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David Miller on Justice - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 416
Justice/Miller/Weinstein: According to Miller, justice is (1) pluralistic, in so far as desert, need and equality comprise its threefold criteria, and (2) contextual, in so far as the strength of these criteria varies according to the goods and social
practices at issue.
Miller's justificatory strategy on behalf of these three criteria owes much to Sidgwick, though he trades on Sidgwick largely via Rawls's reflective equilibrium. >Utilitarianism/Sidgwick, >Sidgwick/Political philosophy.
Miller hopes to 'show that a theory of justice rooted in popular beliefs can retain a sharp critical edge' (1999(1): xi). We first try to discover the principles of justice embodied in our everyday beliefs. We next hone them philosophically before reapplying them as guides to the distributive social dilemmas facing us. But we never forgo the moorings of common sense justice lest our theory become either so abstract or so controversial as to prove irrelevant (...).
Miller prefers Rawls's later writings where the original position becomes little more than a heuristic device for impartially systematizing and clarifying our common sense notions of justice. Consequently,
Gaus I 417
‚It ... merely highlights his preferred method ofproceeding, which is to move back and forth between our particular beliefs about justice and the general principles that might be used to systematize them, always bearing in mind that these principles ... must be publicly justifiable'.
(1999(1): 58)
Weinstein: But given this shift towards public justifiability, Rawls ought to have been more sensitive to empirical evidence about how we, in fact, understand justice. Miller, then, evokes Sidgwick unawares, and empirical social science, to rehabilitate Rawls in the name of egalitarian communitarianism. >Egalitarianism/Miller.


1. Miller, David (1999) Social Justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Weinstein, David 2004. „English Political Theory in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Miller, David
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2021-06-15
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