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Amartya Sen invokes David Hume in The New Republic (December 29) to explain  the case for seeking justice for distant people and future generations.

From Hume writing in 1651:

"Again suppose, that several distinct societies maintain a kind of intercourse for mutual convenience and advantage, the boundaries of justice still grow larger, in proportion to the largeness of men’s views, and the force of their mutual connexions. History, experience, reason sufficiently instruct us in this natural progress of human sentiments, and in the gradual enlargement of our regards to justice, in proposion as we become acquainted with the extensive utility of that virtue.

Implication: With globalization comes enlargement of humankind’s sense of responsibility for “other” people to live well."

Both knowledge (of distant people, and of what works and what doesn’t work) and sentiment (or feeling) contribute to enlarged ethics and a search for greater justice – for distant people and future generations.

Implication:  Work to get evidence: Research matters.  Go abroad: Tell a story well.

Sen concludes:

"Our world and our future may well depend on the understanding that we bring to bear on the interconnections between what we know, what we can reasonable expect, what we feel, what we have reason to consider, how our reasoning can come in many difference forms, and how we should think about justice and injustice .. ..no less now than in Hume’s time."

 

CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD does not take institutional positions.

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