We critically examine Denis Walsh’s latest attack on the causalist view of fitness. Relying on Judea Pearl’s Sure-Thing Principle and geneticist John Gillespie’s model for fitness, Walsh has argued that the causal interpretation of fitness results in a reductio. We show that his conclusion only follows from misuse of the models, that is, (1) the disregard of the real biological bearing of the population-size parameter in Gillespie’s model and (2) the confusion of the distinction between ordinary probability and Pearl’s causal (...) probability. Properly understood, the models used by Walsh do not threaten the causalist view of fitness. (shrink)
Michael Otsuka sets out to vindicate left-libertarianism, a political Michael Otsuka is Lecturer in Philosophy philosophy which combines stringent rights of control over one’s own at University College London. mind, body, and life with egalitarian rights of ownership of the world. Otsuka reclaims the ideas of John Locke from the libertarian right and shows how his Second Treatise of Government provides the theoretical foundations for a left-libertarianism which is both more libertarian and more egalitarian than the Kantian (...) liberal theories of John Rawls.. (shrink)
Mike Otsukaʼs book aspires to do more than its title discloses. Libertarianism without Inequality (Oxford University Press, 2003) does not merely aim to reconcile liberty and equality (that is handled without remainder in the first chapter) but to draw the outlines of a complete, and distinctly Lockean, political theory. Rather than starting from first principles, Otsuka explores several specific issues only loosely connected to each other, hoping that these might add up to a complete political vision. Though the discussion (...) is clearly tinted in Lockean colours, his conclusions are always provocative and difficult to swallow, even for modern disciples of Locke. Thus he argues for the following theses. (shrink)
In Otsuka ( 1998 ), I endorse an incompatibilist Principle of Avoidable Blame. In this rejoinder to Fischer and Tognazzini ( 2009 ), I defend this principle against their charge that it is vulnerable to Frankfurt-type counterexample.
[Andrew Williams] It is difficult for prioritarians to explain the degree to which justice requires redress for misfortune in a way that avoids imposing unreasonably high costs on more advantaged individuals whilst also economising on intuitionist appeals to judgment. An appeal to hypothetical insurance may be able to solve the problems of cost and judgment more successfully, and can also be defended from critics who claim that resource egalitarianism is best understood to favour the ex post elimination of envy over (...) individual endowments. /// [Michael Otsuka] Inequality is intrinsically bad when and because it is unfair. It follows that the ideal of equality is not necessarily realised by a distribution of resources which is envy-free prior to the resolution of risks against which people have an equal opportunity to insure. Even if the upshot of such an ex ante envyfree distribution is just, it is not necessarily fair. (shrink)
In the Trolley Case (Figure 1), as devised by Philippa Foot and modified by Judith Jarvis Thomson, a runaway trolley (i.e. tram) is headed down a main track and will hit and kill five unless you divert it onto a side track, where it will hit and kill one.
I presented an earlier version of this paper to the Law and Philosophy Discussion Group in Los Angeles, whose members I would like to thank for their comments. In addition, I would also like to thank the following people for reading and providing written or verbal commentary on earlier drafts: Robert Mams, Rogers Albritton, G. A. Cohen, David Copp, Matthew Hanser, Craig Ihara, Brian Lee, Marc Lange, Derk Pereboom, Carol Voeller, and the Editors of Philosophy & Public Affairs. I owe (...) special thanks to Timothy Hall and Seana Shiffnn for their insightful and helpful comments. (shrink)
I assess G. A. Cohen's claim, which is central to his luck egalitarian account of distributive justice, that forcing others to pay for people's expensive indulgence is inegalitarian because it amounts to their exploitation. I argue that the forced subsidy of such indulgence may well be unfair, but any such unfairness fails to ground an egalitarian complaint. I conclude that Cohen's account of distributive justice has a non-egalitarian as well as an egalitarian aspect. Each impulse arises from an underlying commitment (...) to fairness. Cohen's account of distributive justice is therefore one of justice as fairness. (shrink)
Over the past few decades, there has been increasing interest in left-libertarianism, which holds (roughly) that agents fully own themselves and that natural resources (land, minerals, air, etc.) belong to everyone in some egalitarian sense. Left-libertarianism agrees with the more familiar right-libertarianism about self-ownership, but radically disagrees with it about the power to acquire ownership of natural resources. Merely being the first person to claim, discover, or mix labor with an unappropriated natural resource does not—left-libertarianism insists—generate a full private property (...) right in that natural resource. (shrink)
I shall formulate and motivate a left-libertarian theory of justice. Like the more familiar rightlibertarianism, it holds that agents initially fully own themselves. Unlike right-libertarianism, it holds that natural resources belong to everyone in some egalitarian manner. Left-libertarianism is, I claim, a plausible version of liberal egalitarianism because it is suitably sensitive to considerations of liberty, security, and equality.
