The Place of Equality in Habermas' and Dworkin's Theories of Justice
European Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 3 No. 1, pp. 21-35, 1995
Posted: 7 May 2019
Date Written: 1995
There is a longstanding debate within the liberal camp that concerns the best hierarchical ordering of such ideals as liberty, equality. In specifying the egalitarian idea of treating people as equals, should we give priority to liberties (and participation) or to distributional equality? It is this issue with which this paper is concerned. Gosepath regards Habermas' theory as an example for the first route and Dworkin's as an example for the second. In the tradition of Kant, Habermas claims that liberal justice is primarily concerned with rights to basic liberties. For Dworkin, however, the primary liberal ideal is equality, which he sees embodied in equality of resources. All other principles of liberalism, such as equal rights to liberty and political neutrality, follow from this primary ideal. Since Habermas' fundamental principle yields only rights to equal liberty, his theory does not have much to say about distributive justice or equality of distribution. Dworkin, on the other hand, begins with a complex theory of equality of distribution. Habermas and Dworkin thus have very different conceptions with regard to the second concept of equality and distributive justice. In this paper, Gosepath first discusses Habermas’ theory and examine the reasons for the fact that his theory contains no conception of distributional equality (II). Then Gosepath asks whether Dworkin’s theory can offer a better alternative (III). At the end of his critical examination of Habermas and Dworkin, Gosepath sketches very briefly an approach which might be able to avoid the disadvantages of both theories while preserving their advantages (IV).
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