A Hermeneutic Exploration of the Grounds for Social Justice

Brent D. Slife
Nathan Slife


This chapter provides a brief explanation of three of justice literature's traditions as potential alternative grounds for social justice: utilitarian, libertarian, and Kantian. It focuses on the reliance on John Rawls’ work, where it examines his pivotal assumption of freedom. The chapter explores whether hermeneutic assumptions of freedom provide a more defensible ground for social justice, using the virtue ethics of Alasdair MacIntyre and Aristotle. Social justice is defined as critical thinking about and actions against injustice in society. Utilitarians implicitly endorse a similarly unencumbered freedom. However, their conceptual ground for justice is the maximization of utility—promoting the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. Many Rawlsian-inspired advocates of social justice would rightly note that they have been vitally concerned with one form of common good. They have famously lobbied the community and government to fight oppression and inequity through the promotion of equal rights, opportunities, and outcomes, such as health care, education, and income security.