Edited by Theron Pummer (University of St. Andrews)
|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 2007, Holtug 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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David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
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