Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. James Sterba on public justification

Valeria Ottonelli


Valeria Ottonelli takes into consideration Sterba’s justification of equality from libertarian premises and argues that it cannot work as a public justification for equality, at least in its present form.
She considers two possible ways of understanding the role of Sterba’s argument as an exercise of public justification. According to the first interpretation, Sterba is working within a convergence model of public justification, which does not require shared justifications of public institutions, but only that each citizen be offered a justification that can rationally be endorsed from his or her point of view. According to the second interpretation, Sterba’s argument should be understood as a contribution to a consensus model of justification where public institutions need to be justified by reasons that all citizens can share and rationally endorse. Ottonelli argues that under neither model Sterba’s argument works as an adequate public justification of equality.

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