This book argues that moral desert should be excluded as a consideration in normative and applied ethics, as it is likely that no-one ever morally deserves anything for their actions and, if they do, it is in most cases impossible to know what. I also explain how moral deliberation in relation to punishment, distributive justice and personal morality can proceed without appeals to moral desert.
In this paper I offer from a source compatibilist's perspective a critical discussion of "Four Views on Free Will" by John Martin Fischer, Robert Kane, Derk Pereboom, and Manuel Vargas. Sharing Fischer's semi-compatibilist view, I propose modifications to his arguments while resisting his coauthors' objections. I argue against Kane that he should give up the requirement that a free and morally responsible agent be able to do otherwise (in relevant cases). I argue against Pereboom that his famed manipulation argument be (...) resisted by contending that the agents in it are free and responsible. And I also argue against Vargas by challenging the sense in which his revisionist thesis differs from a position like Fischer's and mine. I close by reflecting on the nature of desert. All seem to assume it is central to the debate, but what is it? (shrink)
Theories of moral desert focus only on the personal culpability of the agent to determine the amount of blame and punishment the agent deserves. I defend an alternative account of desert, one that does not focus only facts about offenders and their offenses. In this revised framework, personal culpability can do no more than set upper and lower limits for deserved blame and punishment. For more precise judgments within that spectrum, additional factors must be considered, factors that are (...) independent of the agent and the offense. I refer to this as the ‘partial conception’ of desert because takes facts about victims—their behavior, desires, and attitudes—into account for desert judgments. On my view, then, agents who are equally culpable may deserve different amounts of blame or punishment, depending on these victim-related factors. (shrink)
In contemporary free will theory, a significant number of philosophers are once again taking seriously the possibility that human beings do not have free will, and are therefore not morally responsible for their actions. Free will theorists commonly assume that giving up the belief that human beings are morally responsible implies giving up all our beliefs about desert. But the consequences of giving up the belief that we are morally responsible are not quite this dramatic. Giving up the belief (...) that we are morally responsible undermines many, and perhaps most, of the desert claims we are pretheoretically inclined to accept. But it does not undermine desert claims based on the sheer fact of personhood. Even in the absence of belief in moral responsibility, personhood-based desert claims require us to respect persons and their rights. So personhood-based desert claims can provide a substantial role for desert in free will skeptics' ethical theories. (shrink)
Many philosophers claim that it is always intrinsically good when people get what they deserve and that there is always at least some reason to give people what they deserve. I highlight problems with this view and defend an alternative. I have two aims. First, I want to expose a gap in certain desert-based justifications of punishment. Second, I want to show that those of us who have intuitions at odds with these justifications have an alternative account of (...) class='Hi'>desert at our disposal – one that may lend our intuitions more credibility. (shrink)
Desert plays an important role in most contemporary theories of retributive justice, but an unimportant role in most contemporary theories of distributive justice. Saul Smilansky has recently put forward a defense of this asymmetry. In this study, I argue that it fails. Then, drawing on an argument of Richard Arneson’s, I suggest an alternative consequentialist rationale for the asymmetry. But while this shows that desert cannot be expected to play the same role in distributive justice that it can (...) play in retributive justice, it does not fully vindicate the asymmetry, since desert can still play an important role in the former. (shrink)
The conception of social justice as equality is defended in this paper by examining what may appear to be two inegalitarian conceptions of justice, as distribution according to desert and as distribution according to need. It is argued that claims of just entitlement arise within a context of reciprocal co-operation for mutual benefit. Within such a context there are special cases where it can be said that those who contribute more deserve more, and that those who need more should (...) get more, but those claims themselves presuppose a norm of equal contribution and equal benefit. (shrink)
In this paper, I explore the idea that someone can deserve resentment or other reactive emotions for what she does by attention to three psychological functions of such emotions – appraisal, communication, and sanction – that I argue ground claims of their desert. I argue that attention to these functions helps to elucidate the moral aims of reactive emotions and to distinguish the distinct claims of desert, as opposed to other moral considerations.
