Prioritarianism and Other-Regarding Decision-Making under Risk

Ethical Perspectives 24 (2):199-224 (2017)
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Abstract

In the present contribution I attempt to refute a recent challenge raised by Michael Otsuka against prioritarianism, according to which the priority view is objectionable since it rejects the moral permissibility of choosing in accordance with rational self-interest – understood as maximization of expected utility – in one-person cases involving other-regarding decision-making under risk. I claim that Otsuka’s argument is bound to make an illegitimate move, which is either to assume implausibly that individuals are generally risk-neutral or to assume implausibly that the decision-maker in his cases can have accurate information on the attitudes towards risk held by the individual on behalf of whom the decision is taken. I argue, pace Otsuka, that acting in accordance with rational self-interest in cases characterized by these types of epistemic constraints requires that we adopt a view on other-regarding decision-making that takes into account general empirical facts about human nature and that prioritarianism does not conflict with this latter view.

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Alexandru Volacu
Bucharest Center for Political Theory

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