Fair Limits (project archive)

About the project

The Fair Limits Project was a project that ran at Utrecht University from 2017 to 2022. This project received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant agreement No. 726153).


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 has shifted 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 investigated the plausibility of limitarianism in the area of economic and ecological resources. We analysed whether such a view can be justified, that is, supported by robust philosophical argumentation, and what limitarian institutions could look like. An overview of some of our main results can be found in the forthcoming volume Having too Much, which will be published open access around mid-2023 by Open Book Publishers.

Fair Limits also confront some basic assumptions commonly used in liberal political philosophy. 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. The results of this investigation will be published in the volume Pluralizing Political Philosophy, forthcoming in 2024 by Oxford University Press.

Methodologically, Fair Limits advanced 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? For the results on these questions, see the tab with publications.

While primarily being a project in normative political philosophy, Fair Limits used 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.