1st Edition

A Conceptual Investigation of Justice

By Kyle Johannsen Copyright 2018
    150 Pages
    by Routledge

    150 Pages
    by Routledge

    Conceptual analysis has fallen out of favor in political philosophy. The influence of figures like John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin has led political philosophy to focus on questions about what should be done, and to ignore questions about the usage of words.

    In this book, Kyle Johannsen calls for renewed attention to the manner in which the word ‘justice’ is and should be used. Focusing on the late work of G.A. Cohen, Johannsen argues that debates over both the content and scope of egalitarian justice are, to a large extent, really just conceptual. Whereas some philosophers have been using the term ‘justice’ to refer to one among a plurality of values, others have been using it to refer to institutional rightness. Though the latter use of ‘justice’ is presently more dominant, he argues that much is to be gained from thinking of justice as one value among many. Doing so sheds light on the nature of both democracy and legitimacy, and, paradoxically, makes better sense of the idea that justice is ‘the first virtue of institutions’.


    1. Introduction

    2. Fairness, Efficiency, and Value Theory

    3. Defeasible Luck Equality

    4. Cohen’s Equivocal Attack on Rawls’s Basic Structure Restriction

    5. Narrow Justice

    6. Fairness and Democratic Legitimacy

    7. Conclusion


    Kyle Johannsen is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Philosophy Department at Trent University, Canada. He is primarily interested in political philosophy, metaethical issues that pertain to political philosophy, and animal ethics. His work has appeared in such journals as Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, Res Publica, Ethical Perspectives, and Socialist Studies.

    'With great clarity and originality, Kyle Johannsen redirects our view of current discussions about social justice. By asking us to consider substantive debates as based on conceptual disagreements, he opens up new paths for philosophical research in a highly productive and inspiring way.' — Rainer Forst, Professor of Political Theory and Philosophy, Goethe University Frankfurt

    'A fascinating book showing how disagreement about what justice requires often reflects confusion or disagreement about the very concept of ‘justice’. More controversially, it argues, with great clarity and rigor, that there is a particular way in which the concept of justice should be understood and used.' — Patrick Tomlin, Associate Professor in Political Philosophy, University of Reading

    'Johannsen’s monograph not only helps clarify our thinking on this conceptual question but also charts where important debates in the literature have gone astray because of diverging implicit assumptions about the concept of justice.' — Kristin Voigt, Dialogue

    'Johannsen offers an interesting and original diagnosis of recent disputes in political philosophy about the nature of justice and the proper domain of judgements of justice.' — Colin M. Macleod, Dialogue