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Scepticism about Beneficiary Pays: A Critique


Journal of Applied Philosophy

Published online on


Some moral theorists argue that being an innocent beneficiary of significant harms inflicted by others may be sufficient to ground special duties to address the hardships suffered by the victims, at least when it is impossible to extract compensation from those who perpetrated the harm. This idea has been applied to climate change in the form of the beneficiary‐pays principle. Other philosophers, however, are quite sceptical about beneficiary pays (both in general and in the particular case of human‐induced climate change). Our aim in this article is to examine their critiques. We conclude that, while they have made important points, the principle remains worthy of further development and exploration. Our purpose in engaging with these critiques is constructive — we aim to formulate beneficiary pays in ways that would give it a plausible role in allocating the cost of addressing human‐induced climate change, while acknowledging that some understandings of the principle would make it unsuitable for this purpose.