Critical Notice - G.A. Cohen. 'Rescuing Justice and Equality'
(2010) Canadian Journal of Philosophy 40:4, 669-699
31 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2012
Date Written: 2010
In this Critical Notice I argue that the real disagreement between Cohen and Rawls turns on two things: whether the correct characterization of justice and other political values itself requires appeal to the concept of a rule of conduct, and whether distributive equality is a requirement imposed by the idea of a scheme of fair social cooperation, or it is a value, simply as such. Cohen’s ingenious arguments about the fact-independence of principles or the difference between justice and other values is actually relevant to these two disputes, and Cohen’s arguments against the difference principle and the basic structure presuppose the latter position in each of the disputes. Rawls wants to know what claims cooperating members of the society are entitled to press against each other solely in virtue of their status as cooperating members of that society. Cohen takes the fact that they are cooperating members of the society to be merely incidental to the basis of their claims, and so concludes that the claims of justice that persons have against each other to have nothing to do with social cooperation. He does not conceive of society as a system of social cooperation constituted by rules as having any independent normative significance; it has at most factual significance, as a sort of parameter around which well-motivated agents organize their attempts to achieve non-institutional justice.
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