About this topic
Summary According to Prioritarianism (or the Priority View), a benefit is more morally valuable or choiceworthy the worse off the recipient of this benefit is.  On the standard interpretation, what matters is how badly off in absolute terms the recipient would be, over the course of her whole life, independently of the benefit in question; but not all versions of Prioritarianism share these features.  Prioritarianism may appear more plausible than Utilitarianism, since unlike Utilitarianism it implies that if our choice were between substantially benefiting a very well off person and benefiting a very badly off person to a slightly lesser degree, we should do the latter, other things being equal.  Prioritarianism may also appear more plausible than Egalitarianism, since unlike Egalitarianism it seems to avoid the Levelling-Down Objection.  While many are attracted to Prioritarianism for these reasons, both of these purported advantages of the view have been contested, and indeed Prioritarianism faces a host of independent objections.
Key works Parfit's 1991 Lindley Lecture provides an early philosophical exploration of Prioritarianism, and among other things claims that it avoids the Levelling-Down Objection.  Crisp 2003 offers cases suggesting that Prioritarian concern should not apply to those who are sufficiently well off.  Temkin defends Egalitarianism against the Levelling-Down Objection and responds to Crisp in Temkin 2003, to which Crisp replies.  Broome 1991 and Otsuka & Voorhoeve 2009 have argued against Prioritarianism, claiming that it conflicts with plausible views about the value or choiceworthiness of uncertain prospects.  Rabinowicz 2002 responds to Broome, and the September 2012 issue of the journal Utilitas contains several important articles discussing Prioritarianism in light of the argument given by Otsuka and Voorhoeve.  Finally, Brown 2007Holtug 2010, and Adler 2011 have looked at some of the complications and potential challenges that arise for Prioritarianism in the context of population ethics, that is, whether and how to extend the view to cases involving variable populations.
Introductions Parfit 1991 usefully introduces Prioritarianism (the Priority View) in the context of earlier views and debates in distributive justice, or the ethics of distribution.  Holtug 2007 provides a sympathetic introduction, addressing several key objections to Prioritarianism. 
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  1. added 2019-01-22
    Prioritarianism Without Consequentialism.Yingying Tang & Lei Zhong - 2018 - Kriterion: Revista de Filosofia 59 (141):943-956.
    ABSTRACT According to prioritarianism, an influential theory of distributive justice, we have a stronger reason to benefit people the worse off these people are. Many authors have adopted a consequentialist version of prioritarianism. On this account, we have a consequentialist reason to benefit the worse off because the state of affairs where the worse off gains a given amount of utility is more valuable than the state of affairs where the better off gains roughly the same amount of utility. In (...)
  2. added 2019-01-10
    Just Enough: Sufficiency as a Demand of Justice.Liam Shields - 2016 - Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press.
    Liam Shields systematically clarifies and defends the political philosophy of Sufficientarianism, which insists that securing enough of some things, such as food, healthcare and education, is a crucial demand of justice. By engaging in practical debates about critical issues such as child-rearing and global justice, the author sheds light on the potential implications of suffientarianism on the social policies that affect our daily lives.
  3. added 2018-04-30
    ANTICORRUPTION NATIONAL SYSTEM: Model Whistleblowers Direct Citizen Action Against Corruption in Mexico.Carlos Medel-Ramírez - 2018 - Social Science Research Network:1-12.
    The phenomenon of corruption is a cancer that affects our country and that it is necessary to eradicate; This dilutes the opportunities for economic and social development, privileging the single conjunction of particular interests, political actors in non-legal agreements for their own benefit, which lead to acts of corruption. Recent studies indicate that the level of corruption present in a political system is directly related to the type of institutional structure that defines it (Boehm and Lambsdorff, 2009), as well as (...)
  4. added 2017-10-02
    The Case for Resource Sensitivity: Why It Is Ethical to Provide Cheaper, Less Effective Treatments in Global Health.Govind C. Persad & Ezekiel J. Emanuel - 2017 - Hastings Center Report 47 (5):17-24.
    We consider an ethical dilemma in global health: is it ethically acceptable to provide some patients cheaper treatments that are less effective or more toxic than the treatments other patients receive? We argue that it is ethical to consider local resource constraints when deciding what interventions to provide. The provision of cheaper, less effective health care is frequently the most effective way of promoting health and realizing the ethical values of utility, equality, and priority to the worst off.
  5. added 2017-04-12
    Taking Risks Behind the Veil of Ignorance.Buchak Lara - 2017 - Ethics 127 (3):610-644.