Revisionists claim that the retributive intuitions informing our responsibility-attributing practices are unwarranted under determinism, not only because they are false, but because if we are all victims of causal luck , it is unfair to treat one another as if we are deserving of moral and legal sanctions. One (moderate) revisionist strategy recommends a deflationary concept of moral responsibility, and that we justify punishment in consequentialist rather than retributive terms. Another (strong) revisionist strategy recommends that we eliminate all concepts of (...) guilt, blame and punishment, and treat dangerous criminals as we treat people with contagious diseases. I argue against both strong and moderate revisionism that (1) it is not unfair to hold persons desert-entailingly responsible (in a weaker sense of âdesertâ) insofar as they take an interest in being treated as appraisable, and (2) that it is unfair to persons not to treat them as desert-entailingly responsible (in this weaker sense) contrary to their interests in being treated as such. The interest-based argument, I conclude, give us a justification for communicating retributive attitudes, but may still require a weak revision of our retributive practices, in the direction of a communicative theory of punishment. (shrink)
T.M. Scanlon has recently proposed what I term a ‘double attitude’ account of blame, wherein blame is the revision of one’s attitudes in light of another person’s conduct, conduct that we believe reveals that the individual lacks the normative attitudes we judge essential to our relationship with her. Scanlon proposes that this account justifies differences in blame that in turn reflect differences in outcome luck. Here I argue that although the double attitude account can justify blame’s being sensitive to outcome (...) luck, it cannot justify allocating blame differently when agents with the same attitudes differ only with respect to the luck-based outcomes of their actions. However, Scanlon’s own contractualist theory of morality can be invoked to show that the double attitude account is compatible with blame-based sanctions (e.g., compensation mandated when negligence or reckless result in harm) being sensitive to outcome luck. The resultant view of blame and luck remains desert-based while making sense of the common intuition that differences in outcome luck can matter to how lucky and unlucky individuals are justifiably treated. (shrink)
For many, the idea that people should be rewarded in proportion to what they deserve is the very essence of distributive justice. However, while the notion of moral desert is otherwise widely accepted, Rawls rejects it entirely in his A Theory of Justice. Many authors have argued that Rawls’s claims about desert have serious and unappealing consequences for his conception of justice as fairness, and also that they deny the possibility of autonomous choice to the very agents whose (...) decisions are supposed to underlie Rawls’s approach to justice. In this paper, I analyze the arguments of those who believe that Rawls can be interpreted in a way that doesn’t in fact deny either desert or the possibility of autonomous action. I conclude by allowing for the interpretation that Rawls does not necessarily deny autonomous action, but I contend that he nevertheless finds the idea of preinstitutional desert entirely off the mark. (shrink)
There are two broadly competing pictures of moral responsibility. On the view I favor, to be responsible for some action is to be related to it in such a way that licenses attributing certain properties to the agent, properties like blameworthiness and praiseworthiness. Responsibility is attributability. A different view understands being responsible in terms of our practices of holding each other responsible. Responsibility is accountability, which “involves a social setting in which we demand (require) certain conduct from one another and (...) respond adversely to one another’s failures to comply with these demands” (Watson, Philos Top 24:227–248, 1996). My concern here is the relation between moral responsibility and desert. Plausibly, if someone is morally responsible for something wrong then they deserve blame, and it is on the basis of them being morally responsible and its being wrong that they deserve blame. In this paper, I try to make progress toward understanding why it would follow that being morally responsible for something supports a desert claim. I propose to do this by exploring how the “two faces” of responsibility should proceed. An important upshot is that we gain a new currency by which to evaluate extant theories of responsibility that might favor one or the other conception: do they carry plausible desert commitments? To illustrate this benefit, I argue that accountability theory carries implausible implications for deserved praise. (shrink)
Basic desert is central to the dispute between compatibilists and incompatibilists over the four-case manipulation argument. I argue that there are two distinct ways of understanding the desert salient to moral responsibility; moral desert can be understood as a claim about fitting responses to an agent or as a claim about the merit of the agent. Failing to recognize this distinction has contributed to a stalemate between both sides. I suggest that recognizing these distinct approaches to moral (...)desert will help clarify a central source of disagreement between compatibilists and incompatibilists and assist both sides in resolving the current stalemate. (shrink)
Following are two short contributions to the book, _Criminal Law Conversations_: commentaries on Paul Robinson's discussion of "Empirical Desert" and Antony Duff & Sandra Marshal's discussion of the sharing of wrongs.
