Back to RJ Archive

Surviving Duties and Symbolic Compensation

Meyer, Lukas H
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) In, Lukas H. Meyer, ed., Justice in Time: Responding to Historical Injustice. Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft. Pp. 173-183.

Lukas Meyer begins this essay with the observation that many arguments for current obligations to provide compensation for past injustices invoke an appeal that goes something like this: to counteract the negative consequences of past wrongs, some form of redress should be made now for the well-being of present and future people. Meyer finds this forward-looking interpretation of the significance of past injustices to be incomplete as a statement of why redress should be made in the present for those wrongs. As he puts its, the true moral significance of past injustices lies in the fact that past people were victims of injustices, not in the impact of those wrongs on the well-being of present and future people. The moral question then, Meyer asserts, is what obligations we owe to the dead victims of past public evils. Meyer explores these obligations in terms of moral duties to victims that survive the death of the wronged person and in terms of symbolic compensation to fulfill surviving duties.


Support the cause

We've Been Restoring Justice for More Than 40 Years

Your donation helps Prison Fellowship International repair the harm caused by crime by emphasizing accountability, forgiveness, and making amends for prisoners and those affected by their actions. When victims, offenders, and community members meet to decide how to do that, the results are transformational.

Donate Now