    A natural view in distributive ethics is that everyone's interests matter, but the interests of the relatively worse off matter more than the interests of the relatively better off. I provide a new argument for this view. The argument takes as its starting point the proposal, due to Harsanyi and Rawls, that facts about distributive ethics are discerned from individual preferences in the "original position." I draw on recent work in decision theory, along with an intuitive principle about risk-taking, to (...)
  6. added 2017-03-11
    Dilemmas in Access to Medicines: A Humanitarian Perspective – Authors' Reply.Ezekiel J. Emanuel & Govind Persad - 2017 - Lancet 387 (10073):1008-1009.
    Our Viewpoint argues that expanding access to less effective or more toxic treatments is supported not only by utilitarian ethical reasoning but also by two other ethical frameworks: those that emphasise equality and those that emphasise giving priority to the patients who are worst off. The inadequate resources available for global health reflect not only natural constraints but also unwise social and political choices. However, pitting efforts to reduce inequality and better fund global health against efforts to put available resources (...)
  7. added 2017-03-11
    Why Inequality Matters: Luck Egalitarianism, its Meaning and Value. [REVIEW]Alex Voorhoeve - 2017 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 3.
    I review Shlomi Segall's book 'Why Inequality Matters'. I argue that it conclusively establishes that alongside egalitarians, prioritarians and sufficientarians must sometimes regard a prospect as better (in at least one respect) when it is not better (in terms of well-being) for anyone. Sufficientarians and prioritarians must therefore relinquish a treasured anti-egalitarian argument. It also makes a powerful case that among these three views, egalitarians are in the best position to explain such departures from what is in each person’s prudential (...)
  8. added 2017-03-02
    Priority, Not Equality, for Possible People.Jacob M. Nebel - 2017 - Ethics 127 (4):896-911.
    How should we choose between uncertain prospects in which different possible people might exist at different levels of wellbeing? Alex Voorhoeve and Marc Fleurbaey offer an egalitarian answer to this question. I give some reasons to reject their answer and then sketch an alternative, which I call person-affecting prioritarianism.
  9. added 2017-01-19
    The Priority of Right and Ideas of the Good.John Rawls - 1988 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 17 (4):251-276.
  10. added 2017-01-17
    Poverty, Partiality, and the Purchase of Expensive Education.Christopher Freiman - 2017 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 16 (1):25-46.
    Prioritarianism doesn’t value equality as such – any reason to equalize is due to the benefits for the worse off. But some argue that prioritarianism and egalitarianism coincide in their implications for the distribution of education: Equalizing educational opportunities improves the socioeconomic opportunities of the worse off. More specifically, a system that prohibits parents from making differential private educational expenditures would result in greater gains to the worse off than a system that permits these expenditures, all else equal. This article (...)
  11. added 2017-01-16
    Facing Difficult Decisions: When to Give Priority and Why.Ewan Rodgers - unknown
    Some people believe that when facing difficult decisions we should give priority to those who are worst-off. In ‘Prioritarianism and the Measure of Utility’, Michael Otsuka argues that this is only true in some situations.
  12. added 2017-01-15
    Well-Being Thresholds and Moral Priority.Matthew D. Adler - 2015 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 12 (6):773-786.
  13. added 2016-12-27
    Restricted Prioritarianism or Competing Claims?Benjamin Lange - 2017 - Utilitas 29 (2):137-152.
    I here settle a recent dispute between two rival theories in distributive ethics: Restricted Prioritarianism and the Competing Claims View. Both views mandate that the distribution of benefits and burdens between individuals should be justifiable to each affected party in a way that depends on the strength of each individual’s separately assessed claim to receive a benefit. However, they disagree about what elements constitute the strength of those individuals’ claims. According to restricted prioritarianism, the strength of a claim is determined (...)
  14. added 2016-12-12
    Why Levelling Down Could Be Worse for Prioritarianism Than for Egalitarianism.Ingmar Persson - 2008 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 11 (3):295-303.
    Derek Parfit has argued that, in contrast to prioritarianism, egalitarianism is exposed to the levelling down objection, i.e., the objection that it is absurd that a change which consists merely in the betteroff losing some of their well-being should be in one way for the better. In reply, this paper contends that there is a plausible form of egalitarianism which is equivalent to another form of prioritarianism than the Parfitian one, a relational rather than an absolute form of prioritarianism, and (...)
  15. added 2016-12-08
    On the Very Idea of Genetic Justice.Michele Loi - 2012 - Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 21 (1):64-77.
  16. added 2016-12-08
    Licensing Parents: Family, State, and Child Maltreatment.Michael McFall & Laurence Thomas - 2009 - Lexington Books.
