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What Do We Deserve?

Louis P. Pojman and Owen McLeod, eds. (Oxford University Press: September 1998), 336 pages.

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. ~ Product Description

Table of Contents

    • Preface
  • I    Historical Interpretations of Desert    1
    • Introduction
      • 1    Plato: Justice as Harmony in the Soul and State    10
      • 2    Aristotle: Justice as Equality According to Merit    15
      • 3    Thomas Hobbes: Merit as Market Value    20
      • 4    Adam Smith: Of Merit and Demerit    23
      • 5    Immanuel Kant: Moral Worth as Alone Deserving Happiness    31
      • 6    John Stuart Mill: Justice, Desert and Utility    42
      • 7    Henry Sidgwick: Justice as Desert    47
      • 8    W. D. Ross: What Things Are Good?    56
  • II    Contemporary Interpretations of Desert    61
    • Introduction
    • 9    Joel Feinberg: Justice and Personal Desert    70
    • 10    John Kleinig: The Concept of Desert    84
    • 11    David Miller: Deserts    93
    • 12    Julian Lamont: The Concept of Desert in Distributive Justice    101
    • 13    Galen Strawson: The Impossibility of Moral Responsibility    114
    • 14    Harry Frankfurt: Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person    125
    • 15    David Miller: Desert and Determinism    135
    • 16    Fred Feldman: Desert: Reconsideration of Some Received Wisdom    140
    • 17    Herbert Spiegelberg: An Argument for Equality from Compensatory Desert    149
    • 18    John Rawls: A Theory of Justice    157
    • 19    Robert Nozick: Anarchy, State, and Utopia    165
    • 20    Michael Sandel: Liberalism and the Limits of Justice    177
    • 21    Owen McLeod: Desert and Institutions    186
    • 22    Samuel Scheffler: Responsibility, Reactive Attitudes, and Liberalism in Philosophy and Politics    196
    • 23    Michael A. Slote: Desert, Consent and Justice    210
    • 24    Norman Daniels: Merit and Meritocracy    224
    • 25    Robert Goodin: Negating Positive Desert Claims    234
    • 26    Robert Young: Egalitarianism and the Modest Significance of Desert    245
    • 27    Fred Feldman: Adjusting Utility for Justice: A Consequentialist Reply to the Objection from Justice    259
    • 28    Owen McLeod: Desert and Wages    271
    • 29    Louis P. Pojman: Does Equality Trump Desert?    283
    • 30    Shelly Kagan: Equality and Desert    298
    • Bibliography    315