This study uses techniques from economics to illuminate fundamental questions in ethics, particularly in the foundations of utilitarianism. Topics considered include the nature of teleological ethics, the foundations of decision theory, the value of equality and the moral significance of a person's continuing identity through time.
This paper proposes that the question “What should I believe?” is to be answered in the same way as the question “What should I do?,” a view I call Equal Treatment. After clarifying the relevant sense of “should,” I point out advantages that Equal Treatment has over both simple and subtle evidentialist alternatives, including versions that distinguish what one should believe from what one should get oneself to believe. I then discuss views on which there is a distinctively epistemic sense (...) of should. Next I reply to an objection which alleges that non-evidential considerations cannot serve as reasons for which one believes. I then situate Equal Treatment in a broader theoretical framework, discussing connections to rationality, justification, knowledge, and theoretical vs. practical reasoning. Finally, I show how Equal Treatment has important implications for a wide variety of issues, including the status of religious belief, philosophical skepticism, racial profiling and gender stereotyping, and certain issues in psychology, such as depressive realism and positive illusions. (shrink)
This collection of essays, based on the Locke Lectures that Nagel delivered at Oxford University in 1990, addresses the conflict between the claims of the group and those of the individual. Nagel attempts to clarify the nature of the conflict - one of the most fundamental problems in moral and political theory - and concludes that its reconciliation is the essential task of any legitimate political system.
In recent years there has been a good deal of discussion of equality’s place in the best account of distribution or distributive justice. One central question has been whether egalitarianism should give way to a principle requiring us to give priority to the worse off. In this article, I shall begin by arguing that the grounding of equality is indeed insecure and that the priority principle appears to have certain advantages over egalitarianism. But I shall then claim that (...) the priority principle itself is ungrounded and that the priority principle should itself give way to a sufficiency principle based — indirectly, via the notion of an impartial spectator — on compassion for those who are badly off. (shrink)
This essay seeks to provide a justification for the ‘egalitarian authority claim’, according to which citizens of democratic states have a moral duty to obey (at least some) democratically made laws because they are the outcome of an egalitarian procedure. It begins by considering two prominent arguments that link democratic authority to a concern for equality. Both are ultimately unsuccessful; but their failures are instructive, and help identify the conditions that a plausible defense of the egalitarian authority claim must (...) meet. The first argument (discussed in Section II, after Section I clarifies what authority and democracy are taken to consist in) appeals to the simple idea that fairness disallows granting ourselves special privileges that we deny to others; and it suggests that fairness thus requires obeying democratic decisions rather than acting on our own judgment of the right policy. I show that this argument fails; and its failure indicates that we must invoke a less formal, more substantive understanding of equality to justify democratic authority. The second argument, recently suggested by Thomas Christiano, does just that. Democratic authority is, on this account, not justified by the formal demand for equal treatment but by the distinctive value of showing public equal respect to our fellow citizens. Such public equal respect requires treating as authoritative the democratic decisions in which citizens had an equal say. This argument does not, however, succeed in its goal either. While it plausibly establishes the value of democratic institutions, it does not provide grounds for a duty to obey democratic decisions (Section III). This essay thus develops an alternative argument, according to which egalitarian procedures have authority because, by obeying them, we can avoid acting on certain considerations that must be excluded from our intrinsically valuable egalitarian relationships. The authority of democratic decisions rests on the egalitarian fact that none of us has more of a say than any other, not on the further fact (crucial to the previous argument) that each of us has a positive say (Sections IV and V). The argument in turn helps us understand the limits of democratic authority: it is constrained not only by a demand for equality, and by considerations of justice, but also by a requirement of mutual concern without which our egalitarian relationships lack their distinctive value (Section VI). (shrink)
Valuing -- Morality and reasonable partiality -- Doing and allowing -- The division of moral labour : egalitarian liberalism as moral pluralism -- Is the basic structure basic? -- Cosmopolitanism, justice, and institutions -- What is egalitarianism? -- Choice, circumstance, and the value of equality -- Is terrorism morally distinctive? -- Immigration and the significance of culture -- The normativity of tradition -- The good of toleration.
