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What is justice and how should it be measured and applied in open assessments?



Amartya Sen: The Idea of Justice. Harvard University Press 2009.[1]

"Nobel Prize winner in economics, Sen (Development as Freedom ) is also an eminent philosopher. Here, he uses his skill in both disciplines to criticize prevailing theories of justice and to propose a replacement. John Rawls's A Theory of Justice (1971) is the most famous example of what Sen calls a transcendental theory, describing an ideal state of affairs. This does not tell us what to do in our imperfect world; for that, he argues, a comparative theory is needed, ranking various possible outcomes. To consider only wealth or add an estimate of happiness is inadequate. In addition, the capabilities of people to achieve good lives need to be assessed. Following Rawls, Sen stresses public reason, a type of democratic deliberation that emphasizes reasonable agreements among people with different conceptions of the good. Throughout the book, Sen's wide historical knowledge is put to good use. VERDICT This is an essential book; it sums up and extends the contributions of one of the world's leading thinkers about justice." —David Gordon, Bowling Green State Univ., OH[2]

John Rawls: A Theory of Justice. Harvard University Press, 2005.[3]

A Theory of Justice is a widely-read book of political philosophy and ethics by John Rawls. It was originally published in 1971 and revised in both 1975 (for the translated editions) and 1999. In A Theory of Justice, Rawls attempts to solve the problem of distributive justice by utilising a variant of the familiar device of the social contract. The resultant theory is known as "Justice as Fairness", from which Rawls derives his two famous principles of justice: the liberty principle and the difference principle.


The thoughts of Sen and Rawls should be put into action in value variables of assessments. How to do this in practice is still an open question.

See also


  1. Amartya Sen: The idea of Justice. Harvard University Press 2009. ISBN 9780674036130
  2. Google Books
  3. John Rawls: A Theory of Justice. Harvard University Press, 2005 (originally published in 1971). ISBN 978-0674017726.

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