It is the idea we’re required to treat eachother
equally. If you do bad to someone, you’ll have
to pay your ‘dues’ in order for equality to be
restored i.e. a murderer going to prison for
life or facing the death penalty.
Justice branches to in punishment and
distribution of goods in society – further
divides to – political; basic liberties and rights
& social, economic or distributive; money and
Specifies which ‘goods’ are being considered
and how to divide the good.
Morally everyone is equal. On moral equality
we can argue for ‘assumed’ equality –
inequalities need to be justified. We require
strict equality unless we have good reason
why another distribution would be better.
Inequalities cannot be justified leads to
egalitarianism (the view that justice requires
People should receive equal amounts of goods as it best respects
their moral equality.
-What counts as the same ‘amount’?
-We could give each individual the same goods – food, house etc,
but it’s not a good interpretation as people have different
-Giving people freedom with their money creates inequalities as
some may be able to make more from what they’ve got while
others only lose it.
-It overlooks what people need a disabled person will need greater
government funding than an able-bodied person for medical
-Ultimately means that differences are being treated unequally.
-To live equally everyone requires equal opportunities but what is
Equality is for people to have equally happy lives.
this does depend on what makes each individual happy – someone may
have rich tastes requiring more money to be as happy as someone
with simpler tastes.
‘Equality of resources’ – everyone’s resources are equal if no-one envies
another. Once achieved, people can do what they want with their
resources – it leads to inequality but egalitarians believe justice is to
take away disadvantages people suffer that aren’t results of their
People are morally responsible for their choices & actions – if you choose
to live in a mansion you can’t expect to be given extra money to
If two people have different capacities, equal resources wont ensure
equality – one will be able to do more than the other. We should
instead have ‘equal access to advantage’ – able to make equal use of
whatever makes life better.
1) We can’t ensure equality. Its impossible to
distinguish between aspects of peoples lives
resulting from inheritance or choice.
2) Any egalitarian principle of justice restricts
3) We can object that everyone will be better
off if we don’t respect equality – economic
equality – higher salary for better work
creates incentives for people to produce
Need is a social construction – it is what we
decide it is. What people need is not equal.
A need isn’t like a desire as it isnt a
psychological state – a child needing
medicine doesn’t depend on if he wants to
A need is objective – a need depends on facts
about their health both physical and
psychological. A need is necessary to achieve
a level of human flourishing.
There is a danger of ‘needs-inflation’ – where we as a
society decide that a certain aspect will better our lives,
and so the things to help that can become needs. i.e. if we
find out we can live longer by our diet, lifestyle etc, do our
diets and lifestyles become a need?
Should justice be concerned with needs taken ‘absolutely’ or
does it need to take into account comparisons? –
comparisons enable a society to become richer and
increase its ‘needs’- without comparison society can gain
inequalities without injustice.
Needs change with society – saying yes to some things may
appear like ‘needs-inflation’ but it may be necessary for
everyone to live similarly equal lives.
Egalitarians – ‘need’ does not do justice to equality. People
will not always need what they deserve – nor deserve what
People should be treated according to their specific
qualities and actions. Distributed goods are rewards
people receive in response to how they choose to live.
1) Effort: justice means people are rewarded to the effort
they make. People deserve to keep what they make for
the effort they put into making it.
2) Compensation: all the costs someone incurs deserves
reward – they should be compensated accordingly.
3) Contribution: the value of the contribution determines
what they deserve to receive
4) Virtue: a persons virtues determine what they deserve.
We can object; rewarding desert is impractical.
How can we identify what is effort or cost?
The ‘free market’ should reward someone
proportionally to how valuable their contribution
is. – it’s not true. It distributes based on how
much and how many people desire what’s
offered.Market values are affected by scarcity –
gold is wanted as it is rare, not useful.
Noone should get greater reward for providing
something that’s scarce, unless its crucial to
Justice doesn’t require people getting what they
deserve. The winner of a race gets the prize, not
the person who put most effort in or most
deserved to win.
The rewards we get are based on our choices –but
there are factors outside our control which affect
how much our contribution is valued – how much
others value it for instance.
Desert can’t define justice because it presupposes
justice. You only deserve something if you
deserve it following the rules.
Structure of reward doesn’t necessarily reflect
what people do or don’t deserve.
Just distribution of goods requires intervention.
Justice isn’t the only political value – justification
of redistribution requires we consider other
values such as liberty.
‘equal access to advantage’ suggests no-one
should be disadvantaged if it doesn’t result from
Need claims justice requires basic needs are met –
so those who cant provide for their own needs
will have to be provided for by those who have
more than they need.
Desert claims justice requires reward in proportion
to value of the contribution – redistribution is
needed to balance the market.
Distributive justice is based on society being a ‘system
of cooperation for mutual advantage between
Justice is the most important political value as it applies
to ‘basic institutions of society’.