Michael Otsuka, Alex Voorhoeve and Marc Fleurbaey have challenged the priority view in favour of a theory based on competing claims. The present paper shows how their argument can be used to recast the priority view. All desert claims in distributive justice are comparative. The stronger a party’s claims to a given benefit, the greater is the value of her receiving it. Ceteris paribus, the worse-off have stronger claims on welfare, and benefits to them matter more. This can account (...) for intuitions that at first appear egalitarian, as the analysis of an example of Larry Temkin’s shows. The priority view, properly understood, is desert-adjusted utilitarianism under the assumption that no other claims pertain. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that Michelangelo Antonioni, in his first full-length colour feature, Red Desert (Il Deserto Rosso, 1964), uses cinematic language to explore what contemporary psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva, decades later, has called the crisis of primary narcissism, one of the 'new maladies' afflicting the modern subject, that she describes in Tales of Love (1983). In examining the struggles of subject formation, Antonioni poetically describes the devastating breakdown of both subjectivity and intersubjectivity in conditions of late modernity that (...) Kristeva details through her own psychoanalytic account. Into Antonioni's infamous statement 'Eros is sick', we can read Kristeva's suggestion that Narcissus, our capacity for love and loss, separateness and idealization—the very foundation for our being with others—is in a state of serious affliction. Through the trials of his main protagonist, Giuliana, Antonioni reveals that the acquisition of a distinct, differentiated identity, one that allows the subject to establish and maintain meaningful relationships and ethical bonds, without the risk of psychic disintegration, has become highly problematic—reaching the level of a collective crisis, rather than remaining an issue of individual illness. For Antonioni, psychic survival in the modern world is not merely a question of seamless integration, but a form of (dis)adaptation: the recognition of severance and of separation, both from nature and our own nature, that allows one to affirm her environment and act as an responsive agent in the world, without being overwhelmed or engulfed by otherness, or alterity. In Kristeva's terms, this involves the capacity to bear and, even, to creatively elaborate, the necessity of loss and separation from the primal (m)other—a painful process to which Giuliana eventually submits. (shrink)
A number of articles and empirical studies over the past decade, most by Paul Robinson and co-authors, have suggested a relationship between the extent of the criminal law's reputation for being just in its distribution of criminal liability and punishment in the eyes of the community – its "moral credibility" – and its ability to gain that community's deference and compliance through a variety of mechanisms that enhance its crime-control effectiveness. This has led to proposals to have criminal liability and (...) punishment rules reflect lay intuitions of justice – "empirical desert" – as a means of enhancing the system's moral credibility. In a recent article, Christopher Slobogin and Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein (SBR) report seven sets of studies that they argue undermine these claims of empirical desert and moral credibility and instead support SBR's proposed distributive principle of "individual prevention," a view that focuses on an offender's future dangerousness rather than on his perceived desert. -/- The idea that there is a relationship between the criminal law's reputation for justness and its crime-control effectiveness did not originate with Robinson and his co-authors. Rather, it has been a common theme among a wide range of punishment theory scholars for many decades. A particularly important conclusion of recent Robinson studies, however, is their confirmation that this relationship is a continuous one: even small nudges in moral credibility can produce corresponding changes in the community's deference to the criminal law. This is important because it shows that even piecemeal changes or changes at the margin – as in reforming even one unjust doctrine or procedure – can have real implications for crime-control. SBR's studies, rather than contradicting the crime-control power of empirical desert, in fact confirm it. Further, SBR's studies do not provide support for their proposed "individual prevention" distributive principle, contrary to what they claim. -/- While SBR try to associate their principle with the popular "limiting retributivism" adopted by the American Law Institute in its 2007 amendment of the Model Penal Code, in fact it is, in many respects, just the reverse of that principle. With limiting retributivism, the Model Code's new provision sets desert as dominant, never allowing punishment to conflict with it. SBR would have "punishment" essentially always set according to future dangerousness; it is to be constrained by desert only when the extent of the resulting injustices or failures of justice is so egregious as to significantly delegitimize the government and its law. This ignores the fact that even minor departures from justice may have an important cumulative effect on the system as a whole. What SBR propose – essentially substituting preventive detention for criminal justice – promotes the worst of the failed policies of the 1960s, where detention decisions were made at the back-end by "experts," and conflicts with the trend of the past several decades of encouraging more community involvement in criminal punishment, not less. (shrink)