Egalitarians think that equality in the distribution of goods somehow matters. But what exactly is egalitarianism? This article argues for a characterization based on novel principles essentially involving risk. The characterization is then used to resolve disputed questions about egalitarianism. These include: the way egalitarianism is concerned with patterns, in particular its relationship to strong separability; the relationship between egalitarianism and other distributive views, such as concerns with fairness and with giving priority to the worse off; and the relationship (...) between egalitarianism and evaluative measurement. But egalitarianism is subject to a particularly severe form of the levelling-down objection, and is claimed to be false. (shrink)
In the luck egalitarian literature, one influential formulation of luck egalitarianism does not specify whether equalities that do not reflect people’s equivalent exercises of responsibility are bad with regard to inequality. This equivocation gives rise to two competing versions of luck egalitarianism: asymmetrical and symmetrical luck egalitarianism. According to the former, while inequalities due to luck are unjust, equalities due to luck are not necessarily so. The latter view, by contrast, affirms the undesirability of equalities as well as inequalities insofar (...) as they are due to luck. The symmetrical view, we argue, is by far the more compelling, both by internal luck egalitarian standards and in light of the external rightist emphasis on choice and responsibility to which luck egalitarianism may partly be seen as a response. Our main case for the symmetrical view is that when some people, against a background of equal opportunities, do not exercise their responsibility to the same degree as others, they cannot justifiably call for equalizing measures to be put in place. Indeed, such measures would be positively unfair. The symmetrical view, accordingly, rejects compensation in such cases, whereas the asymmetrical view, implausibly, enjoins it. We also examine two objections to this argument. First, that this view fails to qualify as genuinely egalitarian, instead collapsing the notion of equality into the notion of desert. Second, that the opposing asymmetrical view, in contrast to the symmetrical view, can draw support from its compatibility with sufficientarian concerns. Both objections are rebutted. We conclude that luck egalitarians are best served by endorsing the symmetrical, luck-neutralizing stance. (shrink)
The 'Why ain'cha rich?' argument for one-boxing in Newcomb's problem allegedly vindicates evidential decision theory and undermines causal decision theory. But there is a good response to the argument on behalf of causal decision theory. I develop this response. Then I pose a new problem and use it to give a new 'Why ain'cha rich?' argument. Unlike the old argument, the new argument targets evidential decision theory. And unlike the old argument, the new argument is sound.
Political philosophers have become increasingly interested in questions of justice as applied to health. Much of this literature works from a distributive understanding of justice. In the recent debate, however, ‘relational’ egalitarians have proposed a different way of conceptualising equality, which focuses on the quality of social relations among citizens and/or how social institutions ‘treat’ citizens. This paper explores some implications of a relational approach to health, with particular focus on health care, health inequalities and health policy. While the (...) relational account can add interesting perspectives to current debates on justice and health, we also highlight some tensions and difficulties relational egalitarians might encounter and some discontinuities between the implications of a relational account and current discourse on health equity. (shrink)
The core of this book is a novel theory of distributive justice premised on the fundamental moral equality of persons. In the light of this theory, Rakowski considers three types of problems which urgently require solutions-- the distribution of resources, property rights, and the saving of life--and provides challenging and unconventional answers. Further, he criticizes the economic analysis of law as a normative theory, and develops an alternative account of tort and property law.
Expressive theories of state action seek to identify and assess the ‘meaning’ implicit in state action, such as legislation and public policies. In expressive theories developed by relational egalitarians, state action must ‘express’ equal concern and respect for citizens. However, it is unclear how precisely we can determine and assess the meaning of what states do. This paper considers how an expressive theory could be developed, given the commitments of a relational account of equality, and how such a theory (...) would relate to relational egalitarianism more broadly. I suggest that expressive considerations should be tied more closely than they are in the current literature to agents’ attitudes and to their intentions. I discuss a range of real-world policies that are problematic for what they can be taken to express. (shrink)
Some theorists argue that rather than advocating a principle of educational equality as a component of a theory of justice in education, egalitarians should adopt a principle of educational adequacy. This paper looks at two recent attempts to show that adequacy, not equality, constitutes justice in education. It responds to the criticisms of equality by claiming that they are either unsuccessful or merely show that other values are also important, not that equality is not important. It (...) also argues that a principle of educational adequacy cannot be all there is to justice in education. (shrink)
This book is a defense of political liberalism as a feminist liberalism. A novel and restrictive account of public reason is defended. Then it is argued that political liberalism's core commitments restrict reasonable conceptions of justice to those that secure genuine, substantive equality for women and other marginalized groups.
