Dmitriy Balashov   1
  • 1 National Research University Higher School of Economics, 20 Myasnitskaya Str., Moscow, 101000, Russian Federation

Thomas Nagel’s Theory of Justice

2023, vol. 22, No. 4, pp. 83–106 [issue contents]
Theories of justice have become the central theme of liberal philosophy over the past century. Among these, one devoted to the problem of global justice, which has come to be particularly relevant at the turn of the century, deserves particular attention. Among liberal theories of global justice numerous competing conceptions have emerged; they could be presented as three broad lines of argumentation: ‘moral cosmopolitanism’, ‘political cosmopolitanism’ and ‘statism’. Thomas Nagel’s Hobbesian conception of global justice has become one of the most influential ‘statist’ theories. Having used the key points of Hobbes’ theory, Nagel significantly modified his original ideas. This allowed him, first, to invoke the principles of egalitarian justice at the level of the state and, second, to argue that international relations are not the territory of a moral vacuum. These modifications led to a two-level theory of ethics in which justice can exist only in separate sovereign states while the requirements of minimal humanitarian morality apply at the supranational level. As a result, Nagel’s theory of justice at the level of the state proved to be highly logical and persuasive, as well as able to withstand criticism from its opponents; whereas the requirements of minimal humanitarian morality seemed inconsistent and unrelated to justice in separate sovereign states. This has led to an ambivalent attitude towards Nagel’s theory. This article focuses on Nagel’s theory of global justice and the debate surrounding his statist arguments. This article also offers further criticism of the problems and prospects of Nagel’s theory of global justice.
Citation: Balashov D. (2023) Thomas Nagel’s Theory of Justice [Thomas Nagel’s Theory of Justice]. The Russian Sociological Review, vol. 22, no 4, pp. 83-106
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