April 28, 2009  Presentation on Parfit and Frankfurt: prioritarianism and sufficientarianism

I. Telic vs. deontic egalitarianism

            A.  Content, comparison

            B.  Justification – what should we think about the divided world?

                                    W1                               W2

                                    100                              200     versus

                                    140                              140

            C.  Classification of the authors we've studied

II.  The priority view  (Question 1)

            A.  What does it say?

                        1.  Relevance of comparisons of well-being

                        2.  Whole lives vs. time slices or needs

                        3.  Analogy to diminishing marginal utility of income or wealth

            B.  What's the difference between prioritarianism and egalitarianism?

                        1.  Strong versus moderate egalitarians:  W = W1 + W2 – a|W1 – W2|

            C.  Why prefer prioritarianism to egalitarianism or vice versa?

                        1.  The leveling-down objection

                        2.  Should we be sensitive to comparisons?

            D.  Where do the weights come from?

            E.  How can the priority view be defended or criticized?

III. Priority and responsibility (Questions 3 and 4)

            A.  Does prioritarianism result in ambition sensitivity?

            B.  Does prioritarianism results in a distribution that is insensitive to endowment?

            C.  How do we determine who is worse off?

            D.  How can concerns about responsibility be incorporated into prioritarianism?

IV.  Rawls egalitarianism and prioritarianism  (Question 2)

            A.  Are there elements of telic egalitarianism in Rawls?

"Aristocratic and caste societies are unjust because . . . the basic structure of these societies incorporates the arbitrariness found in nature.  But there is no necessity for men to resign themselves to these contingencies" (Rawls TOJ, p. 102; quote by Parfit, p. 10)

            B.  Is Rawls a prioritarian?

V.  Frankfurt and sufficiency (Questions 5 and 6)

            A.  Frankfurt's critique of egalitarian views and arguments

                        1. To what extent do they depend on his focus on income and wealth?

                        2.  What is his sufficientarian alternative?

            B.  Sufficiency

                        1. When, if ever, can one rationally pass up an opportunity for more money?

                        2. When, if ever, can one rationally pass up an opportunity for more satisfaction?

                        3. What is the criterion of sufficiency?

            C.  What would an economic distribution look like that satisfies Frankfurt's sufficiency requirement?