For insightful comments, we thank G. A. Cohen, Barbara Fried, Leif Wenar, Andrew Williams, Jonathan Wolff, and the Editors of Philosophy & Public Affairs. 1. Barbara Fried, “Left-Libertarianism: A Review Essay,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 32 (2004): 66–92. This is a review of The Origins of Left-Libertarianism: An Anthology of His- torical Writings and Left-Libertarianism and Its Critics: The Contemporary Debate, both edited by Peter Vallentyne and Hillel Steiner (New York: Palgrave Publishers Ltd., 2000).
A critical examination of Parfit's attempt to reconcile Kantian contractualism with consequentialism, which disputes his contention that the contracting parties would lack decisive reasons to choose principles that ground prohibitions against harming of the sort to which non-consequentialists have been attracted. 1.
Below is a slightly revised version of remarks I presented in April at a Political Studies Association Roundtable in Manchester, England, on G. A. Cohen’s book If You’re an Egalitarian, How Come You’re So Rich? (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2000). The roundtable discussants focussed exclusively on the last three chapters of the book. The general theme of the book is the relation between political ideologies and the choices that shape a person’s life. The earlier chapters contain Cohen’s personal and (...) philosophical reflections on the influence of his Communist upbringing and essays on Hegel and Marx. The first two of the last three chapters offer a critique from the left of John Rawls’s justification of income- maximizing behaviour on the part of the talented that gives rise to inequalities that are to the benefit of the least well off. There Cohen argues that ‘egalitarian justice is not only, as Rawlsian liberalism teaches, a matter of rules that define the structure of society, but also a matter of personal attitude and choice’. The last chapter contains a response to the arguments of philosophers such as Thomas Nagel and Ronald Dworkin that wealthy egalitarians do not have extensive obligations to bring about a more egalitarian society through acts of private charity. (shrink)
In "What We Owe to Each Other", T. M. <span class='Hi'>Scanlon</span> argues that one should save the greater number when faced with the choice between saving one life and two or more different lives. It is, <span class='Hi'>Scanlon</span> claims, a virtue of this argument (which is traceable to Frances Kamm) that it does not appeal to the claims of groups of individuals but only to the claims of individuals. I demonstrate that this argument for saving the greater number, indeed, depends, (...) contrary to what <span class='Hi'>Scanlon</span> says, upon an appeal to the claim of a group of individuals to be saved. (shrink)
In a recent review essay of a two volume anthology on left-libertarianism (edited by two of us), Barbara Fried has insightfully laid out most of the core issues that confront left-libertarianism. We are each left-libertarians, and we would like to take this opportunity to address some of the general issues that she raises. We shall focus, as Fried does much of the time, on the question of whether left-libertarianism is a well-defined and distinct alternative to existing forms of liberal egalitarianism. (...) More specifically, we shall address the following fundamental issues raised by Fried (and others): (1) Does the notion self-ownership have any determinate content? (2) What is the relation between self-ownership and world ownership? (3) How is left-libertarianism different from other forms of liberal egalitarianism (e.g., those of Rawls and Dworkin)? (shrink)
I thank the members of the Law and Philosophy Discussion Group in Los Angeles and those who attended a talk sponsored by the philosophy department at New York University, where I presented earlier versions of this paper. I would also like to thank G. A. Cohen, Stephen Munzer, Seana Shiffrin, Peter Vallentyne, Andrew Williams, and the editors of Philosophy & Public Affairs, who read and provided written commentary on earlier drafts.
