Three vulnerability objections to justice as mutual advantage

Originally published in Synthese

Critics allege that justice as mutual advantage excludes vulnerable people and is thus inadequate as a conception of justice. Building on Peter Vanderschraaf’s Strategic Justice, this paper considers three distinct vulnerability objections. After Sect. 1 clarifies the “vulnerable,” Sect. 2 discusses an objection according to which it is impossible for a mutual advantage view to protect the vulnerable. Answering this objection only requires a possibility proof, such as that Vanderschraaf provides. Section 3 discusses an objection according to which it is merely contingent whether, not guaranteed that, a mutual advantage view protects the vulnerable. Mutual advantage theorists indeed cannot provide such guarantees, so they must argue that such guarantees are too much to demand from a conception of justice. Section 4 discusses an objection according to which it is improbable that a mutual advantage view will protect the vulnerable. Addressing this concern opens paths for future fruitful research, including considering the conditions that make including the vulnerable more or less likely as well as the conditions that facilitate cooperative ability or create vulnerability. Section 5 builds on the foregoing by emphasizing the diversity of vulnerabilities along with the broader social contract tradition’s diversity of strategies for addressing vulnerability.

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