In recent years, interest in desert-based theories of justice has increased, and this seems to represent a challenge to equality-based theories of justice.[i] The best distribution of outcomeadvantage with respect to desert, after all, need not be the most equal distribution of outcomeadvantage. Some individuals may deserve more than others. Outcome egalitarianism is, however, implausible, and so the conflict of outcome desert with outcome equality is of little significance.[ii] Most contemporary versions of egalitarianism are concerned with neutralizing (...) the differential effects of brute luck and not with equality of outcome. I shall argue that, in order to be plausible, a desert-based theory of justice can and must be compatible with this form of egalitarianism. There is, however, a stronger form of brute luck egalitarianism, which, as I shall explain, is concerned with equalizing the advantages from brute luck—and not merely with neutralizing the differential effects thereof. Under idealized conditions in which agents have perfect information about the outcomes that their choices generate, even this stronger form of egalitarianism, I shall show, is compatible with pure desert theory. Under conditions of incomplete information, however, strong brute luck egalitarianism is incompatible with a pure desert theory that appeals, as I shall explain, to moral, rather than prudential, desert. (shrink)
Our purpose in this paper is to consider a procedural objection to the death penalty. According to this objection, even if the death penalty is deemed, substantively speaking, a morally acceptable punishment for at least some murderers, since only a small proportion of those guilty of aggravated murder are sentenced to death and executed, while the majority of murderers escape capital punishment as a result of arbitrariness and discrimination, capital punishment should be abolished. Our targets in this paper are two (...) recent attempts, by Thomas Hurka and Michael Cholbi respectively, to defend the view that âlevelling downâ (that is, reducing the punishment imposed on a criminal from the punishment he absolutely deserves to a less severe punishment in order to achieve proportionality relative to the criminals who have escaped the punishment they absolutely deserve) is, in the context of capital punishment, morally permissible. We argue that both Hurka and Cholbi fail to show why the arbitrariness and discrimination objection impugns the death penalty. (shrink)
According to what we could call the "liberal" theory of distributive justice, people do not deserve the money they are able to make in the market for contributing to the economy. Yet the standard arguments for that view, which center on the fact that persons have very limited control over the size of their contributions, would also seem to imply that persons cannot deserve admiration, appreciation, esteem, praise and so on for these and other contributions. The control asymmetry is this: (...) the first conclusion of these arguments is acceptable but the second not. This paper is an effort to defend that claim, but without appeal to the notion of control. (shrink)
In this paper, I engage with several of the intriguing theses Michael McKenna puts forward in his Conversation and Responsibility. For example, I examine McKenna’s claim that the fact that an agent is morally responsible for an action and the fact that an agent is appropriately held responsible explain each other. I go on to argue that despite the importance of the ability to hold people responsible, an agent’s being morally responsible for an action is explanatorily fundamental, and in this (...) sense responsibility is response-independent. I then explore some of the specific aspects of McKenna’s conversational theory before turning to his suggestion that the conversational nature of our responsibility practices gives us special kinds of reasons for accepting that agents are deserving of the harms of blame. Finally, I conclude by raising questions for his argument that the scope of blameworthy actions extends beyond that of impermissible actions. (shrink)
In this paper I examine John Rawls’s understanding of desert. Against Samuel Scheffler, I maintain that the reasons underlying Rawls’s rejection of the traditional view of distributive desert in A Theory of Justice also commit him to rejecting the traditional view of retributive desert. Unlike Rawls’s critics, however, I view this commitment in a positive light. I also argue that Rawls’s later work commits him to rejecting retributivism as a public justification for punishment.
