This introductory chapter sets out some underlying themes that run throughout this book in preparation for the more detailed discussions that follow later. It begins by reflecting on some human tragedies that we have become accustomed to seeing through television. At one level, they are indeed simply tragedies — they involve human beings who are suffering or dying, and who urgently need help. But at another level, they represent the outcome of long and complex chains of causation in which many other human beings are implicated, and where questions about responsibility inevitably arise. Three guidelines are proposed in trying to think about such cases such as these. First, always to see human beings as both patients and agents: needy and vulnerable creatures who cannot survive without the help of others, but at the same time people who can make choices and take responsibility for their lives. Second, to understand the demands of justice as applying to us both as individuals — the personal ethics approach — and as participants in large scale human associations, including states — the institutional approach. Third, to understand global justice in a way that takes account of the large differences between domestic and international contexts, and does not, therefore, merely involve giving a wider scope to familiar principles of social justice.
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