Philosophical Studies 167 (2):341-360 (2014)

Authors
Christopher Freiman
College of William and Mary
Abstract
Positional goods are goods whose relative amount determines their absolute value. Many goods appear to have positional aspects. For example, one’s relative standing in the distribution of education and wealth may determine one’s absolute condition with respect to goods like employment opportunities, self-respect, and social inclusion. Positional goods feature in recent arguments from T.M. Scanlon, Brian Barry, and Harry Brighouse and Adam Swift that assert that we should favor egalitarian distributions of positional goods even if we reject equality as a fundamental principle of distributive justice. With respect to positional goods, worsening the better off is required to better the worse off. Thus, we have reason to “level down” goods such as education and wealth in order to benefit those worse off with respect to the value of those goods. I argue that the allegedly positional aspects of the goods in question are not actually positional. Moreover, leveling down these goods risks self-defeat: it may produce a net decrease in the value of the shares of individuals with less of such goods. If so, leveling down measures would fail on their own terms
Keywords Positional goods  Distributive Justice  Egalitarianism  Prioritarianism
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DOI 10.1007/s11098-013-0099-5
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References found in this work BETA

Political Liberalism.John Rawls - 1993 - Columbia University Press.
The Morality of Freedom.Joseph Raz - 1986 - Oxford University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

Private Education, Positional Goods, and the Arms Race Problem.Daniel Halliday - 2016 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 15 (2):150-169.
Adequacy in Education and Normative School Choice.Adelin Dumitru - 2018 - Studies in Philosophy and Education 37 (2):123-146.
Poverty, Partiality, and the Purchase of Expensive Education.Christopher Freiman - 2017 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 16 (1):25-46.
Positional Goods and Upstream Agency.Daniel Halliday & Keith Hankins - 2020 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 98 (2):279-293.

View all 6 citations / Add more citations

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