Journal Article

Double Counting, Moral Rigorism, and Cohen’s Critique of Rawls: A Response to Alan Thomas

Brian Berkey

in Mind

Volume 124, issue 495, pages 849-874
Published in print July 2015 | ISSN: 0026-4423
Published online June 2015 | e-ISSN: 1460-2113 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/mind/fzv024
Double Counting, Moral Rigorism, and Cohen’s Critique of Rawls: A Response to Alan Thomas

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In a recent article in this journal, Alan Thomas presents a novel defence of what I call ‘Rawlsian Institutionalism about Justice’ against G. A. Cohen’s well-known critique. In this response I aim to defend Cohen’s rejection of Institutionalism against Thomas’s arguments. In part this defence requires clarifying precisely what is at issue between Institutionalists and their opponents. My primary focus, however, is on Thomas’s critical discussion of Cohen’s endorsement of an ethical prerogative, as well as his appeal to the institutional framework of a ‘property-owning democracy’ in his elaboration of the precise institutional requirements of Rawlsian Institutionalist justice, and his related claim that Cohen’s rejection of Institutionalism involves an objectionable ‘double counting’ of the demands of justice. I argue that once we are clear about both the kind of justification that can be given for a prerogative within a plausible ethical theory, and about the key points of departure between Institutionalist views and their rivals, Cohen’s rejection of Institutionalism appears well-motivated, and Thomas’s claim that his view is guilty of double counting the demands of justice can be seen to be mistaken.

Journal Article.  10730 words. 

Subjects: Epistemology ; Metaphysics ; Philosophy of Language ; Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic ; Philosophy of Mind

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