Egalitarianism, numbers and the dreaded conclusion

Ethical Perspectives 19 (3):399-416 (2012)
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Some contractualist egalitarians try to accommodate a concern for numbers by embracing a pluralist strategy. They incorporate the belief that the number of people affected matters for what distribution one ought to bring about by arguing that their primary contractualist concern for justifiability to each may be outweighed by aggregative considerations. The present contribution offers two arguments against such a pluralist strategy. First, I argue that advo- cates of the pluralist strategy are forced to abandon the rationale behind the criterion of universal acceptability. Second, I show that pluralist contractualists will be unable to avoid the dreaded conclusion that originally motivated their contractualism. Ultimately, these arguments matter for the nature of egalitarian- ism. They should give those in search of sound distributive principles a reason to make sense of their egalitarian commitment in a non-contractualist way. If a sound set of distributive principles includes comparative and relational princi- ples, while contractualist egalitarianism does not lend itself to being pluralistically combined with non-individualist principles, telic egalitarianism may after all be part of the truth in distributive ethics.



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Gabriel Wollner
Universität Bayreuth

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