When Justice Matters

This essay continues a string of essays where I am trying to get after the question of what it would be like to have good reasons to believe one theory of justice rather than another.  Brian Barry's theory is altogether unlike mine, so much of the paper proceeds by way of a compare & contrast.  The more generally troubling fact about moral & social philosophy is that reasonable people disagree. Why? This itself is an item over which reasonable people disagree. Our analyses of justice (like our analyses of knowledge, free will, meaning, etc.) all have counter-examples. Why? In part, the problem lies in the nature of theorizing itself. A truism in philosophy of science: for any set of data, an infinite number of theories will fit the facts. So, even if we agree on particular cases, we still, in all likelihood, disagree on how to pull those judgments together to form a theory. Theorizing per se does not produce consensus. Why not? An argument is sound or not. So why isn’t a theory compelling to all of us, if sound, or none of us, if not?

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Published in: Ethics