Ought We to Do What We Ought to be Made to Do?
William A. Edmundson
Georgia State University College of Law
November 3, 2013
Reasons and Intentions in Law and Practical Agency. 2014. Georgios Pavlakos and Veronica Rodriguez-Blanco, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (Forthcoming)
The late Jerry Cohen struggled to reconcile his egalitarian political principles with his personal style of life. His efforts were inconclusive, but instructive. This chapter locates the core of Cohen’s discomfort in an abstract principle that connects what we morally ought to be compelled to do and what we have a duty to do anyway. The connection the principle states is more general and much tighter than Cohen and others, e.g. Thomas Nagel, have seen. Our principles of justice always put our personal integrity to the test, unless those principles are designed not to. But to craft principles with an view to avoiding that test is, as Cohen argued, itself to undermine both justice and our integrity.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 51
Keywords: egalitarianism, distributive justice, justice, GA Cohen, Rawls, Nagel
JEL Classification: K100
Date posted: May 23, 2011 ; Last revised: March 17, 2014