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)

Uwe Steinhoff
University of Hong Kong
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.
Keywords anti-egalitarianism  cosmopolitanism  egalitarianism  equality  recognition respect  respect and concern  rhetoric  rights  worth
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 43,865
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Public Reason Can Be Reasonably Rejected.Franz Mang - 2017 - Social Theory and Practice 43 (2):343-367.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Rights-Based Rights.Diana T. Meyers - 1984 - Law and Philosophy 3 (3):407 - 421.
Respect for Everything.David Schmidtz - 2011 - Ethics, Policy and Environment 14 (2):127 - 138.
Equal Respect, Equal Competence and Democratic Legitimacy.Valeria Ottonelli - 2012 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 15 (2):201-218.
Are There Any Global Egalitarian Rights?Alexander Brown - 2008 - Human Rights Review 9 (4):435-464.
Are Toleration and Respect Compatible?Ian Carter - 2013 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 30 (3):195-208.
The Inegalitarian Ethos: Incentives, Respect, and Self-Respect.E. McTernan - 2013 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 12 (1):93-111.
Toward a Demystification of Egalitarianism.Yingying Tang & Lei Zhong - 2013 - Philosophical Forum 44 (2):149-163.


Added to PP index

Total views
81 ( #100,689 of 2,266,100 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
7 ( #182,189 of 2,266,100 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature