Philosophia 45 (1):277-297 (2017)

Stephen Kershnar
Fredonia State University
Duncan Purves
University of Florida
This paper introduces a novel approach to evaluating theories of the good. It proposes evaluating these theories on the basis of their compatibility with the most plausible ways of calculating overall intrinsic value of a world. The paper evaluates the plausibility of egalitarianism using this approach, arguing that egalitarianism runs afoul of the more plausible ways of calculating the overall intrinsic value of a world. Egalitarianism conflicts with the general motivation for totalism and critical-level totalism, which is that independent contributions of each individual’s life should be counted separately. It conflicts with the most plausible version of averagism because only the highly implausible simultaneous life-segment version of egalitarianism can make sense of inequality being disvaluable at a time. Egalitarianism combined with a diminishing marginal value theory also fails because it holds that, other things equal, the world is a better place when we reduce inequality by adding many people whose lives go very badly but whose sheer numbers lessen inequality. The discussion moves the debate about egalitarianism forward by circumventing the oft-discussed, but intractable, debate concerning the leveling down objection. It also reveals a promising new approach to critiquing theories of the good.
Keywords Equality  Egalitarianism  Totalism  Averagism  Diminishing Value Function  Utilitarianism  Leveling Down  Derek Parfit  Ted Sider  Thomas Hurka
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DOI 10.1007/s11406-016-9764-1
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