In 'Why It Matters that Some Are Worse off than Others,' we offer a new critique of the Priority View. In a recent article, Roger Crisp has argued that our critique is flawed. In this reply Crisp, we show that Crisp fails to grapple with, much less defeat, the central claim of our critique. We also show that an example that Crisp offers in support of the Priority View in fact lends support to our critique of that view.
For a prioritarian by contrast to a utilitarian, whether a certain quantity of utility falls within the boundary of one person's life or another's makes the following moral difference: the worse the life of a person who could receive a given benefit, the stronger moral reason we have to confer this benefit on this person. It would seem, therefore, that prioritarianism succeeds, where utilitarianism fails, to ‘take seriously the distinction between persons’. Yet I show that, contrary to these appearances, prioritarianism (...) fails, in ways strikingly parallel to those in which utilitarianism fails, to take this distinction seriously. In so doing, I draw on and develop an earlier critique of prioritarianism by disentangling and pressing two distinct separateness-of-persons objections offered there. One objection is that prioritarianism is insensitive to ‘prudential justifications’. The other is that it is insensitive to the competing claims of different individuals. (shrink)
In The Right to Threaten and the Right to Punish, Warren Quinn justifies punishment on the ground that it can be derived from the rights of persons to protect themselves against crime. Quinn, however, denies that a right of self-protection justifies the punishment of an aggressor solely on the ground that such punishment deters others from harming the victim of that aggression or others. He believes that punishment so justified would constitute a morally objectionable instance of using the punished individual (...) as a means. Contrary to Quinn, I argue that (1) an individual can, on the very ground of a right to self-protection that Quinn ultimately relies upon to justify punishment, justify the punishment of an individual as a means of deterring others from committing crimes; and that (2) an individual or individuals (including state officials) can, on the ground of vindicating the right of protection that others possess, justify the punishment of an individual as a means of deterring others from committing crimes. (shrink)
Cohen endorses the coercive taxation of the talented at a progressive rate for the sake of realizing equality. By contrast, he denies that it is legitimate for the state to engage in the 'Stalinist forcing' of people into one or another line of work in order to bring about a more egalitarian society. He rejects such occupational conscription on grounds of the invasiveness of the gathering and acting upon information regarding people's preferences for different types of work that would be (...) required to implement such a policy. More precisely, Cohen maintains that the presence versus the absence of such intrusion explains why such Stalinist forcing of the talented is unacceptable whereas the progressive taxation of their income is legitimate. I argue that Cohen's appeal to invasiveness does not adequately capture the moral repugnance of the state's conscripting people into work at a given occupation. I propose that a right to self-ownership, and that which explains such a right, provides a better explanation than Cohen's of why Stalinist forcing is objectionable, whereas progressive taxation is not. 1. (shrink)
Suppose that each of the following four conditions obtains: 1. You can save either a greater or a lesser number of innocent people from (equally) serious harm. 2. You can do so at trivial cost to yourself. 3. If you act to save, then the harm you prevent is harm that would not have been prevented if you had done nothing. 4. All other things are equal. A skeptic about saving the greater number rejects the common-sensical claim that you have (...) a duty to save the greater number in such circumstances. (shrink)
Although I am neither a Nazi nor an anti-Semite (quite the contrary, in fact), I like the music of Richard Wagner. Why do I like his music? Mainly because I find it intoxicating. Intoxicate: To cause stupefaction, stimulation, or excitement by or as if by use of a chemical substance.) I admit that this is not a very deep reason. But I’m not very deep. (My years as an analytic philosopher would have drained any depths I may once have had.) (...) Although Mark Twain once described Wagner’s music as ‘better than it sounds’, it actually sounds better than it is, since intoxicating substances deceive our senses. (Think of the love potion in Tristan.) There are, I grant, other more serious reasons to like and to value Wagner’s music. Rather than rehearse any of them, I’m going to turn to an annotated list of some of my favorite recordings. (shrink)
