Towards Justice and Virtue

A Constructive Account of Practical Reasoning

Towards Justice and Virtue challenges the rivalry between those who advocate only abstract, universal principles of justice and those who commend only the particularities of virtuous lives. Onora O'Neill traces this impasse to defects in underlying conceptions of reasoning about action. She proposes and vindicates an alternative, more modest, account of ethical reasoning, a reasoned way of answering the question "who counts?", and constructs a linked account of the principles that are basic for moving toward just institutions and virtuous lives.


"Towards Justice and Virtue should be admired (among other things) for its constructivist program for building principles from the ground up. The book has strong Kantian elements, but one of its merits is that it is independent of Kant's work. Her main arguments...are concise and fairly general, and one wants to press them at various points to see whether they can be carried through or on what (if any) further assumptions they depend. It is a stimulating book that merits further examination and discussion." Ethics

"...the book seems successful in sketching a broadly Kantian account of ethics." Review of Metaphysics

"This is a wide-ranging yet beautifully integrated work that connects many topics of significance in moral theory, weaves together strands of O'Neill's own recent writings, and connects all to concrete moral concerns, from poverty to environment degradation." Jrnl of Philosophy

"Towards Justice and Virtue exhibits an ingenious applications of Kantian reasoning to a current debate. O'Neill's attention to the concerns of both particularists and universalists will make her critical and constructive contributions invaluable for informed discussion." David Waller, Philosophy in Review

"Towards Justice and Virtue is Onora O'Neill's most developed account thus far of her distinctive approach to moral and political philosophy. Readers who are already familiar with O'Neill's articles and her two previous books will appreciate the way it brings together in one sustained and rigorous argument the various themes which have occupied her attention over the years. Those who are new to O'Neill's work will find it a lucid, accessible, and provocative challenge to contemporary ethical theories....O'Neill's book is a welcome contribution to the literature on justice, particularism, Kantian ethics, and practical reasoning in general. It is remarkably concise, given its ambitions, and it lays out a positive view well worth taking seriously." The Philosophical Review