Does justice require that individuals get what they deserve? Serena Olsaretti brings together new essays by leading moral and political philosophers examining the relation between desert and justice; they also illuminate the nature of distributive justice, and the relationship between desert and other values, such as equality and responsibility.
Does justice require, at least in part, that people get what they deserve? The question is whether ideals of desert play a substantial and nonderivative role in establishing the content of social justice principles. Of course, even if the correct answer to this question were negative, once one has determined the requirements of justice independently of substantive considerations of desert, one could always add that the treatment of individuals that justice demands is to be identiﬁed with the treatment (...) that they deserve. However, on this way of proceeding, ideals of desert do no real work and could be dropped from the account without any loss. This ﬁrst question resonates with a second one. Should egalitarian justice resist or accommodate the idea that desert considerations should be incorporated into the formulation of principles of justice at the ground ﬂoor level? Are desert and equality comrades marching together or sworn enemies or what? Egalitarian justice here shall be understood as principles that hold that if we are dealing with a ﬁxed population and choosing social arrangements that will not affect the aggregate total of well-being but may affect its distribution across persons, arrangements that would bring about an equal distribution of well-being, if that is obtainable, should be chosen.¹ The class of.. (shrink)
Some writers think that John Rawls rejects desert as a distributive criterion because he thinks that people are not capable of deserving anything. I argue that Rawls does not think this, and that he rejects desert because he thinks that we cannot tell what people deserve. I then offer a criticism of Rawls's rejection of desert based on its correct interpretation.
Why is it that we think today so very differently about distributive and retributive justice? Why is the notion of desert so neglected in our thinking about distributive justice, while it remains fundamental in almost every account of retributive justice? I wish to take up this relatively neglected issue, and put forth two proposals of my own, based upon the way control functions in the two spheres.
Fred Feldman and, more recently, David Schmidtz have challenged the standard view that a person's desert is based strictly on past and present facts about him. I argue that Feldman's attempt to overturn this 'received wisdom' about desert's temporal orientation is unsuccessful, since his examples do not establish that what a person deserves now can be based on what will occur in the future. In addition, his forward-looking account introduces an unnecessary asymmetry regarding desert's temporal orientation in (...) different contexts. Schmidtz advances a promissory account of desert, only part of which presents a strong challenge to the received wisdom. After disambiguating the two main elements of his account, I examine Schmidtz's arguments for forward-looking desert. I find these arguments to be unconvincing because they seem to either rely on past or present facts about people, including people's dispositions, or they give us desert without desert bases. I briefly examine the relationship between desert and merit, and I argue that some dispositions might be desert bases and others might be merit bases. I conclude the paper with a summary of the arguments against desert as a forward-looking concept. (shrink)
We cannot conclude from the assumptions that justice is a virtue and desert is an ingredient in justice that desert claims themselves express a virtue. It could be that desert is morally neutral, or even immoral, and that there are other aspects of justice which make it all-in-all virtuous. We need, in other words, an independent moral justification of desert and desert-based emotions. In this paper I take on the challenge of articulating and defending a (...) utilitarian justification of desert in distributive justice. I argue, first, that while there may be ways of accommodating desert-concerns in liberal theory, this cannot, in the view of liberals themselves, be done without considerable cost to the ideals that are closest to their hearts. By contrast, I suggest that a deceptively simple utilitarian (Millian) defence of desert can be made to work. Finally, I attempt to surmount various possible objections that might be raised against my utilitarian justification and conclude that none of them confutes it. (shrink)
The "Smart" of my title is J. J. C. Smart. He has proposed an austere version of compatibilism.1 The generic doctrine of compatibilism holds that the claim--that all human choices are events in the physical world that are caused either deterministically or indeterministically--is compatible with moral responsibility and desert.2 According to Smart’s version, one is morally responsible for a choice one makes just in case praising or blaming, rewarding or punishing one for making the choice would produce good consequences (...) by altering the future behavior of oneself or others. Compatibilism of this ilk does not include the assertion that free will and the causation of choices are compatible, and indeed Smart repudiates the libertarian idea of free will on the ground that it is logically incoherent and does not consider whether some watered-down notion of free will might make sense. If compatibilism plus determinism equals soft determinism, Smart's doctrine merits the label "hard soft determinism.". (shrink)
