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Justice, Luck, and Knowledge

Justice, Luck, and Knowledge

S. L. Hurley

ISBN 9780674017702

Publication date: 03/31/2005

The recent past has seen striking advances in our understanding of both moral responsibility and distributive justice. S. L. Hurley's ambitious work brings these two areas of lively debate into overdue contact with each other.

Key contemporary discussions of distributive justice have formulated egalitarian approaches in terms of responsibility; in this view, the aim of egalitarianism is to respect differences between positions for which people are responsible while neutralizing differences that are a matter of luck. But this approach, Hurley contends, has ignored the way our understanding of responsibility constrains the roles it can actually play within distributive justice. Her book brings the new articulation of responsibility to bear in explaining these constraints. While responsibility might help specify what to distribute, it cannot tell us how to distribute; thus, Hurley argues, responsibility cannot tell us to distribute in an egalitarian pattern in particular. It can, however, play other important roles in a theory of justice, in relation to incentive-seeking behavior and well-being. Hurley's book proposes a new, bias-neutralizing approach to distributive justice that places responsibility in these less problematic roles.


  • Luck-neutralization is a central concept in contemporary work on distributive justice, and thus moral responsibility is also a central concept (insofar as luck is what one is not morally responsible for). It is therefore fruitful and illuminating to apply important insights from responsibility theory to various theories of distributive justice. The book is written in a lively style, Susan Hurley is remarkably well-versed in the literature on free will and moral responsibility as well as distributive justice, and the ideas are vibrant and provocative...a path-breaking book.

    —John Martin Fischer, Professor of Philosophy, University of California Riverside


  • Susan L. Hurley (1954–2007) was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Bristol.

Book Details

  • 524 pages
  • 0-13/16 x 5-3/4 x 8-15/16 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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