Dan Hausman
5197 Helen C. White Hall
263-5178 dhausman@wisc.edu

Office Hours:
Tuesday 11-12
Wednesday 2-3


Philosophy 955 Egalitarianism

Syllabus (Draft of 10/26/08)

Under Construction!



Some sort of commitment to equality has been a central tenet of modern political philosophy. To be sure, this claim exaggerates the agreement on the importance of equality. Thought libertarians typically insist on the equality of people's right, this insistence is a far cry from what people would take to be an egalitarian political philosophy.

This seminar will be concerned with egalitarian political philosophy. In particular it will be concerned with

  1. The grounds for egalitarianism: Is egalitarianism a defensible political philosophy or is instead a political position justified by non-egalitarian ethical objectives? What connection is there between the fundamental equality or impartiality implicit in morality and egalitarianism?
  2. What do egalitarians want to make equal or at least least less unequal (welfare, resources, opportunity, including opportunity for welfare, "advantage," capabilities)?
  3. How should egalitarians understand and measure the extent to which the distribution of the relevant attribute is equal or unequal?
  4. How does egalitarianism stack up against semi-egalitarian alternatives such as prioritarianism and sufficientarianism?
  5. What trade-offs should egalitarians permit between equality and other political values such as welfare and freedom?

Seminar Goals:

  1. To provide an overview of the many positions concerning the contemporary debates over the content and justification of egalitarianism.
  2. To permit seminar members to draw their own conclusions concerning the nature and plausibility of egalitarianism.
  3. To provide one path into contemporary political philosophy.
  4. To help seminar members to improve their analytical, speaking, and writing skills.

Note: Students are encouraged to discuss problems concerning the teaching of this course with the instructor and/or the TAs. If students wish to pursue a complaint with someone else, they should contact James Anderson, Assistant to the Chairperson, Philosophy Department, 5185 H.C. White Hall, 263-5162.


Marc Fleurbaey, Fairness, Responsibility and Welfare. Oxford University Press, 2008.
Xeroxed reader

Course Web Site:

A variety of material, including the syllabus will also be available on the web. Some of it will be on a public web page: http://philosophy.wisc.edu/hausman/955Spring2009/main.htm. Other resources (such as access to grades and discussion forums) will be available via the Learn@UW web site: https://learnuw.wisc.edu/.

Course Requirements:

Those enrolled for credit will be expected to write a substantial seminar paper, to lead discussion of one of the seminar topics and to post discussion questions on that topic, to post a brief and careful response each week to a discussion question, and (of course) to participate actively in discusion in the seminar. The seminar paper will count for 70% of your semester grade. Your presentation in seminar will count for 10% of the semester grade. Participation in discussion in seminar and via the discussion postings will count for 20% of the semester grade.

SEMINAR PAPERS These should be substantial, though there is no specific length limit. Unless brilliantly conceived, a paper of less than ten pages will likely not be sufficiently substantial. Papers over 20 pages will typically be too ambitious or unfocused, and I'm not keen on reading a 30-page seminar paper whose arguments could have been expressed in 15 pages without loss of content. A draft of the seminar paper is due on April 28, and the final version is due a week later at the last meeting of the seminar, Tuesday, May 5. A paragraph description of the topic for your seminar paper is due no later than Tuesday April 7. The topic description can be emailed to me or brought to seminar on the April 7.

PRESENTATIONS AND POSTINGS OF DISCUSSION QUESTIONS In the first class I will distribute a schedule for presentations and ask you to think about your preferences and email me before the second meeting of the seminar. My plan is for presentations to begin with the third seminar (February 3), but if anybody would like to give a presentation during the second seminar, that can be arranged. Seminar presentations involve the following tasks:

Complete the readings for the seminar and post between three and six discussion questions on the learn@uw web discussion page no later than noon on the Sunday before the seminar meets. Prepare and duplicate a one to three page written outline of the points you want to emphasize in your presentation. Where possible you should make references to issues and questions raised at previous seminars and to points raised by seminar members in their discussion postings. Print out and duplicate copies of responses to discussion questions posted by members of the seminar so that we can all refer to them during seminar. If uninterrupted, your seminar presentation should last about 20 minutes. Since you will typically be interrupted, your presentation is likely to last for most of the seminar.


Every week by noon on the Sunday before the seminar meets, a half-dozen discussion questions will be posted by the seminar's discussion leader. All members of the seminar will be expected to post a single brief (250 word maximum) and polished response to one of the posted questions. Responses should be posted no later than 6 p.m. the night before the seminar. Once or twice during the semester I will grade your posting pedantically and mercilously, fussing about your punctuation, wording, grammar, and style (as well as content), and the expectation is that the postings will be extremely clear, well-written, perceptive, and of interest to everybody in the seminar. You should compose your discussion responses using a word processor on your own computer and paste them on to the discussion page only after you have carefully revised and rewritten them. The briefer, clearer, and better written are the postings, the more valuable they will be for everyone. Though it goes without saying, the postings should show the same courtesy, kindness, and gentleness that discussion within the seminar shows. With the exception of the first seminar and the seminar immediately after Spring break, I will expect everybody to post responses every week.