Humans possess two nonverbal systems capable of representing numbers, both limited in their representational power: the first one represents numbers in an approximate fashion, and the second one conveys information about small numbers only. Conception of exact large numbers has therefore been thought to arise from the manipulation of exact numerical symbols. Here, we focus on two fundamental properties of the exact numbers as prerequisites to the concept of EXACT NUMBERS : the fact that all numbers can be generated by (...) a successor function and the fact that equality between numbers can be defined in an exact fashion. We discuss some recent findings assessing how speakers of Munduruc (an Amazonian language), and young Western children (3-4 years old) understand these fundamental properties of numbers. (shrink)
John Rawls's work has greatly contributed to rehabilitating equality as a basic social value, after decades of utilitarian hegemony,particularly in normative economics, but Rawls also emphasized that full equality of welfare is not an adequate goal either. This thesis was echoed in Dworkin's famous twin papers on equality, and it is now widely accepted that egalitarianism must be selective. The bulk of the debate on ‘Equality of What?’ thus deals with what variables ought to be submitted (...) for selection and how this selection ought to be carried out. (shrink)
Historically, as well as more recently, women's emancipation has been seen in two ways: sometimes as the `right to be equal' and sometimes as the `right to be different'. These views have often overlapped and interacted: in a variety of guises they have played an important role in both the development of ideas about women and feminism, and the works of political thinkers by no means primarily concerned with women's liberation. The chapters of this book deal primarily with the meaning (...) and use of these two concepts in the context of gender relations, but also draw attention to their place in the understanding and analysis of other human relationships. (shrink)
This volume brings together a collection of ten original essays which present new analyses of social and relational equality in philosophy and political theory. The essays analyze the nature of social equality and its relationship with justice and with politics.
Inequality is intrinsically bad when and because it is unfair. It follows that the ideal of equality is not necessarily realised by a distribution of resources which is envy-free prior to the resolution of risks against which people have an equal opportunity to insure. Even if the upshot of such an ex ante envyfree distribution is just, it is not necessarily fair.
Democracy and democratization are now high on the political agenda, but there is growing indifference to the gap between rich and poor. Political equalities matter more than ever, while economic inequality is accepted almost as a fact of life. It is the separation between economic and political that lies at the heart of this book.
Egalitarians have traditionally been suspicious of equality of opportunity, but recently there has been a sea-change in thinking about that concept. Shlomi Segall brings together these developments and offers a new account of 'radical equality of opportunity', which removes all obstacles (to one's opportunity-set) that lie outside one's control.
This paper aims to illuminate some issues in the equality, priority, or what debate. I characterize egalitarianism and prioritarianism, respond to the view that we should care about sufficiency or compassion rather than equality or priority, discuss the levelling down objection, and illustrate the significance of the distinction between prioritarianism and egalitarianism, establishing that the former is no substitute for the latter. In addition, I respond to Bertil Tungodden's views regarding the Slogan, the levelling down objection, the Pareto (...) Principle, leximin, the principle of personal good, strict moderate egalitarianism, the Hammond Equity Condition, the intersection approach, and non-aggregative reasoning. (shrink)
Derek Parfit has argued that (Teleological) Egalitarianism is objectionable by breaking a person-affecting claim to the effect that an outcome cannot be better in any respect - such as that of equality - if it is better for nobody. So, he presents the Priorty View, i.e., the policy of giving priority to benefiting the worse-off, which avoids this objection. But it is here argued, first, that there is another person-affecting claim that this view violates. Secondly, Egalitarianism can be construed (...) as person-affecting in a weaker sense. Thirdly, it is possible to construct a Relational version of the Priority View which incorporates the Egalitarian value of just equality in this sense. Two reasons are given for why this Relational View and Egalitarianism are superior to the Parfitian Absolute Priority View. However, no attempt is made to abjudicate between the first two views, the main point being that they both accept the value of just equality in the same sense. (shrink)
How should we respond to cases of disagreement where two epistemic agents have the same evidence but come to different conclusions? Adam Elga has provided a Bayesian framework for addressing this question. In this paper, I shall highlight two unfortunate consequences of this framework, which Elga does not anticipate. Both problems derive from a failure of commutativity between application of the equal weight view and updating in the light of other evidence.
