John Kekes on desert

John Kekes (born 1936) is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University at Albany (formerly State University of New York – Albany). He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the Australian National University, and is the author of a number of books on ethics.

‘It is destructive of good lives to create conditions in which good and evil people are treated with equal concern and respect; in which justice is taken to involve the redistribution of resources without regard to whether their present holders or future recipients deserve them…’


Filed under Quotations

4 responses to “John Kekes on desert

  1. Lewis, I’ll need to reread Kekes and get back to you on that.


  2. Lewis Reich

    I’m not sure how far this gets us. Is this an attack on Rawls? Or does it just kick the can down to what one means by “deserve”? And are we to judge deserve by general rule or by individual? The administrative costs for the latter could be prohibitive, again depending on what one means by “deserve”.


    • Kekes attacks political liberalism in general and Rawls’ Theory of Justice in particular. Rawls’ theory is about social justice rather than legal justice; but I suspect that Kekes is trying to apply legal justice principles to social justice.


      • Lewis Reich

        Yes, if I recall correctly (I read in 40 years ago) Rawls’ approach was significantly redistributive. I guess Kekes would contend that Rawls’ thought-experiment doesn’t suffice to establish what one might “deserve”. But what would count Kekes count as sufficient to establish redistributive desert?


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