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Meeting 19 – Peer Review circle Practical Philosophy
8 November 2017 @ 17:30 - 19:30
We will meet to discuss a draft paper by Huub Brouwer (Tilburg University) and Julien Kloeg (Erasmus University College).
Abstract ‘The Neutrality Dilemma for Luck Egalitarianism’
Should society provide for those who can work and have the opportunity to do so, but choose not to? A common objection to Rawls’s Theory of Justice (1971) is that it requires transfers to the undeserving—to those who are needy because of their indolence and the laziness. Luck egalitarianism, which was first proposed by Ronald Dworkin (1981a, 1981b), accommodates the concern about transfers to the undeserving through responsibility-sensitivity. The theory only requires transfers to the badly off if they are not responsible for their plight. G.A. Cohen would later remark on this that “Dworkin has, in effect, performed for egalitarianism the considerable service of incorporating within it the most powerful idea in the arsenal of the anti-egalitarian right: the idea of choice and responsibility” (1989, p. 933). A common critique of luck egalitarianism is that, in fact, the theory takes too much from the anti-egalitarian right. It is too harsh on those who are responsible for being badly off (cf. Anderson 1999, Scheffler 2003, Wolff 1997). Luck egalitarians have responded by arguing that critics of the theory wrongfully assume that they subscribe to a harsh, contextualist principle of stakes to identify the consequences of peoples’ voluntary choices (Olsaretti 2009, Stemplowska 2009). There are, however, other principles of stakes (such as desert-based or consequentialist ones) that could avoid the harshness charge. We argue that principles of stakes that prevent worries about harshness are not neutral — that is, they rely on theories of value that conflict with the liberal-egalitarian commitment to not privileging certain conceptions of the good. This poses a neutrality dilemma to luck egalitarians: either they remain neutral towards conceptions of the good and have to bite the bullet on the harshness charge, or they avoid the harshness charge and are no longer neutral towards conceptions of the good.
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