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Topics in Political Philosophy: Luck Egalitarianism & Comparative Fairness

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Nanna K L Kaalund.

According to luck egalitarianism, it is morally objectionable for people to be advantaged or disadvantaged simply because of their good or bad luck; whereas inequalities that people can be said to deserve are not morally objectionable. Luck egalitarianism is committed to the implication that it would be, to at least some extent, morally desirable if those who are better off than others on account of their good luck were made worse off than they are now, even if whatever is taken from the better off isn’t given to the worse off. Critics have taken this implication to count against luck egalitarianism, labelling it ‘the levelling down objection’. So what motivates luck egalitarianism? Temkin, in his paper ‘Egalitarianism Defended’ (2003) has argued that luck based inequalities are morally objectionable because they are comparatively unfair. For Temkin, ‘comparative fairness’ is an independent moral value, and a deviation from this value is pro tanto morally objectionable. I argue that Temkin doesn’t provide convincing grounds for believing that comparative fairness is a moral value. If my argument is successful, and we are unconvinced that comparative fairness is a moral value, the luck egalitarian will need an alternative justification for why luck based inequalities are morally objectionable.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group series.

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