Should egalitarian justice be qualified by an agent-relative prerogative to act on a preference for—and thereby in a manner that gives rise to or preserves a greater than equal share of the goods of life for—oneself, one's family, loved ones, or friends as compared with strangers? Although many would reply that the answer to this question must be ‘yes’, I shall argue here that the case for such a prerogative to depart from equality is much less far-reaching than one might (...) think. I have in mind a prerogative to depart from a specific form of equality: namely, equality of opportunity for such advantages as resources or welfare. I mean to refer to the strong form of equal opportunity elaborated and defended by Richard Arneson and G. A. Cohen whereby, roughly speaking, two people have equal opportunity for advantage if they face the same choices and will end up at the same level of advantage if they make the same choices. (shrink)
Section II of this article originated as a commentary on Véronique Munoz-Dardé’s “The Distribution of Numbers and the Comprehensiveness of Reasons.” (Her piece is now forthcoming in the Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society.) I have delivered subsequent versions of this article at the University of Reading, UCLA, the University of Bristol, the University of Leeds, and the University of Oxford, and thank all who commented on those occasions. I am also grateful to G. A. Cohen, Iwao Hirose, Véronique Munoz-Dardé, (...) Alex Voorhoeve, and the Editors of Philosophy & Public Affairs for their written comments. (shrink)
I propose that liberal egalitarians and libertarians can find common ground in support of an unfamiliar means of forcing well off individuals to come to the assistance of the least well off. Such means would not, as is typically the case, involve the taxation of the income of all well off individuals. Rather, assistance would be provided by the taxation of only those well off individuals who have been properly convicted of performing justifiably (...) criminalized acts that they had no right to commit. In Section I, I argue that many liberal egalitarians will discover that a strong case can be made for the taxation of only the unjust, since such a scheme would mitigate the objectionable nature of the coercion that must be applied in order to provide for the least well off. In Section II, I argue that libertarians who reject standard schemes of redistributive taxation will not also be able to resist the case for taxation of the unjust. In Section III, I defend taxation of the unjust against the objection that it would call for punishment in excess of what justice permits. (shrink)
All left-libertarians believe that natural resources should be governed by an egalitarian principle of distribution. In my own case, this belief gains its support from what I take to be the most defensible interpretation of the Lockean principle of justice in acquisition, according to which one may privatize land and other worldly resources in a state of nature so long as one leaves enough and as good for others. Axel Gosseries is right to press the question of the moral status (...) of worldly resources in a state of nature prior to private acquisition. For Locke, that status was one of common ownership, underwritten by God’s gift of the earth to humankind in common. For Léon Walras, to whom Vincent Bourdeau draws our attention, the earth both initially and inalienably belongs to humanity, and such collective ownership is grounded, not in theistic assumptions, but in the “scientific observation” that human beings are by nature social beings. By contrast, I regard the earth as initially unowned. This supposition should not, however, be understood, as it is by some, as the claim that each is equally free at the outset to privatize any bit of the world as he sees fit as a matter of right. Rather, it should be understood as an initial non-presumption of any rights with respect to the world. Rather than asserting the existence of rights that, as a moral default position, we have with respect to pristine wilderness, I am making a claim that is motivated by the methodological impropriety of presuming any rights with respect to the world at the outset. (shrink)
he primary aim of Dworkin's essay is to defend the claim that there are objective moral (and aesthetic or otherwise evaluative) truths against a variety of "external" skeptical challenges. These challenges are "external" because they "offer to justify their skeptical claims -- that these [evaluative] domains cannot provide objective truth -- from premises that are not themselves evaluative." (p. 88).