Utilitas 28 (3):254-287 (2016)

Steven Daskal
Northern Illinois University
John Harsanyi has offered an argument grounded in Bayesian decision theory that purports to show that John Rawls's original position analysis leads directly to utilitarian conclusions. After explaining why a prominent Rawlsian line of response to Harsanyi's argument fails, I argue that a seemingly innocuous Bayesian rationality assumption, the continuity axiom, is at the heart of a fundamental disagreement between Harsanyi and Rawls. The most natural way for a Rawlsian to respond to Harsanyi's line of analysis, I argue, is to reject continuity. I then argue that this Rawlsian response fails as a defence of the difference principle, and I raise some concerns about whether it makes sense to posit the discontinuities needed to support the other elements of Rawls's view, although I suggest that Rawls may be able to invoke discontinuity to vindicate part of his first principle of justice.
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DOI 10.1017/s0953820815000278
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References found in this work BETA

Alienation, Consequentialism, and the Demands of Morality.Peter Railton - 1984 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 13 (2):134-171.
Morality and the Theory of Rational Behavior.John Harsanyi - 1977 - Social Research: An International Quarterly 44 (4):623-656.
Welfare Inequalities and Rawlsian Axiomatics.Amartya Sen - 1976 - Theory and Decision 7 (4):243-262.

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Citations of this work BETA

The Rawls–Harsanyi Dispute: A Moral Point of View.Michael Moehler - 2018 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 99 (1):82-99.

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