Teleological egalitarianism vs. the slogan

Utilitas 17 (1):93-116 (2005)
The Slogan holds that one situation cannot be worse (or better) than another unless there is someone for whom it is worse (or better). This principle appears to provide the basis for the levelling-down objection to teleological egalitarianism. Larry Temkin, however, argues that the Slogan is not a plausible moral ideal, since it stands against not just teleological egalitarianism, but also values such as freedom, rights, autonomy, virtue and desert. I argue that the Slogan is a plausible moral principle, one that provides a suitable moral basis for the levelling-down objection to teleological egalitarianism. Contrary to Temkin, freedom, autonomy, virtue, and rights can all be understood in person-affecting terms, while equality of outcome cannot. Moreover, the Slogan is open to a variety of different ideas about how we should weight or rank people's gains and losses. This flexibility allows the Slogan to accommodate ideals such as prioritarianism and desert.
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DOI 10.1017/S0953820804001426
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