    This book examines the negative power that child maltreatment has on individuals and society ethically and politically, while analyzing the positive power that parental love and healthy families have. To address how best to confront the problem of child maltreatment, it examines several policy options, ultimately defending a policy of licensing parents, while carefully examining the tension between child and adult rights and duties.
  17. added 2016-12-08
    Prioritarianism for Variable Populations.Campbell Brown - 2007 - Philosophical Studies 134 (3):325-361.
    Philosophical discussions of prioritarianism, the view that we ought to give priority to those who are worse off, have hitherto been almost exclusively focused on cases involving a fixed population. The aim of this paper is to extend the discussion of prioritarianism to encompass also variable populations. I argue that prioritarianism, in its simplest formulation, is not tenable in this area. However, I also propose several revised formulations that, so I argue, show more promise.
  18. added 2016-12-08
    Intertemporal Distributive Judgement.Iwao Hirose - 2005 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 8 (4):371-386.
    This paper considers the simple two-person two-period case of distributive judgement, and argues (a) that sensible intertemporal distributive principle should consider both the distribution of people's life time well-being and the distribution of people's well-being at each period and (b) that, if (a) is correct, Egalitarianism is more acceptable than Prioritarianism since the latter must choose either one.
  19. added 2016-10-26
    Justice, Claims and Prioritarianism: Room for Desert?Matthew Adler - manuscript
    Does individual desert matter for distributive justice? Is it relevant, for purposes of justice, that the pattern of distribution of justice’s “currency” (be it well-being, resources, preference-satisfaction, capabilities, or something else) is aligned in one or another way with the pattern of individual desert? -/- This paper examines the nexus between desert and distributive justice through the lens of individual claims. The concept of claims (specifically “claims across outcomes”) is a fruitful way to flesh out the content of distributive justice (...)
  20. added 2016-09-30
    Fair Innings and Time-Relative Claims.Ben Davies - 2016 - Bioethics 30 (6):462-468.
    Greg Bognar has recently offered a prioritarian justification for ‘fair innings’ distributive principles that would ration access to healthcare on the basis of patients' age. In this article, I agree that Bognar's principle is among the strongest arguments for age-based rationing. However, I argue that this position is incomplete because of the possibility of ‘time-relative' egalitarian principles that could complement the kind of lifetime egalitarianism that Bognar adopts. After outlining Bognar's position, and explaining the attraction of time-relative egalitarianism, I suggest (...)
  21. added 2016-09-21
    The Priority View.David McCarthy - 2017 - Economics and Philosophy 33 (2):215–57.
    According to the priority view, or prioritarianism, it matters more to benefit people the worse off they are. But how exactly should the priority view be defined? This article argues for a highly general characterization which essentially involves risk, but makes no use of evaluative measurements or the expected utility axioms. A representation theorem is provided, and when further assumptions are added, common accounts of the priority view are recovered. A defense of the key idea behind the priority view, the (...)
  22. added 2016-08-24
    A Silenced Cry: Should Stillbirth Be Given Greater Priority on the Global Health Agenda?Z. U. Qureshi - 2015 - British Medical Journal 351 (h4620).
  23. added 2016-04-20
    Impartiality, Priority, and Justice: The Veil of Ignorance Reconsidered.Michael Moehler - 2016 - Journal of Social Philosophy 47 (3):350-367.
    In this article, I defend the veil of ignorance against the objection that the device is inadequate for deriving demands of justice, because the veil of ignorance purportedly enforces a stronger form of impartiality than Kant’s categorical imperative and, primarily as a consequence, it generally leads to non-prioritarian conclusions. I show that the moral ideal of impartiality that is expressed by the veil of ignorance is not essentially different from Kant’s notion of impartiality and that it does not generally lead (...)
  24. added 2015-11-02
    Priority or Equality for Possible People?Alex Voorhoeve & Marc Fleurbaey - 2016 - Ethics 126 (4):929-954.
    Suppose that you must make choices that may influence the well-being and the identities of the people who will exist, though not the number of people who will exist. How ought you to choose? This paper answers this question. It argues that the currency of distributive ethics in such cases is a combination of an individual’s final well-being and her expected well-being conditional on her existence. It also argues that this currency should be distributed in an egalitarian, rather than a (...)
  25. added 2015-10-05
    Principles for Allocation of Scarce Medical Interventions.Govind Persad, Alan Wertheimer & Ezekiel J. Emanuel - 2009 - The Lancet 373 (9661):423--431.
