From Bodo Ethics to Distributive Justice

Hardin, Russell
December 1999
Ethical Theory & Moral Practice;Dec1999, Vol. 2 Issue 4, p399
Academic Journal
Concern with material equality as the central form of distributive justice is a very modern idea. Distributive justice for Aristotle and many other writers for millennia after him was a matter of distributing what each ought to get from merit or desert in some sense. Many, such as Hume, thought material equality a pernicious idea. In the medieval village life of Bodo, villagers knew enough about each other to govern relations through norms, including, when necessary, a norm of charity. In more complex modern societies, economic destitution cannot so well be handled by individual charity, but now it can be handled by states. Hence, we begin to conceive of the idea of distributive justice as driven essentially by concern for material equality. The difference in state capacities is largely epistemological: states today can know much more about their citizens.


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