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Catholic Social Thought and Amartya Sen on Justice

Part of the Virtues and Economics book series (VIEC,volume 1)

Abstract

The paper suggests that Sen’s “Idea of Justice” is not only the most inspiring and reasonable response to Rawls ’ “Theory of Justice” but also an important challenge for Catholic Social Thought. The paper shows that Catholic Social Thought and Sen’s Idea of Justice have much in common. It argues that despite the emphasis on individual freedom in Sen’s capability approach, the convergence between his approach and Catholic Social Thought is strong. There are several points of resemblance: the role of indignation and emotion, the implications of a realistic anthropology (“seeking institutions that promote justice rather than institutions as themselves manifestations of justice”), freedom as responsibility, human rights as rooted in our shared humanity, valuing religious wisdom in justice theory.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    For a definition of the distinction between Catholic social doctrine, Catholic social teaching and ‘Catholic social thought’ see: Verstraeten 2000.

    Official Texts from the Catholic Church (reference is made for all documents to the numbers of the paragraphs and not of the pages).

    Leo XIII, Rerum novarum , 1891 in: Michael Walsh, Brian Davis (Eds.): Proclaiming Justice and Peace. Papal Documents from Rerum Novarum through Centesimus Annus, Mystic (Connecticut), Twenty-Third Publications, 1991.

    Pius XI, Quadragesimo anno (1931), in: Walsh, Davis, o.c.

    John XXIII, Pacem, in Terris, in: Walsh, Davis, o.c.

    Gaudium et spes, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, in: o.c.

    Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est, Encyclical Letter, Vatican City, Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2005

    Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Vatican City, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2013.

    Francis, Laudato si ’ Encyclical Letter on Care for Our Common Home, Vatican City, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2015

    United States Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All: Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy, 1986.

References

  • Rawls, J. 1971. A Theory of Justice. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999 (revised edition of the 1971 edition).

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  • ———. 1999. The Law of Peoples. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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  • Sen, A. 2009. The Idea of Justice. London: Allen Lane (Penguin Books).

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  • Verstraeten, J. 2000. Re-thinking Catholic Social Thought as Tradition. In Catholic Social Thought: Twilight or Renaissance? ed. J.S. Boswell, F.P. McHugh and J. Verstraeten (BETL157), 59–77. Leuven: Peeters/University Press.

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Correspondence to Johan Verstraeten .

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Verstraeten, J. (2017). Catholic Social Thought and Amartya Sen on Justice. In: Rona, P., Zsolnai, L. (eds) Economics as a Moral Science. Virtues and Economics, vol 1. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-53291-2_14

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