Distributive justice and cooperation in a world of humans and non-humans. A contractarian argument for drawing non-humans in the sphere of justice.

Mark Coeckelbergh

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Various arguments have been provided for drawing non-humans such as animals and artificial agents into the sphere of moral consideration. In this paper, I argue for a shift from an ontological to a social-philosophical approach: instead of asking what an entity is, we should try to conceptually grasp the quasi-social dimension of relations between non-humans and humans. This allows me to reconsider the problem of justice, in particular distributive justice. Engaging with the work of Rawls, I show that an expansion of the contractarian framework to non-humans causes an important problem for liberalism, but can be justified by a contractarian argument. Responding to Bell’s and Nussbaum’s comments on Rawls, I argue that we can justify drawing non-humans into the sphere of distributive justice by relying on the notion of a co-operative scheme. I discuss what co-operation between humans and non-humans can mean and the extent to which it depends on properties. I conclude that we need to imagine principles of ecological and technological distributive justice
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-84
Number of pages18
JournalRes publica : Belgian journal of political science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • METIS-259499
  • IR-76113

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