    Allocation of very scarce medical interventions such as organs and vaccines is a persistent ethical challenge. We evaluate eight simple allocation principles that can be classified into four categories: treating people equally, favouring the worst-off, maximising total benefits, and promoting and rewarding social usefulness. No single principle is sufficient to incorporate all morally relevant considerations and therefore individual principles must be combined into multiprinciple allocation systems. We evaluate three systems: the United Network for Organ Sharing points systems, quality-adjusted life-years, and (...)
  26. added 2015-04-06
    8. Equality or Priority in Health?Shlomi Segall - 2009 - In Health, Luck, and Justice. Princeton University Press. pp. 111-120.
  27. added 2015-04-06
    Logically Necessary A Posteriori Propositions.Virgil C. Aldrich - 1969 - Analysis 29 (4):140 - 142.
  28. added 2015-03-24
    In Defense of Priority.S. Segall - 2015 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 14 (4):343-364.
    In a recent article, Michael Otsuka and Alex Voorhoeve argue that prioritarianism fails to account for the shift in moral significance in gains to individuals in interpersonal as compared to intrapersonal cases. In this article, I show that the priority view escapes this objection but in a way that deprives it of its anti-egalitarian stance. Despite Otsuka and Voorhoeve, prioritarianism, rightly understood, provides consistent and attractive recommendations in both single- and multi-person cases. Yet prioritarians, the article goes on to show, (...)
  29. added 2015-03-24
    Prioritarianism.Michael Weber - 2014 - Philosophy Compass 9 (11):756-768.
    Prioritarianism can usefully be seen as a corrective to both egalitarianism and utilitarianism. It allegedly corrects for egalitarianism insofar as it tends toward equality but seems immune to the Leveling Down Objection. It allegedly corrects for utilitarianism insofar as it emphasizes improving peoples' lives but is distribution-sensitive, favoring benefiting those who are worse off over those who are better off, other things equal. The best way to understand the view and assess its prospects is to see whether on closer examination (...)
  30. added 2015-03-21
    Igualitarismo, igualación a la baja, antropocentrismo y valor de la vida.Oscar Horta - 2010 - Revista de Filosofía (Madrid) 35 (1):133-152.
    Axiological egalitarianism claims that an outcome improves at least in some respect if the value it contains is more evenly distributed. In this paper I defend this form of egalitarianism and identify some of its corollaries. First, I consider and reject the levelling down objection. I then point out that egalitarianism casts doubt on the traditional view of the value of life in terms of maximization. Further, I argue that this theory also questions anthropocentric conceptions of value.
  31. added 2015-03-19
    Parfit's Leveling Down Argument Against Egalitarianism.Ben Saunders - 2011 - In Michael Bruce & Steven Barbone (eds.), Just the Arguments: 100 of the Most Important Arguments in Western Philosophy. Wiley-Blackwell.
  32. added 2015-03-18
    Levelling Down.Jonathan Wolff - unknown
  33. added 2015-03-18
    Causal Priority and Temporal Priority.A. Grant McCrea - unknown
  34. added 2015-03-18
    The Priority of Causes.D. F. Pears - 1956 - Analysis 17 (3):54 - 63.
  35. added 2015-03-17
    The Doctrine of Sufficiency: A Defence.Yitzhak Benbaji - 2005 - Utilitas 17 (3):310-332.
    This article proposes an analysis of the doctrine of sufficiency. According to my reading, the doctrine's basic positive claim is ‘prioritarian’: benefiting x is of special moral importance where (and only where) x is badly off. Its negative claim is anti-egalitarian: most comparative facts expressed by statements of the type ‘x is worse off than y’ have no moral significance at all. This contradicts the ‘classical’ priority view according to which, although equality per se does not matter, whenever x is (...)
  36. added 2015-03-17
    Egalitarianism and the Levelling Down Objection.Andrew Mason - 2001 - Analysis 61 (3):246–254.
    In an important piece of work Derek Parfit distinguishes two different forms of egalitarianism, ‘Deontic’ and ‘Telic’. He contrasts these with what he calls the Priority View, which is not strictly a form of egalitarianism at all, since it is not essentially concerned with how well off people are relative to each other. His main aim is to generate an adequate taxonomy of the positions available, but in the process he draws attention to some of the different problems they face. (...)
  37. added 2015-03-17
    Egalitarianism and the Levelling Down Objection.Nils Holtug - 1998 - Analysis 58 (2):166–174.
  38. added 2015-03-17
    Expensive Preferences and the Priority of Right: A Critique of Welfare-Egalitarianism.Walter E. Schaller - 1997 - Journal of Political Philosophy 5 (3):254–273.