This paper is an elaboration of my previous paper published in Philosophy, ‘Making Sense of retributivism,’ which was a criticism of John Rawls' attempt in ‘Two Concepts of Rules’ to develop a rule utilitarian theory of punishment wherein utilitarianism is best construed as a justificatory basis for the institution of punishment and retributivism is best construed as serving as a justificatory basis for particular forms of punishment. I challenge this claim, arguing that retributivism must and can provide a justification both (...) for the institution of punishment and for particular forms of punishment. In the end, I develop an analysis of the nature of desert as responsibility and proportionality. This notion of desert makes the best sense of retributivism. (shrink)
It is better when people get what they deserve. So we need an axiology according to which the intrinsic value of a possible world is a function of both how well-off and how deserving the people in that world are. But how should these ?desert-adjusted? values of possible worlds be calculated? It is easy to come up with some qualitative ideas. But these qualitative ideas leave us with an embarrassment of riches: too many quantitative functions that implement those qualitative (...) ideas. In this paper I will select one of these quantitative functions and defend its superiority. (shrink)
A desert-sensitive moral theory says that whether people get what they deserve, whether they are treated as they deserve to be treated, plays a role in determining what we ought to do. Some popular forms of consequentialism are desert-sensitive. But where do facts about what people deserve come from? If someone deserves a raise, or a kiss, in virtue of what does he deserve those things? One plausible answer is that what someone deserves depends, at least in part, (...) on how well he meets his moral requirements. The wicked deserve to suffer and the decent do not. Shelly Kagan (2006) has argued that this plausible answer is wrong. But his argument for that conclusion does not succeed. I will show how to formulate a desert-sensitive moral theory (and also a desert-sensitive version of consequentialism) on which this answer is correct. (shrink)
This chapter identifies three contrasts between responsibility-sensitive justice and desert-sensitive justice. First, while responsibility may be appraised on prudential or moral grounds, it is argued that desert is necessarily moral. As moral appraisal is much more plausible, responsibility-sensitive justice is only attractive in one of its two formulations. Second, strict responsibility sensitivity does not compensate for all forms of bad brute luck, and forms of responsibility-sensitive justice like luck egalitarianism that provide such compensation do so by appealing to (...) independent moral concerns such as equality. Desert-sensitive justice can deliver the appropriate compensation without relying on external moral resources. Finally, while responsibility-sensitive justice harshly refuses to provide for those whose basic needs are unsatisfied due to their own negligent actions, this result can be averted by desert-sensitive justice as it can take into account responsibility-independent considerations. In sum, desert-sensitive justice appears to offer a tighter fit with considered judgments about justice. (shrink)
Modern political philosophers have been notoriously reluctant to recognize desert in their theories of distributive justice.2 A large measure of the philosophical resistance to desert can be attributed to the fact that much of what people possess ultimately derives from brute luck. If a person’s assets come from brute luck, then she cannot be said truly to deserve those assets. John Rawls suggests that this idea is “one of the fixed points of our considered judgments;”3 Eric Rakowski calls (...) it “uncontroversial;”4 Serena Olsaretti claims that a theory must accept it to be “defensible;”5 Peter Vallentyne, to be “plausible.”6 But there is dissent. Two prominent liberal political philosophers, David Miller and David Schmidtz, have recently denied that brute luck nullifies claims of desert and, in turn, articulated.. (shrink)
It is a commonly held position in the literature on distributive justice that choices individuals make from an equalized background may lead to inequalities of outcome. This raises the question of how to assign consequences to particular types of behaviour. Theories of justice based on the concept of moral responsibility offer considerable guidance as to how society should be structured, but they rarely address the question of what the consequences of making a particular choice should be. To fill this lacuna, (...) these theories must rely on a theory of consequences. I argue that the most plausible theories of consequences are substantive rather than procedural in nature. Such theories of consequences are inherently based on the concept of desert. By evaluating individuals' choices society may determine the appropriate consequences of choices for which they are responsible. (shrink)
Most contemporary political philosophers deny that justice requires giving people what they deserve. According to a familiar anti-desert argument, the influence of genes and environment on people's actions and traits undermines all desert-claims. According to a less familiar – but more plausible – argument, the influence of genes and environment on people's actions and traits undermines some desert-claims (or all desert-claims to an extent). But, it says, we do not know which ones (or to what extent). (...) This article examines this ‘epistemological’ argument against desert. It gives reason to believe that it fails, emphasizing the importance of justice relative to efficiency and attempting to construct a practical way of measuring desert. (shrink)
Desert plays a central role in most contemporary theories of retributive justice, but little or no role in most contemporary theories of distributive justice. This asymmetric treatment of desert is prima facie strange. I consider several popular arguments against the use of desert in distributive justice, and argue that none of them can be used to justify the asymmetry.
