chapter  2
22 Pages

Difference, Empathy, and Impartial Reason

Since the Enlightenment, justice and the rights through which liberal democracies guarantee justice have been linked indissolubly to impartial reason. Classically, basic rights are characterized as rights that one has simply in virtue of being a person, and violating basic rights is considered a grave injustice, for doing so denies a person's humanity. Some utilitarians have defended a rights-based conception of justice, but both in the history of ideas and in the legal systems of liberal democracies this view of justice rests primarily on the account of impartial reason that is threaded through contractarian moral and political theory and that Kant crystallized in the categorical imperative.