SOPhiA 2013

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programm - Vortrag

The Metric of Equality and Utility
(Ethik & Politische Philosophie, Englisch)

In an influential paper dating back over a decade ago, Derek Parfit forced egalitarians, those who concern themselves with the justice of distributional schemes and the equal welfare of individuals, to retreat back to much more limited philosophical conceptions. According to Parfit, those egalitarians who believe that inequality is in itself at least in one way bad must adhere to very dubious philosophical conclusions, such as to agree it is in some way good to lower the welfare of one, more advantaged group, to the previously established level of a worse off group, solely for the purpose of achieving equality. This is the essence of the leveling down objection.

The presentation deals with two egalitarian responses to the leveling down objection, both of which I argue to be unsatisfactory. I offer a third route that allows for certain cases of leveling down, by claiming that the values of equality and utility should be brought into a common metric.

The first response, offered by pluralist egalitarians, denies the objection's actual potency. These theorists claim egalitarianism is committed to more than just one value (mainly, equality and utility). Such reasoning would sometimes allow for leveling down, since just like equality is not the only thing that matters, neither is utility. Simultaneously, this view would allow certain situations to be good in one sense (when one of the values is concerned), while being bad in another.

The other egalitarian response to the leveling down objection is to arrange the principles of utility and equality in a lexical manner. In such frameworks, equality is downgraded to a principle of lesser priority than the principle of utility in considerations of distribution.

I will argue, in this presentation, that both of these views are inadequate, and that we should opt for a third route. The course that I advocate will prompt three main claims: 1.) that equality should not be viewed independently of utility; 2.) that a state of greater equality may be preferred to a state of greater utility in a limited array of cases, and; 3.) that finding a solution to the problem suffers from a lack of a proper metric for the purposes of measuring between the values of equality and utility, or bringing them into commensuration, in egalitarian considerations of distributive justice.

Chair: Stefan Leber
Zeit: 12:15-12:45, 13. September 2013 (Freitag)
Ort: HS 104

Viktor Ivankovic
(Central European University, Budapest, Ungarn)

Viktor Ivankovic (MA phil.). Central European University. 2010 baccalaureate in English Language and Literature and Philosophy; 2012 master in Philosophy, thesis on direct democracy: a defense; 2013 master in Nationalism, thesis on liberal multiculturalism and the principle of partiality.

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