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Equality: Objections and Defences

Political Theory
Social Justice
Analytic
P121
Adina Preda
University of Limerick
Shlomi Segall
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Friday 14:00 - 15:40 (09/09/2016)

Building: Faculty of Arts Floor: 3 Room: FA301

Abstract

Egalitarianism has been subjected to intense scrutiny from a variety of perspectives. In particular, the claim that equality may be valuable in itself has been met with various objections, such as the levelling-down objection and the groundlessness objection. Egalitarianism, however, was also thought to fare better than alternative views in other respects, such as accounting better for the separateness of persons. This panel considers in depth some of the arguments against and in favour of egalitarianism. Thus, one of the papers, entitled ‘Levelling down revisited’ unpacks and examines closely one of the most well known objections to egalitarianism, namely the levelling down objection. The ‘levelling down objection’, as originally advanced by Derek Parfit, was meant to place critical pressure on ‘telic egalitarianism’, which claims that it is itself bad if some people are worse off than others. As Parfit notes, it appears to follow from telic egalitarianism that the badness of inequality will be removed however equality is restored. So, if we can replace an unequal distribution with an equal distribution by levelling down the position of the better off without improving the position of the worse off, then the new distribution qualifies as good. But that is deeply counterintuitive, according to proponents of the levelling down objection. In his paper, Lang revisits this objection and considers its normative force. The second paper, ‘Incas, aliens, and the shifting grounds of equality’ deals with two other objections, namely the scope and the groundlessness objections. The first claims that telic egalitarianism has implausibly wide scope, while the second that it is groundless. In the paper, Preda first examines an existing defence of telic egalitarianism from these two objections, which is found wanting, and then offers alternative responses to them. Finally, ‘The separateness of persons and distributive principles’ deals with a criticism levelled at two rivals of egalitarianism, i.e. utilitarianism and prioritarianism. Both these views have been accused of not respecting ‘the separateness of persons’ (SOP), which egalitarianism allegedly does. However, Segall claims that SOP acts neither as a decisive reason against utilitarianism or prioritarianism nor as one for egalitarianism. In fact, he argues that the SOP is simply irrelevant for adjudicating between equality and its rivals.

Title Details
Levelling down revisited View Paper Details
The Separateness of Persons and Distributive Principles View Paper Details
Aliens, Incas and the Shifting Grounds of Equality View Paper Details