Seminar Outline:

Tuesday, January 20: Introduction: Egalitarianism before Rawls

Isaiah Berlin, "Equality" Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 56 (1955-6), only pp. 311-26.
Bernard Williams, "The Idea of Equality," in Peter Lasslett and W. G. Runciman, eds. Philosophy, Politics and Society. 2nd Series. Oxford: Blackwell, 1962, pp. 110-31.

J.R. Lucas, "Against Equality," Philosophy 40 (1965): 296-307.
J.R. Lucas, "Against Equality Again," Philosophy 52 (1977): 255-80.

Tuesday, January 27: Egalitarianism and Rawls

John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, sections 11, 12 (pp. 72f), 14, 17 and 77.


Richard Arneson, "Against Rawlsian Equality of Opportunity," Philosophical Studies 93, No. 1 (January. 1999)

Tuesday, February 3: Equality of Welfare vs. Equality of Resources: Dworkin (I)

Ronald Dworkin, "What is Equality? Part 1: Equality of Welfare," Philosophy and Public Affairs 10 (1981), pp. 185-246.
Ronald Dworkin, "What is Equality? Part 2: Equality of Resources,"Philosophy and Public Affairs 10 (1981), pp. 283-345.

Larry Temkin, "Inequality," Philosophy and Public Policy 15 (1986): 99-121.

Tuesday, February 10: Dworkin: Equality of Welfare vs. Equality of Resources

Ronald Dworkin, "What is Equality? Part 2: Equality of Resources,"Philosophy and Public Affairs 10 (1981), pp. 283-345.
John Roemer, "Equality of Talent," Economics and Philosophy 1 (1985), pp. 151-81.
Hal Varian, "Dworkin on Equality of Resources," Economics and Philosophy 1 (1985): 110-127.

Tuesday, February 17: Equality of Resources

Ronald Dworkin, "What is Equality? Part 2: Equality of Resources,"Philosophy and Public Affairs 10 (1981), pp. 283-345.
John Roemer, "Equality of Talent," Economics and Philosophy 1 (1985), pp. 151-81.
Hal Varian, "Dworkin on Equality of Resources," Economics and Philosophy 1 (1985): 110-127.

Larry Alexander and Maimon Schwarzschild, "Liberalism, Neutrality, and Equality of Welfare vs. Equality of Resources," Philosophy and Public Affairs, 16 (1987): 85-110.
Thomas Scanlon, "Equality of Resources and Equality of Welfare: A Forced Marriage?" Ethics 97 (1986): 111-18.
Marc Fleurbaey, "Equality of Resources Revisited," Ethics 113 (2002): 82-105.
Ronald Dworkin, "Sovereign Virtue Revisied," Ethics 113 (2002): 106-43.
Marc Fleurbaey, Fairness, Responsibility and Welfare, Chapter 6. (Omit technical sections)

Tuesday, February 24: Equality of opportunity for welfare

Richard Arneson, "Equality and Equal Opportunity for Welfare." Philosophical Studies 56 (1989): 77-93.
Richard Arneson, "Liberalism, Distributive Subjectivism, and Equal Opportunity for Welfare." Philosophy and Public Affairs 19 (1990): 158-94.

Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen, “Arneson on equality of opportunity for welfare,” Journal of Political Philosophy 7 (1999); 478-87.
Richard Arneson, "Equality of Opportunity for Welfare Defended and Recanted," Journal of Political Philosophy 7, No. 4 (December, 1999).

Tuesday, March 3: Equality of Advantage

G.A. Cohen, "On the Currency of Egalitarian Justice" Ethics 99 (1989): 906-44.
G.A. Cohen, "Equality of What? On Welfare, Goods, and Capabilities," pp, 9-30 of Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen, eds. The Quality of Life. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993.

Tuesday, March 10: Equality of Capabilities

Amartya Sen, "Equality of What?" Tanner Lectures, 1979.
Amartya Sen, "Capabilities and Functioning," pp. ?? of Nussbaum, Martha and Amartya Sen, eds. The Quality of Life. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993.

Richard Arneson, "Two Cheers for Capabilities"

Tuesday, March 24: Against "Luck Egalitarianism"

Elizabeth Anderson, "What Is the Point of Equality?" Ethics 109 (1999): 287-337.

Daniels, Norman, "Equality of What? Welfare, Resources, or Capabilities?"Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 50 (supp. vol.) 1990, pp. 273-296.
Susan Hurley, "Luck and Equality," Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 75(2001): 51-72.
Richard Arneson , "Luck and Equality," Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 75(2001): 73-90.