The conditions for cooperation need to be defended –
inequalities (of social positions) also need to be
Principles of justice
‘the principles that free and rational persons… to
further their own interests would accept in an initial
position of equality as defining the fundamental
Justice is fairness.
For us to agree to a social contract we need to
eliminate bias to certain groups i.e. rich or poor.
Rawls assumes we’re able to agree theses principles
unsure of our position in society – we don’t know if
we’re going to be rich or poor, like playing a game of
monopoly you eliminate bias by giving everyone the
same money and same opportunities to roll –
regardless of knowing if you’re going to win or not.
The veil of ignorance allows that ‘no one is advantaged
or disadvantaged in the choice of principles by the
outcome of natural chance or social circumstances…
no one is able to design principles to favour his
particular condition, the principles of justice are the
result of fair agreement…’
For the contract to be just we need to make the
rules based on everyone being in the same
starting position – instead of assuming the
outcome will be a certain way and so allowing
the rules to benefit the poor more greatly.
Like assuming a person who goes to the gym
regularly would win a race over someone that
doesn’t – both have the same length to run
and the same starting line.
We can only assume the goods being distributed are those
that everyone wants – rights, liberties, powers,
opportunities, income etc.
We will agree to equal distribution – unless inequality will
work to everyone's advantage. We may need inequality to
give people motivation to work – a low income earner will
have greater motivation to work than someone with a high
income as they will need a higher income to achieve the
same happiness and ultimately provide greater wealth for
After there is secured material well-being we then become
to value our basic liberties more so. This Is when we will
prefer equal liberty over unequal liberty with greater
Both equality and inequality lead to political
justice,(>) and social justice.
1) Each individual should have equal right to a
system of equal basic liberties.
2) Social and economic equalities should be
arranged so the least advantaged benefits the
Social inequalities should be to everyone’s benefit
–social inequality should make the poor richer–
we should maximise the minimum welfare
OBJ: it makes just as much sense to maximise the
average wealth – there’s equality of opportunity
allowing someone to improve their position.
Our individual interests can be identified prior to
existence in society.
Rejected by Marx and conservatism - it rules out theory
that sees social bonds as intrinsically good – its
assumes we’re fundamentally separate rather than
Rawls assumes we can live meaningfully being the ‘veil
of ignorance’. But we can’t make up the ideal ‘good
society’ behind this veil – our values and ideas of
what is good comes from others.
By this even redistribution that is justified, by Rawls’
argument it wouldn’t be.
Equality, need and desert don’t link distributive
justice to liberty or rights. Rawls does.
Rawls’ first principle of justice covers liberty –
Liberty is more important than the
distribution of social and economic equalities.
Rawls rejects the idea of rights before justice –
principles of justice givit’s only possible to
make a right claim once there are principles
of justice. e rights – so
Nozick focus’ on distribution of property.
Justice involves three ideas:
1) In acquisition – how you acquire property
rights if something hasn’t previously been
2) In transfer – how you acquire property
rights over something transferred – i.e. a
3) Rectification of injustice – how to restore
something to its rightful owner in case of
Whether a distribution is just depends on how it
On the other hand justice according to – Rawls, need, desert and
equality depend on the ‘pattern’ of distribution.
If a certain distribution is just, then if people
voluntarily move to a different distribution,
observing justice in transfer will also be just
(regardless of whether it is patterned according
to need, desert, equality and Rawls).
If a footballer wants to get 25p from every match
ticket sold, although they will be better off it is
still just as the fans voluntarily paid an extra 25p.
Justice is respecting natural rights-their rights to
property and self-ownership. We must allow
people to do what they want with what they own.
People are autonomous, they own themselves and
their talents so they own what they create. It’s
wrong to tax on what they earn. Rawls might say
– its luck as to what your given in order to
succeed – if your given the winning hand in a
card game it’s pure luck.
To take property away from someone in order to
redistribute violates the individuals rights. –
property rights are important because they come
Everyone has a right to what they produce
because they own their own labour which
they invest. ‘Justice in acquisition’ constrains
when and how this happens – but once you
justly own something it’s all about justice in
Patterned theories of distributive justice
restricts free action – if people can do as they
please with their property liberty upsets the
Nozicks theory is controversial – it may justify
unequal distribution, not respect what they
deserve or need, and not give priority to those
Rawls – what people own is down to social status
and natural talents – inequalities in ownership
are unjust. The rights people have cant be
decided before the principles of justice – it would
enable us to alter justice to suit our rights.
Nozick – each person’s talents and abilities are
their own – they have a right to keep what the
talents produce & gain – forcibly redistributing
this would fail to respect their autonomy.
He supposes any transfer if freely consented is
just – the rules governing the transfer should
be sensitive to different political values not
Individual liberty could be a goal to be pursued
– if property is important and justice rests on
liberty everyone needs sufficient property to
If we don’t start from a just beginning there is
no way to know if what people own is justly