Priority and Desert

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16 (5):939-951 (2013)
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Michael Otsuka, Alex Voorhoeve and Marc Fleurbaey have challenged the priority view in favour of a theory based on competing claims. The present paper shows how their argument can be used to recast the priority view. All desert claims in distributive justice are comparative. The stronger a party’s claims to a given benefit, the greater is the value of her receiving it. Ceteris paribus, the worse-off have stronger claims on welfare, and benefits to them matter more. This can account for intuitions that at first appear egalitarian, as the analysis of an example of Larry Temkin’s shows. The priority view, properly understood, is desert-adjusted utilitarianism under the assumption that no other claims pertain

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Matthew Rendall
University of Nottingham


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