How to Include the Severely Disabled in a Contractarian Theory of Justice

Journal of Political Philosophy 15 (2):127-145 (2007)
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Abstract

This paper argues that, with modification, Rawls's social contract theory can produce principles of distributive justice applying to the severely disabled. It is a response to critics who claim that Rawls's assumption that the parties in the original position represent fully cooperating citizens excludes the disabled from the social contract. I propose that this idealizing assumption should be dropped at the constitutional stage of the contract where the parties decide on a social minimum. Knowing that they might not be fully capable of social cooperation, the parties will choose a social minimum that is as high and comprehensive as is compatible with the difference principle. This will ensure that the disabled have an adequate income.

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Cynthia A. Stark
University of Utah

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