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  1. Gillian Brock,
  2. Nicole Hassoun

Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee212

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics

How to Cite

Brock, G. and Hassoun, N. 2013. Needs. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 FEB 2013


Moral and political discourse frequently appeals to matters of need. Indeed, we often think claims made in virtue of need deserve a certain weight, more so than many claims grounded in wants, desires, or preferences. What are needs? Do needs have some special moral force? How are they related to other key concepts or aspects of well-being? What role do needs play in social and political philosophy, or policy more generally? This essay addresses these questions. The next section considers the concept of needs, why needs often have a certain normative force, and some of the most influential accounts in the literature. The section following focuses on the role of needs in normative theory and public policy. The final section concludes.


  • ethics;
  • normative ethics;
  • philosophy;
  • politics;
  • practical (applied) ethics