Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 325–338 | Cite as

Demands of Justice, Feasible Alternatives, and the Need for Causal Analysis

  • David Wiens


Many political philosophers hold the Feasible Alternatives Principle (FAP): justice demands that we implement some reform of international institutions P only if P is feasible and P improves upon the status quo from the standpoint of justice. The FAP implies that any argument for a moral requirement to implement P must incorporate claims whose content pertains to the causal processes that explain the current state of affairs. Yet, philosophers routinely neglect the need to attend to actual causal processes. This undermines their arguments concerning moral requirements to reform international institutions. The upshot is that philosophers’ arguments must engage in causal analysis to a greater extent than is typical.


Global justice International institutions Feasibility Causal mechanisms Methodology 



Audiences at the Australian National University, University of Michigan, and the Eastern Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association provided helpful feedback on earlier versions. Many thanks to Sean Aas, Elizabeth Anderson, Christian Barry, Zev Berger, Simon Caney, Bob Goodin, Jonathan Harmon, Thomas Pogge, Peter Vallentyne, Leif Wenar, and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. Support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (award #752-2007-0083) is gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PhilosophyAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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