Acta Analytica

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 319–335 | Cite as

Some Advantages of One Form of Argument for the Maximin Principle

  • Mark van RoojenEmail author


This paper presents a non-consequentialist defense of Rawls’s general conception of justice requiring that primary social goods be distributed so that the least share is as great as possible. It suggests that a defense of this idea can be offered within a Rossian framework of prima facie duties. The prima facie duty not to harm constrains people from supporting social institutions which do not leave their fellows with goods and resources above a certain threshold. The paper argues that societies in accord with the Rawlsian general conception come closest to meeting this requirement. This way of arguing for the conception enables the defenders of the theory to elude standard objections offered by utilitarians, libertarians, and even other egalitarians.


Justice Maximin Rawls Prima Facie Duties Harm Distribution 


  1. Audi, R. (1996). Intuitionism, pluralism and the foundations of ethics. In Sinnott-Armstrong, & Timmons (Eds.), Moral knowledge (pp. 101–136). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Barry, B. (1989). Theories of justice. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  3. Cohen, G. A. (1986). Self-ownership, world-ownership, and equality. In Lucash (Ed.), Justice and equality here and now. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Cohen, G. A. (1992). Incentives, inequality and community. In The tanner lectures on human values (pp. 261–330). Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.Google Scholar
  5. Cohen, G. A. (1995). Self-ownership, freedom and equality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Dancy, J. (1993). Moral reasons. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  7. Feinberg, J. (1984). Harm to others. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Foot, P. (1984). Killing and letting die. In Garfield, & Hennessey (Eds.), Abortion and legal perspectives. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.Google Scholar
  9. Gaut, B. (1993). Moral pluralism. Philosophical Papers, 22, 17–40.Google Scholar
  10. Gibbard, A. (1984). Health care and the prospective pareto principle. Ethics, 94, 261–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Kamm, F. M. (1996). Morality mortality, vol II, rights, duties and status. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. McNaughton, D. (1996). An unconnected heap of duties. Philosophical Quarterly, 46, 433–447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Nozick, R. (1974). Anarchy, state, and utopia. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  14. Rawls, J. (1971). Theory of justice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Ross, W. D. (1930). The right and the good. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  16. Quinn, W. (1989). Actions, intentions, and consequences: The doctrine of doing and allowing. Philosophical Review, 98, 287–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Waldron, J. (1986). Welfare and the images of charity. The Philosophical Quarterly, 36, 463–82 reprinted in Waldron (1993).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Waldron, J. (1993). Liberal rights: Collected papers 1981–1991. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Walzer, M. (1977). Just and unjust wars. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  20. Williams, B. (1995). What does intuitionism imply? In making sense of humanity pp. 182–191. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Nebraska – LincolnNebraskaUSA

Personalised recommendations