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In Defence of the Priority View


In their paper ‘Why It Matters That Some Are Worse Off Than Others: An Argument against the Priority View’, Michael Otsuka and Alex Voorhoeve argue that prioritarianism is mistaken. I argue that their case against prioritarianism has much weaker foundations than it might at first seem. Their key argument is based on the claim that prioritarianism ignores the fact of the ‘separateness of persons’. However, prioritarianism, far from ignoring that fact, is a plausible response to it. It may be that prioritarianism disregards the fact of the ‘unity of the individual’. But even if this is true, that doesn't straightforwardly tell against prioritarianism as a view about distributive justice. In the end, Otsuka and Voorhoeve's argument relies on a non-decisive intuition that they appeal to early in their paper. Their conclusion, as a result, is not compelling.

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Michael Otsuka and Alex Voorhoeve , ‘Why It Matters That Some Are Worse Off Than Others: An Argument against the Priority View’, Philosophy & Public Affairs 37.2 (2009), pp. 171–99

Peter Ubel , ‘Value Measurement in Cost-Utility Analysis: Explaining the Discrepancy between Rating Scale and Person Trade-Off Elicitations’, Health Policy 43 (1998), pp. 3344

Larry Temkin has written extensively on this point. See for example his ‘Egalitarianism Defended’, Ethics 113 (2003), pp. 764–82

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  • ISSN: 0953-8208
  • EISSN: 1741-6183
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