Against Sen Against Rawls On Justice

Indian Journal of Human Development 5 (1):211-221 (2011)
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Abstract

Amartya Sen has recently leveled a series of what he alleges to be quite serious very general objections against Rawls, Rawlsian fellow travelers, and other social contract accounts of justice. In The Idea of Justice, published in 2009, Sen specifically charges his target philosophical views with what calls transcendentalism, procedural parochialism, and with being mistakenly narrowly focused on institutions. He also thinks there is a basic incoherence—arising from a version of Derek Parfit’s Identity Problem—internal to the Rawslian theoretical apparatus. Sen would have political philosophy pursue intersocietal comparisons of relative justice more directly and in the manner of social choice theory. Yet the positive argument he develops in support of this method is quite thin. That aside, Sen’s polemical strategy of inflicting death by a thousand cuts is ineffective against the Rawlsian paradigm. For, as I show herein, none of these criticisms have the force we might be led to expect.

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Evan Riley
College of Wooster

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