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. (shrink)
The benefits of full ectogenesis, that is, the gestation of human fetuses outside the maternal womb, for women ground many contemporary authors’ arguments on the ethical desirability of this practice. In this paper, I present and assess two sets of arguments advanced in favour of ectogenesis: arguments stressing ectogenesis’ equality-promoting potential and arguments stressing its freedom-promoting potential. I argue that although successfully grounding a positive case for ectogenesis, these arguments have limitations in terms of their reach and scope. Concerning (...) their limited reach, I contend that ectogenesis will likely benefit a small subset of women and, arguably, not the group who most need to achieve equality and freedom. Concerning their limited scope, I contend that these defences do not pay sufficient attention to the context in which ectogenesis would be developed and that, as a result, they risk leaving the status quo unchanged. After providing examples of these limitations, I move to my proposal concerning the role of ectogenesis in promoting women’s equality and freedom. This proposal builds on Silvia Federici’s, Mariarosa Dalla Costa’s and Selma James’ readings of the international feminist campaign ‘Wages for Housework’. It maintains that the political perspective and provocation that ectogenesis can advance should be considered and defended. (shrink)
The luck egalitarian view famously maintains that inequalities in individuals’ circumstances are unfair or unjust, whereas inequalities traceable to individuals’ own responsible choices are fair or just. On this basis, the distinction between so-called brute luck and option luck has been seen as central to luck egalitarianism. Luck egalitarianism is interpreted, by advocates and opponents alike, as a view that condemns inequalities in brute luck but permits inequalities in option luck. It is also thought to be expressed in terms of (...) the view that no individual ought to be worse off other than because of a fault or choice of his or her own. I argue that these two characterizations of luck egalitarianism are not equivalent and that, properly understood, luck egalitarianism is compatible with widespread, potentially radical, inequalities in brute luck. (shrink)
This book offers a new and compelling account of distributive justice and its relation to choice. Unlike luck egalitarians, who treat unchosen differences in people's circumstances as sources of unjust inequality to be overcome, Sher views such differences as pervasive and unavoidable features of the human situation. Appealing to an original account of what makes us moral equals, he argues that our interest in successfully negotiating life's ever-shifting contingencies is more basic than our interest in achieving any more specific goals. (...) He argues, also, that the state's obligation to promote this interest supports a principled version of the view that what matters about resources, opportunity, and other secondary goods is only that each person have enough. The book opens up a variety of new questions, and offers a distinctive new perspective for scholars of political theory and political philosophy, and for those interested in distributive justice and luck egalitarianism. (shrink)
All conceptions of equal opportunity draw on some distinction between morally justified and unjustified inequalities. We discuss how this distinction varies across a range of philosophical positions. We find that these positions often advance equality of opportunity in tandem with distributive principles based on merit, desert, consequentialist criteria or individuals' responsibility for outcomes. The result of this amalgam of principles is a festering controversy that unnecessarily diminishes the widespread acceptability of opportunity concerns. We therefore propose to restore the conceptual (...) separation of opportunity principles concerning unjustified inequalities from distributive principles concerning justifiable inequalities. On this view, equal opportunity implies that that morally irrelevant factors should engender no differences in individuals' attainment, while remaining silent on inequalities due to morally relevant factors. We examine this idea by introducing the principle of ‘opportunity dominance' and explore in a simple application to what extent this principle may help us arbitrate between opposing distributive principles. We also compare this principle to the selection rules developed by John Roemer and Dirk Van de Gaer. (shrink)
John Rawls's work (1971) has greatly contributed to rehabilitating equality as a basic social value, after decades of utilitarian hegemony,particularly in normative economics, but Rawls also emphasized that full equality of welfare is not an adequate goal either. This thesis was echoed in Dworkin's famous twin papers on equality (Dworkin 1981a,b), and it is now widely accepted that egalitarianism must be selective. The bulk of the debate on ‘Equality of What?’ thus deals with what variables ought (...) to be submitted for selection and how this selection ought to be carried out. (shrink)
Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen’s interesting criticisms of the ideal of equality of opportunity for welfare provide a welcome occasion for rethinking the requirements of egalitarian distributive justice.1 In the essay he criticizes I had proposed that insofar as we think distributive justice requires equality of any sort, we should conceive of distributive equality as equal opportunity provision. Roughly put, my suggestion was that equality of opportunity for welfare obtains among a group of people when all would have the (...) same expected welfare over the course of their lives if each behaved as prudently as it would be reasonable to expect her to behave. My specific proposal was more demanding, holding that when an age cohort reaches the onset of responsible adulthood, they enjoy equal opportunity for welfare when for each of them, the best sequence of choices that it would be reasonable to expect the person to follow would yield the same expected welfare for all, the second-best sequence of choices would also yield the same expected welfare for all, and so on through the array of lifetime choice sequences each faces. (In the jargon of my 1989 essay, equal opportunity for welfare obtains when everyone faces effectively equivalent sets of life options.). (shrink)
Equality, diversity and radical politics -- Value incommensurability -- Empathic imagination and its limits -- Critiquing compassion-based social relations -- Egalitarianism, disability and monistic ideals -- Equality, identity and disability -- Paradox and the limits of reason.
