The Moral Taintedness of Benefiting from Injustice

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 19 (4):985-997 (2016)
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It is common to focus on the duties of the wrongdoer in cases that involve injustice. Presumably, the wrongdoer owes her victim an apology for having wronged her and perhaps compensation for having harmed her. But, these are not the only duties that may arise. Are other beneficiaries of an injustice permitted to retain the fruits of the injustice? If not, who becomes entitled to those funds? In recent years, the Connection Account has emerged as an influential account that purports to explain cases such as Embezzlement. This account holds that benefiting from injustice can give rise to a corrective duty - that is, a duty of compensation - owed specifically to the victim of the injustice from which the recipient benefits. This duty is grounded in the connection between the victim and the beneficiary of a given injustice. This paper has two aims. First, I show that we must reject the Connection Account on the grounds that it risks failing correctly to identify those who become entitled to the fruits of injustice. I achieve this by developing and defending the fairness objection. Second, I offer an alternative account: the Moral Taintedness Account. This account states that, when identifying who is entitled to the fruits of injustice, the cause and the degree of the harm suffered by a victim are both relevant considerations, though it does not matter whether the victim is the victim of the injustice that gave rise to the fruits in question. This account avoids the problem associated with the Connection Account, and yields intuitive conclusions in an important range of test cases.



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Tom Parr
University of Essex

References found in this work

On benefiting from injustice.Daniel Butt - 2007 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 37 (1):129-152.
Distributing responsibilities.David Miller - 2001 - Journal of Political Philosophy 9 (4):453–471.
Benefiting from the Wrongdoing of Others.Robert E. Goodin & Christian Barry - 2014 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 31 (2):363-376.
Killing the Innocent in Self-Defense.Michael Otsuka - 1994 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 23 (1):74-94.

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