IN DEFENCE OF THEORETICAL ETHICS
A Critique on Amartya Sen’s The Idea of Justice
Amartya Sen has made significant contributions to the understanding of the dynamics of poverty and its alleviation, global economics, and developmental paradigms. With the publication of The Idea of Justice (2009), the consequentialist agenda of Sen, an economist, has apparently become the most important word on justice. In tune with his rejection of ‘transcendental theories of justice’ offered by philosophers, Sen alleges that they are far removed from reality and are incapable of aiding the contemporary societies to overcome manifest injustice experienced. Hence, instead of following any idea of a perfect just society, Sen proposes that we must banish abstract theory and transcendentalism and should adopt a realizational model of justice to cure all ills of injustice. Sen’s position, perfectly in tune with the postmodern philosophical agenda where there cannot be any universal or ultimate anchor for human pursuits (as all anchors are fundamentally relative), assumes the garb of the theory of justice, although he rejects any theorizing as of any ultimate value.
Sen, The Idea of Justice, London: Penguin Books Ltd., 2009, 231.
Anderson, “Justifying the Capabilities Approach to Justice” in Measuring Justice: Primary Goods and Capabilities, eds. Harry Brighouse and Ingrid Robeyns, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010, 81-100.
Sen, On Ethics and Economics, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1990, 89.
Saju Chackalackal, “Kant on Inclinations: ‘Alien’ or ‘Human’?” Journal of Dharma 30, 1 (January-March 2005), 117-134.
Saju Chackalackal, “Philosophizing in India Ought to Be Indigenous” in Indigenous Philosophizing: Indian Horizons, ed. Saju Chackalackal, 531-570, Bangalore: Dharmaram Publications, 2010.