Are inequalities of income created by the free market just? In this book Serena Olsaretti examines two main arguments that justify those inequalities: the first claims that they are just because they are deserved, and the second claims that they are just because they are what free individuals are entitled to. Both these arguments purport to show, in different ways, that giving responsible individuals their due requires that free market inequalities in incomes be allowed. Olsaretti argues, however, that neither argument (...) is successful, and shows that when we examine closely the principle of desert and the notions of liberty and choice invoked by defenders of the free market, it appears that a conception of justice that would accommodate these notions, far from supporting free market inequalities, calls for their elimination. Her book will be of interest to a wide range of readers in political philosophy, political theory, and normative economics. (shrink)
Abstract The Kantian moral foundations of Nozickian libertarianism suggest that the claim that self?ownership grounds only negative rights to property should be rejected. The moral foundations of Nozick's libertarianism better support basing property rights on moral desert. It is neither incoherent nor implausible to say that need can be a basis for desert. By implication, the libertarian contention that persons ought to be respected as persons living self?shaping lives is inconsistent with the libertarian refusal to accept that claims (...) of need can sometimes outweigh claims to property. (shrink)
In Smilansky (1996) I proposed an outline of a theory of responsibility and desert, which I claimed both (a) enables us to see responsibility as a condition for desert even in the major apparent counter-examples such as those proposed in Feldman (1995); and (b) represents the ordinary way of seeing the connection between responsibility and desert better than previous formulations. Behind this proposal lies a crucial distinction between two ways in which responsibility can be a condition for (...)desert. From Feldman’s reply (1996) it seems that this crucial distinction was not sufﬁ- ciently brought out in my paper. (shrink)
Total Utilitarianism is the view that an action is right if and only if it maximizes the sum total of people’s well-being. A common objection to Total Utilitarianism is that it is insensitive to matters of distributive justice. For example, for a given amount of well-being, Total Utilitarianism is indifferent between an equal distribution and any unequal distribution, and if there would be a tiny gain in well-being by moving from an equal distribution to an unequal, we have a duty (...) to do so. To meet the objection from justice, Fred Feldman has suggested a desert adjusted version of Total Utilitarianism ---‘Justicism’ --- which in addition to the value of wellbeing takes into account factors concerning people’s desert.1 Feldman’s suggestion is novel and interesting but his theory has been severely criticized as a theory of distributive justice.2 In the present paper, I shall try to salvage what I think might be a kernel of truth in Feldman’s suggestion, or at least a kernel that is worthy of further investigation. (shrink)
Moral desert -- Fault forfeits first -- Desert graphs -- Skylines -- Other shapes -- Placing peaks -- The ratio view -- Similar offense -- Graphing comparative desert -- Variation -- Groups -- Desert taken as a whole -- Reservations.
Fred Feldman has proposed a desert-adjusted version of utilitarianism, , as a plausible population axiology. Among other things, he claims that justicism avoids Derek Parfit's . This paper explains the theory and tries to straighten out some of its ambiguities. Moreover, it is shown that it is not clear whether justicism avoids the repugnant conclusion and that it is has other counter-intuitive implications. It is concluded that justicism is not convincing as a population axiology.
