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Justice as Mutual Advantage and the Vulnerable


  • Peter Vanderschraaf

    () (University of California Merced, USA)


Since at least as long ago as Plato's time, philosophers have considered the possibility that justice is at bottom a system of rules that members of society follow for mutual advantage. Some maintain that justice as mutual advantage is a fatally flawed theory of justice because it is too exclusive. Proponents of a Vulnerability Objection argue that justice as mutual advantage would deny the most vulnerable members of society any of the protections and other benefits of justice. I argue that the Vulnerability Objection presupposes that in a justice-as-mutual-advantage society only those who can and do contribute to the cooperative surplus of benefits that compliance with justice creates are owed any share of these benefits. I argue that justice as mutual advantage need not include such a Contribution Requirement. I show by example that a justice-as-mutual-advantage society can extend the benefits of justice to all its members, including the vulnerable who cannot contribute. I close by arguing that if one does not presuppose a Contribution Requirement, then a justice-as-mutual-advantage society might require its members to extend the benefits of justice to humans that some maintain are not persons (for example, embryos) and to certain nonhuman creatures. I conclude that the real problem for defenders of justice as mutual advantage is that this theory of justice threatens to be too inclusive.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter Vanderschraaf, 2011. "Justice as Mutual Advantage and the Vulnerable," Politics, Philosophy & Economics, , vol. 10(2), pages 119-147, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:pophec:v:10:y:2011:i:2:p:119-147

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