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The End of Duty

1 June 2008


Justice is often viewed in terms of seeing to it that right-holders are provided with the goods that they are entitled to. Less attention is given to the other dimension of justice, namely, that of duty-holders. If persons are assigned more duties, or more burdensome duties, than fairness requires, then they are victims of injustice just as much as persons whose rights are left unfulfilled. In this essay, I will argue for certain limits to the duty to assist people in need. My argument does not intend to show that we have no positive duties, but rather that these duties, whether they are of an interpersonal or a global, institutional kind, should be guided by an idea of fairness that pertains to the relations between duty-holders as well as between them and right-holders. I will discuss structural differences between negative and positive duties, as well as formulate a Principle of Contributive Fairness.


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