Justice and Desert in Liberal Theory *

Samuel Scheffler

in Boundaries and Allegiances

Published in print September 2002 | ISBN: 9780199257676
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600197 | DOI:
 Justice and Desert in Liberal Theory  *

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Scheffler identifies and interprets the core ideas in John Rawls's discussion of desert in A Theory of Justice. The conjunction of these ideas, which Scheffler terms the ‘Liberal Theory’ of desert, denies that the principles of distributive justice make reference to a ‘prejusticial’ notion of desert but allows a place for prejusticial desert in our thinking about retributive justice and the criminal law. Scheffler investigates this asymmetry between distributive and retributive justice, noting that desert is an individualistic notion that may not fit into a holistic theory of distributive justice. But retributive justice, concerned with the imposition of punishment on particular human beings, can perhaps accommodate such an individualistic notion.

Keywords: criminal law; desert; distributive justice; holism; individualism; punishment; John Rawls

Chapter.  12436 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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