Equality as Comparative Fairness

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The goal of this article is modest. It is simply to help illuminate the nature of egalitarianism. More particularly, I aim to show what certain egalitarians are committed to, and to suggest that equality, as these egalitarians understand it, is an important normative ideal that cannot simply be ignored in moral deliberations. In doing this, I distinguish between equality as universality, equality as impartiality, and equality as comparability, and also between instrumental and non-instrumental egalitarianism. I then characterise the version of egalitarianism with which I am concerned, which I call equality as comparative fairness. I discuss the relations between equality, fairness, luck, and responsibility, and defend egalitarianism against rival views that focus on subsistence, sufficiency, or compassion. I also defend egalitarianism against the Levelling Down and Raising Up Objections, and present several key examples to illustrate egalitarianism's distinct appeal, in contrast to prioritarianism's. I conclude by considering two common questions about my view: first, whether my ultimate concern is really with comparative fairness, rather than equality, so that my view is not, in fact, a substantive, non-instrumental version of egalitarianism, and second, whether my view ultimately reduces to a theory about desert.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-60
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Applied Philosophy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy


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