Presentation on Temkin and Hausman-Waldren, May 5, 2009

1. What's morally objectionable about undeserved inequality: It is "comparatively unfair"

A. Table thumping?

B. A primitive intuition

C. Explains particular moral judgments we are inclined to make

      1. John hit by the tree 773
      2. Andrea and Becky and the found money (774)
      3. "Life isn't fair" (775)
      4. Unfair that some are born blind while others can see (780)
      5. Immortality berries: it would then be unfair that the rest of us have to die (781)

2. What's morally objectionable about undeserved inequality: People should get what they deserve.

A. Is this Temkin's view?

B. Is it an egalitarian view?

C. A reconsideration of responsibility within egalitarianism

3. Leveling down

A. What exactly is the objection?

B. The "wide person-affecting principle"

      1. Intuitively: Something can be a wrong only if it wrongs objects of moral concern
      2. Temkin: (1) "Only sentient individuals are the proper objects of moral concern" and (2) "for purposes of evaluating outcomes, individual well-being is all that matters"

4. Equality as instrumental with respect to six egalitarian objectives

  1. Fair distribution of benefits and burdens
  2. Impartiality of social institutions and practices
  3. Self-respect
  4. Equal respect
  5. Fraternity and solidarity
  6. Against subjugation: a society of equals
  • These are different objectives, which might compete
  • Diminishing inequality serves these ends
  • Is this view still a version of egalitarianism? In what sense are these "egalitarian ends"?
  • How, exactly, does equality serve these ends?

6. Distribution and these egalitarian ends


Ends to which they are especially relevant

Crucial resources and basic opportunities

Equal respect, self-respect, non-subjugation

Social status

self respect

Socially provided benefits and burdens

fairness, equal respect

Valued private possessions, including wealth

self respect, solidarity, impartiality, non-subjugation

Political influence

impartiality, equal respect, self-respect, non-subjugation

7. Assessment

  • Does this view reconcile some of the disagreements? (And is that a good thing?
  • Does this view solve or avoid difficulties for other views?