From Choice to Chance? Saving People, Fairness, and Lotteries

Philosophical Review 124 (2):169-206 (2015)
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Many authors in ethics, economics, and political science endorse the Lottery Requirement, that is, the following thesis: where different parties have equal moral claims to one indivisible good, it is morally obligatory to let a fair lottery decide which party is to receive the good. This article defends skepticism about the Lottery Requirement. It distinguishes three broad strategies of defending such a requirement: the surrogate satisfaction account, the procedural account, and the ideal consent account, and argues that none of these strategies succeed. The article then discusses and discharges some remaining grounds for resistance to these skeptical conclusions, as well as the possibility of defending a weaker version of a normative lottery principle. The conclusion is that we have no reason to believe that where equal claims conflict, we are morally required to hold a lottery, as opposed to simply picking one of the parties on more subjective grounds or out of pure whim. In addition to the practical consequences of this skeptical view, the article sketches some theoretical implications for debates about saving the greater number and about axiomatic utilitarianism
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