Moral Injustice. How an Unfair Distribution of Moral Burdens Harms the Individual and Our Society as a Whole

Anno LVIII, n. 238, settembre-dicembre 2023
Centro Einaudi
Articolo completo/Full text


Moral agency cannot be understood if one makes abstraction from the social conditions of agency. If the latter are taken into account, it becomes clear that acting in accordance with one’s values does not depend solely on the agent’s own intentions. The ability to act morally depends on what kinds of responsibilities one bears and is co-determined by political and structural conditions. As a result of an unfair division of moral labor, some subjects are structurally over-exposed to moral insecurity and failure. This can be defined as moral injustice. First, the paper explores the psychological dynamics of the experience of moral insecurity and failure, explaining the reasons why people feel guilt or shame despite the lack of control over the circumstances of the action and how they cope with these negative emotions, which can lead to aggressiveness and moral blindness. Second, it explores the social dynamics which lead to moral injustice, understood as an unfair distribution of moral burdens. Finally, it shows how moral injustice affects people’s well-being and the quality of our democratic life and should therefore be considered a politically relevant issue.

This article is the runner-up of the Young Researcher Award for the best article on the topic Forms of Injustice sponsored by the Department of Political and Social Studies at the University of Salerno and by the Italian Society for Women in Philosophy (SWIP Italia).