Roberts, Rodney C., and . The Counterfactual Conception of Compensation

2006, Metaphilosophy, 37 (3-4): 414-428.

Abstract: My aim in this essay is to remove some of the rubbish that lies in the way of an appropriate understanding of rectificatory compensation, by arguing for the rejection of the counterfactual conception of compensation. Although there is a significant extent to which contemporary theorists have relied upon this idea, the counterfactual conception of compensation is merely a popular assumption, having no positive argument in support of it. Moreover, it can make rendering compensation impossible, and absurd notions of compensation can result from its use, results that may themselves constitute injustices. This latter difficulty is most troubling when the CCC is employed in large compensatory cases like the case of rectificatory compensation for the descendants of American slaves. I want to suggest that, taken together, the difficulties with the CCC yield sufficient reason for rejecting it as an acceptable rectificatory notion.

Comment: This text presents an interesting and accessible discussion of the counterfactual conception of compensation (most famously presented by Nozick, though one need not have read Nozick to understand this text) as a matter of rectificatory justice. It would be of use in courses concerning schemes or principles of distributive and rectificatory justice. As the text analyzes the justification for reparations to the decendents of African slaves in the U.S., it would also be of use in a course that covers questions of reparations for historical injustices (perhaps alongside Coates' well known "The Case for Reparations").