Working Paper BETA #2012-15

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Title : Transcendental vs. Comparative Approaches to Justice : A Reappraisal of Sen’s Dichotomy.

Author(s) : Ragip Ege, Herrade Igersheim, Charlotte Le Chapelain

Abstract : In The Idea of Justice, Sen describes two competing approaches to theorizing about justice: “transcendental institutionalism,” in which he includes Rawls, and “realization-focused comparison,” in which he includes Condorcet and himself. This paper questions the robustness of his dichotomy through an examination of the works of Condorcet, Rawls, and Sen himself. We show that none belongs exclusively to either tradition. Further, we claim that an appeal to the concept of metaranking, developed by Sen in the 1970s, enables us to overcome the distinction between the transcendental and the comparative traditions and in the last instance to reconcile the two approaches.

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