  39. added 2015-03-17
    The Priority of Needs.Robert E. Goodin - 1985 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 45 (4):615-625.
  40. added 2015-03-17
    Priority and Progress.Smith Ely Jelliffe - 1917 - Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods 14 (15):393-400.
  41. added 2015-03-17
    The Priority of Inner Experience.Warner Fite - 1895 - Philosophical Review 4 (2):129-142.
  42. added 2015-02-03
    Equality Versus Priority.Michael Otsuka & Alex Voorhoeve - 2018 - In Serena Olsaretti (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Distributive Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 65-85.
    We discuss two leading theories of distributive justice: egalitarianism and prioritarianism. We argue that while each has particular merits and shortcomings, egalitarian views more fully satisfy a key requirement of distributive justice: respect for both the unity of the individual and the separateness of persons.
  43. added 2015-02-03
    Introduction to the Symposium on Equality Versus Priority.Alex Voorhoeve - 2015 - Economics and Philosophy 31 (2):201-202.
    This paper introduces a symposium on Equality versus Priority. It explains how cases involving risk are key to distinguishing these views and discusses a 'social egalitarian' critique of both 'telic egalitarians' and 'telic prioritarians'.
  44. added 2014-11-28
    Response to Our Critics.Alex Voorhoeve, Trygve Ottersen & Ole Frithjof Norheim - 2016 - Health Economics, Policy and Law 11 (1):103-111.
    We reply to critics of the World Health Organisation's Report "Making Fair Choices on the Path to Universal Health Coverage". We clarify and defend the report's key moral commitments. We also explain its role in guiding policy in the face of both financial and political constraints on making fair choices.
  45. added 2014-10-28
    Concerns for the Poorly Off in Ordering Risky Prospects.Luc Bovens - 2015 - Economics and Philosophy 31 (3):397-429.
    The Distribution View provides a model that integrates four distributional concerns in the evaluation of risky prospects. Starting from these concerns, we can generate an ordering over a set of risky prospects, or, starting from an ordering, we can extract a characterization of the underlying distributional concerns. Separability of States and/or Persons for multiple-person risky prospects, for single-person risky prospects and for multiple-person certain prospects are discussed within the model. The Distribution View sheds light on public health policies and provides (...)
  46. added 2014-10-28
    Evaluating Risky Prospects: The Distribution View.Luc Bovens - 2015 - Analysis 75 (2):243-253.
    Risky prospects represent policies that impose different types of risks on multiple people. I present an example from food safety. A utilitarian following Harsanyi's Aggregation Theorem ranks such prospects according to their mean expected utility or the expectation of the social utility. Such a ranking is not sensitive to any of four types of distributional concerns. I develop a model that lets the policy analyst rank prospects relative to the distributional concerns that she considers fitting in the context at hand. (...)
  47. added 2014-08-22
    The Priority Monster.Theron Pummer - manuscript
    The Priority View implies that we sometimes have nontrivially stronger reason to benefit a person, the worse off in absolute terms this person would be if she did not receive the benefit in question. This view seems plausible. Nonetheless I will argue that it is inconsistent with the conjunction of a number of independently intuitively plausible claims. One such claim is that we should spare a very badly off person from many years of intense pain rather than spare someone else (...)
  48. added 2014-08-22
    Equality Versus Priority: How Relevant is the Distinction?Marc Fleurbaey - 2015 - Economics and Philosophy 31 (2):203-217.
  49. added 2014-08-22
    Antiprioritarianism.Hilary Greaves - 2015 - Utilitas 27 (1):1-42.
    Prioritarianism is supposed to be a theory of the overall good that captures the common intuition of . But it is difficult to give precise content to the prioritarian claim. Over the past few decades, prioritarians have increasingly responded to this by formulating prioritarianism not in terms of an alleged primitive notion of quantity of well-being, but instead in terms of von NeumannPrimitivistTechnicalpriority to the worse offMorgenstern utility is a retrograde step.
  50. added 2014-08-22
    Sufficiency and Population Ethics.Robert Huseby - 2012 - Ethical Perspectives 19 (2):187-206.
    Climate change highlights the relevance of population ethics. Should we attempt to maximize the combined welfare of future people? Many versions of Utilitarianism hold that we should. However, most Utilitarian theories have quite unpleasant implications when applied to all future generations.In this article, I consider the prospects for a Telic Sufficientarian theory of welfare . According to this theory, shortfalls from a sufficient level of welfare are morally bad, and this is all that matters as far as welfare is concerned (...)
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