalitarian theory by John Rawls and provides a complementary view on the problem of morally arbitrary contingencies. The conception of natural lottery, which Rawls presents to signify the starting range of morally arbitrary inequalities, falls short in philosophical grounding. According to critics, the notion of natural lottery appeals to the philosophical conception of moral luck which undermines ascription of moral responsibility. Since moral responsibility is a basic prerequisite for egalitarian justice, the appeal to morally arbitrary contingencies of the natural lottery may be self-defeating for the theory.

Criticizing Rawls’s approach to morally arbitrary contingencies Susan Hurley investigates philosophical groundings for judgment of moral responsibility. Philosophical inquiries into moral luck differentiate four categories of luck and expose the difficulties of ascription of moral responsibility for it. The conception of moral luck implies epistemological shortcomings in the rational judgment of moral responsibility. Hurley claims that ascription of moral responsibility requires another logical strategy.

The critical discussion by Norman Daniels refers to another egalitarian theory by Ronald Dworkin which suggests ascription of moral responsibility on a gradual scale. The theory divides the naturally contingent recourses into categories of brute luck and option luck. This strategy stratifies normative standards of responsibility by the criteria of individual choice and circumstances.

Considering the strategy of gradual ascription of responsibility, I suggest to apply a moral developmental perspective as an additional outlook on the moral responsibility in egalitarian theory. The theory of moral development by Lawrence Kohlberg provides an explanation of a gradual development of moral responsibility through a natural order of developmental stages. It stratifies the moral responsibility into a hierarchical model of measurement and systematizes the order of normative standards.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Institutionen för religion och kultur , 2007. , 24 p.
Keyword [en]
Rawls, natural lottery, morally arbitrary contingencies, global justice, egalitarian theory, moral philosophy, Dworkin, Kohlberg
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-9580ISRN: LIU-IKK/RELD--07/002-SEOAI: diva2:24006
Subject / course
Religious Studies
2007-03-16, Conference room, Hus Key, Linkoping University, 13:00
Humanities, Theology
Available from: 2007-08-30 Created: 2007-08-30 Last updated: 2011-12-15Bibliographically approved

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