Social Justice, Academic Philosophy

Mark LeBar on Justice as a Virtue

Here is an intellectual feast: a Podcast interview with Mark LeBar, at Free Thoughts, on the virtue of justice.  In one hour you get an in-depth historical discussion of how different philosophers have understood this virtue.

Of particular interest to our readers, while LeBar doesn’t explicitly talk about social justice, his discussion toward the end of the podcast suggests a skepticism about any notion of social justice that isn’t reducible to the just conduct of individuals.

Published on:
Author: Daniel Shapiro
  • Roderick T. long

    skepticism about any notion of social justice that isn’t reducible to the just conduct of individuals

    Not a problem, of course, since I’ve yet to see any social-justice claim that can’t be translated into a claim about the duties of individuals.

    • adrianratnapala

      I thought the official ideology of this website is that a social system is just only if the least well off member should rationally accept it. That definition mentions one hypothetical individual, but claims nothing about her duties (or even her rights). It also does not impose duties on other individuals, except perhaps that they collectively institute a social system with certain properties.

      • Roderick T. long

        I don’t think the site has an ideology quite as specific as that. In any case, presumably if a social system is unjust, people have an obligation not to promote it; and have at least an imperfect duty to try to change it when in a position to do so. I can’t imagine what it would mean to call a social system unjust if this had no upshot for anybody’s doing anything.

        • adrianratnapala

          Of course I was beard pulling when I said the site has an official ideology. But when challenged by claims Hayek-style that social justice is incoherent, several of the regular posters on this site come up with the definition like what I just gave. Perhaps one of them has something to say about this.

          And your formulation “people have an obligation not to promote it; and have at least an
          imperfect duty to try to change it when in a position to do so” sounds like desperate flailing about to individualise what is collective.

          Firstly, individuals can only carry out this obligation by doing something for (and in practice alongside) the whole collective. Second, fans of social justice would say that if you had an unjust society, then even if no individual was in a position to change it (perhaps because of collective inertia), then the society is still unjust. For them, justice is a property of systems, not (necessarily) a duty imposed on individuals.

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