- The Normative Foundation of Legal Orders: A Balance between Reciprocity and Mutuality
- Netherlands Journal of Legal Philosophy
- Volume | Issue number
- 43 | 2
- Number of pages
- Document type
- Faculty of Law (FdR)
Reciprocity seems to figure as a self-evident normative foundation of legal orders. Yet a clear understanding of the often opaque role that reciprocity plays in this regard demands drawing a conceptual distinction. This article views reciprocity as a social morality of duties, in opposition to mutuality, which concerns a legal morality of rights. In everyday life these two broad categories of human interaction interfere in a dynamic way. They need to be brought into an appropriate balance in legal orders, for the sake of justice. The practical relevance of this conceptual distinction is clarified by the debate about justice between present and future generations. I argue that this debate should be viewed as a debate about the terms of reciprocity rather than relations of mutuality. Acknowledging the deeply reciprocal nature of the relations between past, present and future generations would lead to a more convincing moral theory about intergenerational justice.
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