A Theory of Marginal Ethics

Abstract This paper argues for a marginal revolution in ethics, following the marginal revolution that marked the beginning of neoclassical economics. Ethics is situational in the sense that it is concerned with increments of values. We are not choosing between all the liberty or all the equality in the world. We are choosing between increments … Continue reading A Theory of Marginal Ethics

Rawls et l’utilitarisme classique : une vision parétienne

The much debated relations between Rawls and classical utilitarianism are always studied through the kantian face. However, historically, we have to compare Pareto and Rawls so as to understand the rawlsian criticism to utilitarianism. The history of original position stresses the mutual disinterest and not the veil of ignorance. This respect of individual interests is a paretian point. Besides, the rawlsian and paretian critics to Bentham are based on the same arguments. But to build a theory of justice, a sort of common measure is necessary, and this idea is not paretian. The study of the Pareto and Rawls’ relation about classical utilitarianism has to underline this difference and try to explain it. We will suggest the following idea. This sort of common measure is the counterpart of the kantian desire. On the debate about Rawls and utilitarianism, the two notions are in the heart of interpretations.

Ni perfectionniste ni welfariste : l’indice premiers est possible

According to Rawls, the worst-off subgroup of the population should be identified by its low endowment of “primary goods”. Since primary goods are multi-dimensional, he proposed constructing a synthetic index. But there seems to be a dilemma with respect to such an index. Either it is unique, and then individual preferences about the various primary goods are disregarded, while the index reflects a perfectionist view of the good life. Or it respects individual preferences, but in that case Rawls’ theory seems to fall prey to the classical problems of welfarism. This paper shows that the synthetic index of primary goods can respect individual preferences without being merely a measure of subjective utility. The precise form of the index depends on ethical principles about how to share resources. In addition, this approach offers a new justifica

Rawls a-t-il une conception de la citoyenneté ?

The « juste » institutions of a liberal democracy are not enought to guarantee its stability at a time of growing cultural diversity. They have to gain citizens’ allegiances in the long term in spite of their conflicting comprehensive doctrines. This can only be achieved, according to Rawls, by founding political consensus not on one single conception of the good, as was the case in « classical » liberalism, which would alienate and disregard the other competing views, but by « neutral » principles of justice derived from a political conception of the person. The paper will show that, far from weakening citizens’ participation, a Rawlsian conception of citizenship can be reconstructed. The strength of Rawls’ position as examined through his debate with Habermas, is to provide us with a view of the self and of citizenship that parallels, within the self, the pluralist nature of post-modern society.

Quelques souvenirs de John Rawls

These lines briefly relate the scientific part of nearly fourty years of discussions with John Rawls. Their interest – if they have any – can rest in three contributions. First, this relation shows the genesis of John Rawls’ concepts and thought. Second, it implies a criticism of these concepts and shows how Rawls faced it. Finally, this desciption exhibits an essential feature of the history of polical philosophy, the idiosyncrasis of English-language thinking in this domain, in opposition to the rest of the world and in particular to the thought developed in France. Indeed, utilitarianism has only been the philosophy of English-language scholars. Rawls first is the philosopher who will have tried to put English-language political philosophy on the path of normality based on liberty and equality after two centuries of Benthamite dogmatism.

Savamment juste. Notes sur l’épistémologie de la position originelle

This paper argues that Rawls’ original position entails an inadequate conception of knowledge and enquires how this affects the robustness of the the impartiality model. A view of knowledge as separate and detachable from (a too independent) mind as it appears in the original position is contrasted with a more constitutive approach Rawls has had in his first article Outline for a decision Procedure in Ethics. There, the competent judges are intellectually virtuous rather than simple possessors of knowledge. First, I argue that a more constitutive approach is inconsistent with the requirement of symmetry and that even if Rawls implicitly recognizes it in Political Liberalism, he will not however revise, and consequently weaken, the original position requirements. Secondly, a view of an independent mind affects the original position: presented as a guide of reasoning it specifies not only how to conduct our judgement but also which knowledge is permitted to us and which is disallowed. But if direct doxastic voluntarism is false the original position simply could not guide our reasoning this way. Therefore, provided that arguments of the paper hold, the original position could hardly succeed in expressing the pure procedural justice.

Is the private company a part of Rawls’s basic structure?

This paper clarifies the status of the firm vis-à-vis the Rawlsian basic structure of society. This status is ambiguous due to uncertainties in Rawls’s conception of the firm and his definition of the basic structure. The paper identifies two perspectives regarding the firm in Rawls: an inclusivist perspective defines the firm as an entity ontologically distinct from the basic structure; while a constitutivist perspective views the firm as an institution that possibly forms part of the basic structure. The paper then reviews several interpretations of the basic structure before offering a more inclusive version, which notably includes some informal structures. Linked to the institutionalist conception of the firm, this expanded definition of the basic structure results in an extended constitutivist perspective regarding the firm. It thus provides liberal egalitarianism with firmer ground for critically assessing businesses.