Against equal respect and concern, equal rights, and egalitarian impartiality

In Do All Persons Have Equal Moral Worth? On "Basic Equality" and Equal Respect and Concern. Oxford University Press. pp. 142-172 (2014)
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I argue that the often-heard claim that all serious present-day political philosophers subscribe to the principle of equal respect and concern or to the doctrine of equal moral status or are in some other fundamental sense egalitarians is wrong. Also wrong is the further claim that the usual methods currently used in political philosophy presuppose basic equality. I further argue that liberal egalitarianism itself is wrong. There is no universal duty “of equal respect and concern” towards every person, for one does not owe one’s nice sister and a serial rapist equal respect and concern. There is also no duty of the state to respect all citizens equally, for a state need not be equally concerned about murderous criminals on the one hand and their innocent victims on the other. The potential maneuver of saving liberal egalitarianism by claiming that people have equal rights is unsuccessful. Human beings clearly do not have equal rights, nor are they born with equal rights; and merely having an equality of some rights, for example of “basic” or human ones, would not suffice for egalitarianism. Appeals to “recognition respect” and related concepts are also to no avail. Trying to go back still a step further and to claim that certain rights inequalities or justified discriminatory rules are themselves “grounded” in equal respect and concern at some deeper, norm-generating level (like, for example, the original position or a discourse-ethical principle of justification) is also futile. Finally, I argue that the “This is not what we mean”-strategy of escaping the above arguments reduces egalitarianism to triviality and empty rhetoric. Liberal egalitarianism should be abandoned.



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Uwe Steinhoff
University of Hong Kong

Citations of this work

Respect.Robin S. Dillon - 2018 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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