In the epilogue, Fleischacker asks what the point has been of his journey through the history of an idea. His answer, roughly speaking, is this:
- history is interesting
- studying the history of the idea of distributive justice reveals its complexity (so history is an analytical tool)
- the burden of argument in current debates is more easily seen against the historical background (the belief that property rights are absolute is relatively recent, and so needs more justification than it might if it were a timeless truth universally acknowledged)
- greater sympathy for the poor came from imaginative work by people such as Adam Smith and writers of literature. "The importance of imaginative literature here, and the priority of changes in sensibility to changes in belief, suggest an intriguing model for how progress in ethical matters comes about. And that model might lead us to think twice about how helpful the sort of thing that today passes for "applied ethics" really is to the solution of ethical problems." (p. 126)
- moral intuitions are both necessary for moral thinking and largely inherited. We cannot do without them, but they can be harmful, and so we should pay attention to their origins.