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Fair Limits

About the project

In contemporary normative political philosophy, questions of distributive justice have focused on meeting minimal needs of persons, prioritizing the worst-off and reducing inequalities. In philosophy, these views are called ‘sufficientarianism’, ‘prioritarianism’ and ‘egalitarianism’. Fair Limits shifts the focus to ‘limitarianism’, the view that there should be upper limits to how much each person could have of valuable goods. In this project, we will investigate the plausibility of limitarianism in the area of economic and ecological resources. We will analyse whether such a view can be justified, that is, supported by robust philosophical argumentation, and what limitarian institutions could look like.

Fair Limits will confront basic assumptions commonly used in liberal political philosophy, including claims about what account of the quality of life our social institutions should protect, which goods are scarce, the insatiability of human wants, the status of ecosystem resources, and the nature of the economic system and its distributive consequences. An important way in which the project examines these assumptions is to study the relevant arguments of non-liberal philosophers. The critiques of non-liberal philosophers on the liberal paradigm become an integral part of this project.

Methodologically, Fair Limits will advance the state of the field by developing methods for applied or non-ideal political philosophy. This emerging paradigm asks not merely what the right normative principles are, but rather also another set of related questions. First, what do moral duties imply for political duties? Second, how should we think about questions of transition (how we move to a less unjust world, and what role political philosophy should play in this process. Third, who should be the agents of justice in an unjust world?

While primarily being a project in normative political philosophy, Fair Limits will use insights from and engage in collaborations with other sciences. We also explicitly aim to engage with questions and concerns as they emerge from society: this is in part done by developing nonideal thinking, rather than working merely on the theory of ideals, but also by devoting a significant part of our time and efforts in rewriting our analyses in ways that makes them accessible to non-academic-philosophers.

Read more about the researchers and their sub-projects.