The Objection from Justice and the Conceptual/Substantive Distinction

  • Leonard Kahn
Part of the Philosophers in Depth book series (PID)


I begin this chapter by outlining Mill’s thinking about why justice is a problem for utilitarians. Next, I turn to Mill’s own account of justice and explain its connection with rights, perfect duties, and harms. I then examine David Lyons’s answer to the question of how Mill’s account is meant to answer the Weak Objection from Justice. Lyons maintains that Mill’s account of justice has both a conceptual side and a substantive side. The former provides an analysis of such concepts as ‘justice’ and ‘rights.’ The latter, based on the Principle of Utility, provides an explanation of when these concepts apply. As a result, utilitarians can allow for circumstances in which actions are wrong because they are unjust, while also claiming that the standards of right and wrong (as well as justice and injustice) are determined by the Principle of Utility.


Chapter Versus Valid Claim Innocent People Imperfect Duty Perfect Duty 
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© Leonard Kahn 2012

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  • Leonard Kahn

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