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“Equality and Distributive Justice”

  • Norman E. Bowie (a1)


One of the most influential appeals in disputes concerning distributive justice is the appeal to the value of equality. However, the concept of equality is one of the vaguest concepts in social philosophy and philosophical discussions of equality are notorious for their ambiguity. The purpose of this paper is to formulate concisely and then to evaluate the adequacy of four egalitarian formulas and a four-step egalitarian position for achieving distributive justice.



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1 My discussion of E3 will be limited to the equal distribution of commodities to equals. One might take a view of E3 like that I take in my discussion of E4. That is, one could argue that distributions need only be made so that equals are treated equally. Equals need not receive equal shares; they need only be treated equally. With respect to E3, this move raises the question as to what constitutes equal treatment. Since this question in turn raises issues about “just” lotteries and voting procedures, I have not attempted that discussion here.

2 It is the author's opinion that no one formula of distributive justice can resolve all problems, but that perhaps several formulas functioning in a consistent system could.

3 These two principles concerning human rights are borrowed from Gregory Vlastos' interesting article, “Justice and Equality” in Social Justice, Brandt, Richard ed. (Engle-wood Cliffs: Prentice Hall Inc., 1962), pp. 3172.

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  • ISSN: 0031-8191
  • EISSN: 1469-817X
  • URL: /core/journals/philosophy
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