Reconsidering the Levelling-down Objection against Egalitarianism

Utilitas 13 (1):65 (2001)
The levelling-down objection rejects the egalitarian view that it is intrinsically good to eliminate the inequality of an outcome by lowering the relevant good of those better off to the level of those worse off. Larry Temkin suggests that the position underlying this objection is an exclusionary version of the person-affecting view, in which an outcome can be better or worse only if persons are affected for better or worse. Temkin then defends egalitarianism by rejecting this position. In this essay, I avoid Temkin's conclusion by arguing that the levelling-down objection is best understood as resting on an alternative position, which involves a distinction between those non-person-affecting ideals that posit value as tied to individuals in a particular manner and those that do not. Taken as the basis of the levelling-down objection, this position allows us consistently to reject egalitarianism while accepting many plausible non-person-affecting ideals
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DOI 10.1017/S0953820800002995
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