On the possibility of nonaggregative priority for the worst off

Social Philosophy and Policy 26 (1):258-285 (2009)
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Abstract

We shall focus on moral theories that are solely concerned with promoting the benefits (e.g., wellbeing) of individuals and explore the possibility of such theories ascribing some priority to benefits to those who are worse off—without this priority being absolute. Utilitarianism (which evaluates alternatives on the basis of total or average benefits) ascribes no priority to the worse off, and leximin (which evaluates alternatives by giving lexical priority to the worst off, and then the second worst off, and so on) ascribes absolute priority to the worse off (i.e., favors even a very small benefit to a worse off person over very large benefits to large numbers of better off people). Neither extreme view, we assume, is plausible.

Author Profiles

Peter Vallentyne
University of Missouri, Columbia
Marc Fleurbaey
Princeton University

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