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Difference Principle

  1. Harry Brighouse

Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee715

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics

How to Cite

Brighouse, H. 2013. Difference Principle. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 FEB 2013


Distributive justice concerns how the benefits and burdens of social and economic activity should be shared out (see Justice). So a theory of distributive justice identifies the benefits and burdens that social cooperation produces, and prescribes how they should be distributed. An important dimension on which theories differ is the extent to which, and mechanisms by which, inequalities can be legitimate (see Equality; Egalitarianism). John Rawls' relatively egalitarian theory of justice as fairness shapes most contemporary philosophical debates, not in the sense that there is any kind of consensus on his principles, but in that other theories are often proposed explicitly as superior alternatives (see Rawls, John).


  • legal and political;
  • philosophy