Models of Distributive Justice

  1. Greg Bock Organizer and
  2. Jamie Goode
  1. Jonathan Wolff

Published Online: 7 OCT 2008

DOI: 10.1002/9780470030585.ch12

Empathy and Fairness: Novartis Foundation Symposium 278

Empathy and Fairness: Novartis Foundation Symposium 278

How to Cite

Wolff, J. (2006) Models of Distributive Justice, in Empathy and Fairness: Novartis Foundation Symposium 278 (eds G. Bock and J. Goode), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9780470030585.ch12

Author Information

  1. Department of Philosophy, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 7 OCT 2008
  2. Published Print: 31 OCT 2006

Book Series:

  1. Novartis Foundation Symposia

Book Series Editors:

  1. Novartis Foundation

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780470026267

Online ISBN: 9780470030585



  • empathy;
  • imitation;
  • mirror neuron;
  • automaticity;
  • motor theory;
  • self/other distinction;
  • cognitive factors;
  • sharing;
  • emotional experience;
  • emotion recognition


Philosophical disagreement about justice rages over at least two questions. The most immediate is a substantial question, concerning the conditions under which particular distributive arrangements can be said to be just or unjust. The second, deeper, question concerns the nature of justice itself. What is justice? Here we can distinguish three views. First, justice as mutual advantage sees justice as essentially a matter of the outcome of a bargain. There are times when two parties can both be better off by making some sort of agreement. Justice, on this view, concerns the distribution of the benefits and burdens of the agreement. Second, justice as reciprocity takes a different approach, looking not at bargaining but at the idea of a fair return or just price, attempting to capture the idea of justice as equal exchange. Finally justice as impartiality sees justice as ‘taking the other person's point of view’ asking ‘how would you like it if it happened to you?’ Each model has significantly different consequences for the question of when issues of justice arise and how they should be settled. It is interesting to consider whether any of these models of justice could regulate behaviour between nonhuman animals.