In the first section I briefly consider some stituations in which standard desert-claims would be disputed, with the aim of revealing why and by whom they are asserted or denied. Having attained some understanding of the point of different desert-statements, I propose an accound of their content that entails the thesis that statements of positive desert (deserving something desirable) sharply differ in meaning from statements of negative desert (deserving something undesirable), even when expressed in the same (...) form. In the second section I use this ambiguity thesis to argue against an appealing way of defending Hegel's claim that a wrongdoer has a right to be punished and against Kant's defense of the view that there is a duty to punish those who deserve it. I also show how an understanding of negative desert that recognizes the ambiguity thesis enables us to defend the ordinary view of mercy against Kantian criticisms and to reject the popular misconception that mercy is necessarily at odds with justice. In the third section I use the ambiguity thesis to rebut the common claim (found in Mill and Aristotle, among others) that it is unjust for a person to have or be given mone benefits than she deserves. I conclude by showing how an understanding of positive desert that recognizes the ambiguity thesis leads to a rejection both of certain complaints against traditional systems of private property and also of certain moralistic scruples that might give pause to those who acknowledge the moral duty to assist the needy. (shrink)
A number of contemporary philosophers have pointed out that justice is not primarily an intellectual virtue, grounded in abstract, detached beliefs, but rather an emotional virtue, grounded in certain beliefs and desires that are compelling and deeply embedded in human nature. As a complex emotional virtue, justice seems to encompass, amongst other things, certain desert-based emotions that are developmentally and morally important for an understanding of justice. This article explores the philosophical reasons for the rising interest in desert-based (...) emotions and offers a conceptual overview of some common emotions of this sort having to do with the fortunes of others and of oneself, respectively. The article does not give a definitive answer to the question of whether those emotions really are virtuous, but aims at enriching our understanding of what kind of virtue they might possibly represent. (shrink)
W. D. Ross thinks it is good, other things equal, that people get what they deserve. But he denies that "the principle of punishing the vicious, for the sake of doing so, is that on which the state should proceed in its bestowal of punishments." Ross offers two main arguments for this denial: what I call the "scope argument" and the "state's purpose argument." I argue that both fail. In doing so, I illuminate Ross's distinctive views about desert and (...) the state. (shrink)
If one wishes to give individuals what they deserve, one must find some way of appraising those characteristics that render them deserving. In modern democratic societies, it seems attractive to base this appraisal on an aggregation of the valuations individuals hold of the desert bases under consideration. Some have argued that the market can provide such an appraisal. However, I argue that the market does not provide a satisfactory democratic appraisal that is relevant for desert, as it allows (...) for the existence of net consumer surplus. Nevertheless, I submit that a procedure that does not leave any net consumer surplus would succeed where the market fails. Taking the average valuation of the individuals in society for a given desert base would meet this requirement. Hence, I claim that such a procedure can provide the satisfactory democratic appraisal that the market cannot, and can be used to give individuals what they deserve. (shrink)
Fred Feldman has argued that consequentialists can answer the well-known by replacing the utilitarian axiology with one that makes the value of receiving pleasures and pains depend on how deserved it is. It is shown that this proposal is open to three interpretations: (1) the Fit-idea, which operates with the degree of fit between what recipients get and what they deserve; (2) the Merit-idea, which operates with the magnitude of the recipients' desert or merit; and (3) the Fit-Merit idea (...) which is a combination of (1) and (2). It is argued that none of these ideas will do, among other things because they fail to take into account the fact that justice involves inter-personal comparisons. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that character alone grounds desert. I begin by arguing that desert is grounded by a person’s character, action, or both. In the second section, I defend the claim that character grounds desert. My argument rests on intuitions that other things being equal, it would be intrinsically better for virtuous persons to flourish and vicious persons suffer than vice versa. In the third section, I argue that actions do not ground desert. I (...) give three arguments in support of this claim. First, there is little intuitive support for this supposed ground and to the extent that there is support, it is undermined when we consider what causes character and acts to diverge. Second, this type of desert doesn’t fit with a unifying account of the different aspects of intrinsic value. Third, the most plausible version of act-based desert leaves it unclear why acts should ground desert. (shrink)