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What Do We Deserve?

A Reader on Justice and Desert

Edited by Louis P. Pojman and Owen McLeod

Publication Date - September 1998

ISBN: 9780195122183

330 pages
6-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $99.99


The concept of desert, which once enjoyed a central place in political and ethical theory, has been relegated to the margins of much of contemporary theory, if not excluded altogether. Recently a renewed interest in the topic has emerged, and several philosophers have argued that the notion merits a more central place in political and ethical theory. Some of these philosophers contend that justice exists to the extent that people receive exactly what they deserve, while others argue that desert should replace such considerations as rights, need, and equality as the basis for distributions. Still others argue that morality involves a fitting match between one's moral character and a degree of happiness. All of these positions have encountered opposition from egalitarians, libertarians, and those who are skeptical about the coherence of the concept of desert.
The first anthology of its kind, What Do We Deserve? is a balanced collection of readings that brings sharply opposing positions and arguments together and stimulates debate over the meaning and significance of desert in current thought. The book begins with eight classical readings on desert (by Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Smith, Kant, Mill, Sidgwick, and Ross), and later turns to contemporary interpretations of the issue. The selections examine the concept itself, analyze its relationship to the ideas of freedom and responsibility, engage in the debate between John Rawls and his critics on the merits of desert, and, finally, study the wider role and significance of desert in political and ethical theory.

Table of Contents

    I. Historical Interpretations of Desert
    Introduction: Louis P. Pojman
    1. Plato: Justice as Harmony in the Soul and State
    2. Aristotle: Justice as Equality According to Merit
    3. Thomas Hobbes: Merit as Market Value
    4. Adam Smith: Merit and Demerit
    5. Immanuel Kant: Moral Worth as Alone Deserving Happiness
    6. John Stuart Mill: Justice, Desert and Utility
    7. Henry Sidwick: Justice as Desert
    8. W.D. Ross: What Things Are Good?
    II. Contemporary Interpretations of Desert
    Introduction: Owen McLeod
    A. The Concept of Desert
    9. Joel Feinberg, "Justice and Personal Desert"
    10. John Kleining, "the Concept of Desert"
    11. David Miller, "Deserts"
    12. Julian Lamont, "The Concept of Desert in Distributive Justice"
    B. Desert and Responsibility
    13. Galen Strawson, "The Impossibility of Moral Responsibility"
    14. Harry Frankfurt, "Freedom of the Will and the Concept of Person"
    15. David Miller, "Deserts"
    16. Fred Feldman, "Desert" Reconsideration of Some Received Wisdom"
    C. The Rawlsian Debate
    17. Herbert Spiegelberg, "The Argument for Equality from Compensatory Desert"
    18. John Rawls, "A Theory of Justice"
    19. Robert Nozick, "Anarchy, State and Utopia
    20. Michael Sandel, "A Critique of Rawls' Theory of the Self and Desert"
    21. Owen McLeod, "Desert and Institutions"
    22. Samuel Scheffler, "Responsibility, Reactive Attitudesand Liberalism in Philosophy and Politics"
    D. The Role of Significance of Desert
    23. Michael Slote, "Desert, Consent and Justice"
    24. Norman Daniels, "Merit and Meritocracy"
    25. Robert Goodin, "Negating Positive Desert Claims"
    26. Robert Young, "Egalitarianism and the Modest Significance of Desert"
    27. Fred Feldman, "Adjusting Utility for Justice"
    28. Own McLeod, "Desert and Wages"
    29. Louis Pojman, "Does Equality Trump Desert"
    30. Shelly Kagan, "Equality and Desert"