In this paper I present and defend a highly demanding principle of justice in education that has not been seriously discussed thus far. According to the suggested approach, “all the way equality”, justice in education requires nothing short of equal educational outcome between all individual students. This means not merely between equally able children, or between children from different groups and classes, but rather between all children, regardless of social background, race, sex and ability. This approach may seem implausible (...) at first, due to the far-reaching implications it entails, primarily its requirement to deny better-off children their advantage for the sake of equality. However the paper argues that all-the-way-equality, in fact, does a better job realizing the goals of justice in education than alternative conceptions of justice. It is further argued that at least some of the principle’s most radical consequences, those that make it seem counterintuitive, can be mitigated by balancing all-the-way-equality with competing interests. (shrink)
These days almost everyone seems to think it obvious that equality of opportunity is at least part of what constitutes a fair society. At the same time they are so vague about what equality of opportunity actually amounts to that it can begin to look like an empty term, a convenient shorthand for the way jobs should be allocated, whatever that happens to be. Matt Cavanagh offers a highly provocative and original new view, suggesting that the way we (...) think about equality and opportunity should be radically changed. (shrink)
Moral egalitarianism will depend on one of two basic ideas. The first is the idea of equality itself. We might believe that it is a good thing if different people have equal shares of resources, or if their lives score equally well in terms of whatever makes lives valuable, at least if there is no reason based on some other moral value for one person to do better than the other. Equality is a relationship between the lives of (...) different people. This version of egalitarianism claims that the existence of the relationship makes an outcome better. It attributes value to relations between lives rather than to the content of lives. (shrink)
If one is an egalitarian, what should one want to equalize? Opportunities or outcomes? Resources or welfare? These positions are usually conceived to be very different. I argue in this paper that the distinction is misconceived: the only coherent conception of resource equality implies welfare equality, in an appropriately abstract description of the problem. In this section, I motivate the program which the rest of the paper carries out.
In this paper, I present and explore an alternative to a standard prioritarian axiology. Equality-tempered prioritarianism holds that the value of welfare increases should be balanced against the value of equality. However, given that, under prioritarianism, the value of marginal welfare benefits decreases as the welfare of beneficiaries increases, equality-tempered prioritarianism holds that the intrinsic value of equality will be sufficient to alter a prioritarian verdict only in cases in which welfare benefits are granted to the (...) very well-off. I argue that this view, suitably refined, solves a persistent problem for prioritarianism, and is superior to alternatives. (shrink)
The nature of basic equality (what it is that makes us all equals) can have implications not only for the question of the currency of egalitarian justice but also for that of its . The latter question is raised by G. A. Cohen in his critique of John Rawls's theory of justice. In this paper I argue that Rawlsian liberals might provide an answer to Cohen's critique by establishing two distinct kinds of basic equality, thus providing a of (...) basic equality. A first kind of basic equality gains moral relevance in the context of respectful relations between individuals, and establishes egalitarian duties between them. A second kind of basic equality gains moral relevance in the context of respectful relations between the state and individual citizens, and establishes egalitarian duties of the state toward citizens. The strength of Cohen's critique depends, in part, on the fact that Rawls identified only one kind of basic equality while at the same time wishing to defend a dualist account of individual and state duties. (shrink)
Should people who perform equal work receive equal pay? Most would say ‘yes’, at least insofar as this question is understood to be asking whether employers should be permitted to discriminate against employees on the basis of race or sex. But suppose the employees belong to all of the same traditionally protected groups. Is (what I call) nondiscriminatory unequal pay for equal work wrong? Drawing an analogy with price discrimination, I argue that it is not intrinsically wrong, but it can (...) be deceptive, in which case it is wrong. (shrink)
A feminist ethics that bases morality on dependence or vulnerability challenges the moral priority of uniform over disparate treatment. Persons with disabilities resist equality's homogenization of moral personhood. But displacing equality in favor of caring or trust reprises the repression of those already marginalized. The ethics of difference proves an ineffective remedy for the negative consequences attendant on how historically marginalized groups are different. An historicized conception of equality resolves the dilemma.
Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen’s interesting criticisms of the ideal of equality of opportunity for welfare provide a welcome occasion for rethinking the requirements of egalitarian distributive justice.1 In the essay he criticizes I had proposed that insofar as we think distributive justice requires equality of any sort, we should conceive of distributive equality as equal opportunity provision. Roughly put, my suggestion was that equality of opportunity for welfare obtains among a group of people when all would have the (...) same expected welfare over the course of their lives if each behaved as prudently as it would be reasonable to expect her to behave. My specific proposal was more demanding, holding that when an age cohort reaches the onset of responsible adulthood, they enjoy equal opportunity for welfare when for each of them, the best sequence of choices that it would be reasonable to expect the person to follow would yield the same expected welfare for all, the second-best sequence of choices would also yield the same expected welfare for all, and so on through the array of lifetime choice sequences each faces. (shrink)