In their paper ‘Why It Matters That Some Are Worse Off Than Others: An Argument against the Priority View’, Michael Otsuka and Alex Voorhoeve argue that prioritarianism is mistaken. I argue that their case against prioritarianism has much weaker foundations than it might at first seem. Their key argument is based on the claim that prioritarianism ignores the fact of the ‘separateness of persons’. However, prioritarianism, far from ignoring that fact, is a plausible response to it. It may be that (...) prioritarianism disregards the fact of the ‘unity of the individual’. But even if this is true, that doesn’t straightforwardly tell against prioritarianism as a view about distributive justice. In the end, Otsuka and Voorhoeve’s argument relies on a non-decisive intuition that they appeal to early in their paper. Their conclusion, as a result, is not compelling. (shrink)
I discuss Ingmar Persson’s recent argument that the Levelling Down Objection could be worse for prioritarians than for egalitarians. Persson’s argument depends upon the claim that indifference to changes in the average prioritarian value of benefits implies indifference to changes in the overall prioritarian value of a state of affairs. As I show, however, sensible conceptions of prioritarianism have no such implication. Therefore prioritarians have nothing to fear from the Levelling Down Objection.
Justice makes demands upon us. But these demands, important though they may be, are not the only moral demands that we face. Our lives ought to be responsive to other values too. However, some philosophers have identified an apparent tension between those values and norms, such as justice, that seem to transcend the arena of small-scale interpersonal relations and those that are most at home in precisely that arena. How, then, are we to engage with all of the values and (...) norms that we take to apply to us? In this article, I discuss one way that we might hope to resolve the tension and its relation to John Rawls's `basic structure restriction'. The prospect of resolution is offered by the idea of a `division of moral labour', according to which the pursuit of certain values is assigned to institutions and not to individuals. According to Rawls's basic structure restriction, principles of justice are applicable only to the institutions of the basic structure of society. The possibility of a connection between the division of moral labour and the basic structure restriction readily suggests itself. Taking G.A. Cohen's well-known `incentives' critique of the basic structure restriction as a starting point, I consider five ways in which that restriction might be defended by appeal to the division of moral labour. I conclude that none of these defences succeeds, for none convinces that the conditions in which it makes sense to apply the division of moral labour idea obtain for Rawls's conception of distributive justice. Although the division of moral labour is an attractive proposal, it can do no work in a Rawlsian context. Key Words: Cohen • distributive justice • egalitarian ethos • equality • Rawls. (shrink)
Rawls’s account of international toleration in The Law of Peoples has been the subject of vigorous critiques by critics who believe that he unacceptably dilutes the principles of his Law of Peoples in order to accommodate non-liberal societies. One important component in these critiques takes issue specifically with Rawls’s inclusion of certain non-liberal societies (‘decent peoples’) in the constituency of justification for the Law of Peoples. In Rawls’s defence, I argue that the explanation for the inclusion of decent peoples in (...) the constituency of justification is not, as is standardly assumed, that they are the kind of societies that ought to be tolerated in that way on some prior conception of which kinds of societies ought to be tolerated in that way. The real explanation appeals to a methodological principle underlying Rawls’s approach to political justification, according to which liberals owe justification, as a matter of liberal principle, to those who comply with liberal principles for political institutions that apply to them. If such liberal principles can be complied with by agents who nevertheless cannot accept fully liberal justifications for those principles, then liberalism itself requires liberals to seek justifications which they can accept. This approach gives us a new way to view decent peoples: as just such agents, who are therefore owed a justification for the Law of Peoples that they can accept. Decency is thus a concept that is internal to liberal political justification at the international level. Reading Rawls in this way permits a coherent and attractive defence of his strategy of toleration and of his international theory as a whole. (shrink)
I argue against the strategy recently proposed by Ben Colburn for reconciling two apparently conflicting theses, the “Autonomy Claim” and “Anti-Perfectionism.” The strategy turns on demonstrating that the conception of Anti-Perfectionism that captures the intuitions of most anti-perfectionists is not opposed to state promotion of what Colburn calls “second-order values,” and that autonomy is just such a value. I object that Anti-Perfectionism should be understood as opposed to some second-order values, and that autonomy is just such a value.
This thesis argues for an unorthodox interpretation of John Rawls's egalitarianism as a hybrid of ‘actual contractualism’ and ‘modal contractualism’. It also offers a defence of the theory so understood. According to actual contractualism, a system of political institutions and norms is just only if each person over whom it claims authority actually accepts it in some sense. Actual contractualists stand in contrast with modal contractualists, who take justice to require that no one could reasonably reject the institutions and norms (...) in question. Rawls is standardly read as a modal contractualist, but I argue that his view includes an significant element of actual contractualism. The thesis is divided into three parts. The first part describes actual contractualism and contrasts it with modal contractualism. It goes on to consider the possibility of a hybrid theory, which appeals to modal contractualist reasons to justify an actual contractualist test for justice. I suggest that this is an attractive view. In the second part I go on to argue that a careful understanding of Rawls’s theory view reveals it to be hybrid contractualist. I elaborate Rawls’s strategy of ‘political constructivism’ in the light of this interpretation, and attempt to show that it is very much in the Lockean actual contractualist tradition. The final part of the thesis concerns the justification of specifically Rawls’s egalitarianism. I contend that Rawls’s argument for justice as fairness can be seen as a detailed effort to explain why his egalitarianism is, in the relevant sense, actually accepted by each person, and I argue that as such it succeeds. I then contrast the Rawlsian view with left-libertarianism, another attempt to marry actual contractualism and egalitarianism. I argue that Rawls’s is the more thoroughgoing, unified view, and should be preferred on that basis. (shrink)