Harper, Sean Julian (2000) Desert. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.




This thesis examines the idea of desert as expounded in the work of John Rawls, and some of the implications of this conception of desert for moral and political philosophy. In this work, I analyse a series of arguments against retaining this particular conception of desert.I argue that none of these arguments sufficiently diminishes the force of Rawls’ argument for desert, while many of them do state, and I argue that they are correct in doing so, that this conception of desert is dangerous for political or moral philosophy to maintain. I argue that the moral, political and legal implications of accepting this account of desert severely undermine various institutions of differential treatment, and indeed, moral assessment. I regard it as obvious that societies must, on occasion, treat members of those societies differently, for moral, as well as practical reasons. The Rawlsian account of desert, and the account of responsibility on which it rests, however, will endanger the legitimacy of such procedures. I argue further that the Rawlsian account of desert requires that differences in wealth, and inheritance of wealth, influence and privilege be diminished, if not abolished, if we are to talk of any form of desert meaningfully. I argue that this is a strength of Rawls’ account, and further that any account of desert that is true to the philosophical tradition of the concept will require similar steps to be taken. The primary aim of this thesis is to show that Rawls’ arguments against desert are serious ones, both in terms of strength and scope, and that they must be addressed. I intend to show that these arguments are founded on strong moral intuitions, and that it is plausible that these intuitions may need revision. Finally,I intend to show that desert is an important moral and political concept, and that the disciplines of moral and political philosophy will be impoverished by the absence this concept. This absence, I will argue, is a natural consequence of the acceptance of the Rawlsian arguments.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords:John Rawls, 1921-2002, Theory of justice, Ethics
Subjects:B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities > Philosophy
ID Code:2187
Deposited By: Madireng Monyela
Deposited On:08 Nov 2011 09:26
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:22
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