Tuesday, March 31: Equality and Responsibility

Marc Fleurbaey, "Equal Opportunity or Equal Social Outcome." Economics and Philosophy 10 (1995): 25-55.
Marc Fleurbaey, Fairness, Responsibility and Welfare, Chapter 1. (Omit introduction and technical sections)

*Tuesday, April 7: Equality and Responsibility (II) (Marc Fleurbaey visiting)

Marc Fleurbaey, Fairness, Responsibility and Welfare, Chapters 2 and 4. (Omit technical sections)

Tuesday, April 14: Equality and Responsibility (III)

Marc Fleurbaey, Fairness, Responsibility and Welfare, Chapter 10.

Tuesday, April 21: Egalitarianism, Prioritarianism and Sufficientarianism

Derek Parfit, "Equality vs. Priority" (1995)
Harry Frankfurt, "Equality as a Moral Ideal," Ethics 98 (1987): 21-43.

Robert Goodin, "Egalitarianism: Fetishistic and Otherwise," Ethics 98 (1987): 44-49.
John Broome, "Equality vs. Priority: A Useful Distinction,"
Marc Fleurbaey,
Larry Temkin, "Equality, Priority, or What?"

Tuesday, April 28: Complex Equality

David Miller, ‘Arguments for Equality’ in Midwest Studies in Philosophy, Vol VII: Studies in Social and Political Philosophy, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1982.
Michael Walzer, from Spheres of Justice. New York: Basic Books, 1983.

David Miller, and Michael Walzer, eds., Pluralism, Justice and Equality, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1995.

*Tuesday, May 5: Conclusions: Egalitarianism, Prioritarianism, Rawls and the Foundations of Political Philosophy

Richard Arneson, "Luck Egalitarianism and Prioritarianism." Ethics 110 (2000): 339-49.
Dan Hausman and Matt Waldren, "What Is Egalitarianism?"

Office Hours:

If my office hours, (Tuesday 11-12 and Wednesday 2-3) are not convenient, see me after class to arrange another time to meet.

The Use of Email:

Feel free to email me at dhausman@wisc.edu with any specific questions you have about assignments or requirements. If the question and answer are relevant to others, I will post them on the course discussion page. If you do not want your question posted, you should let me know. Otherwise I will assume that in emailing me, you’ve given me permission to post your question. You can send me substantive philosophical questions, too, though in most cases it is better to include the whole seminar in discussions of matters of substance.

A Note on Plagiarism:

Though this should obviously go without saying, particularly in a graduate seminar: Plagiarism is a serious offense. All sources and assistance used in preparing your papers must be precisely and explicitly acknowledged. If you have any questions about what constitutes plagiarism, please come talk with me. The web creates special risks. Cutting and pasting even a few words from a web page or paraphrasing material without a reference constitutes plagiarism. If you are not sure how to refer to something you find on the internet, you can always give the URL. It is generally better to quote than to paraphrase from material on the web, because in the absence of page numbers it can be hard to find passages that are paraphrased rather than quoted. When referring to material from the web, specify the date that you accessed the material in addition to the URL, because web pages (unlike books and articles) change.

Some elementary advice, which you probably already know:

On reading philosophy papers:

1. Use your highlighter very sparingly. It is much more useful to pencil in marginal notes summarizing or querying specific points than to highlight passages. Actively engaging the author is much more valuable than merely trying to assimilate the prose. And if you do highlight, only highlight a small percentage of the text. (There is not much point to highlighting everything, apart from adding color to the page!)

2. You should plan on reading the assignments at least twice. During the first reading you should ask yourself:

a. What is the author's position?

b. What is the general structure of the paper? Is it a collection of separate arguments, or does it aim to make one main argument?

c. What are the author's main assumptions? (Where is the author coming from?)

d. Against whom does the author take him/herself to be arguing? What is the context in which the piece was written?

e. What is the main line of argument (or what are the main lines of argument)?

f. What objections does the author address and how successful is the author in answering them?

g. How does the author's position relate to your views? To what extent does the author reinforce or challenge your views?

h. How do the author's arguments relate to the arguments discussed in seminar or in other reading assignments? What criticisms would the author make of arguments developed in seminar or in other readings? To what extent is the position of the author open to criticisms made in seminar or in other readings?

During the second reading of the assigned material, you should proceed more slowly and critically. Rather than asking, as suggested above, questions about what the author's purposes, organization, and argument are, you should try to assess all of these and particularly the author's arguments. Try to study the discussion questions before doing your second reading.

On writing the philosophy papers:

Style and references:

1. You are expected to give references when you cite detailed claims or arguments made in the readings, and your papers should, where appropriate, show familiarity with relevant materials from the seminar or reading for the course. But you are (of course) expected to write essays, not examination answers. So don't introduce irrelevant matters to demonstrate that you have mastered irrelevant material from the seminar. (But you must not ignore relevant supporting arguments and, particularly, objections in the readings.) Cite the readings only when they are relevant. Be sure that your paper is a well organized argument for some clearly articulated thesis.

2. When you quote, paraphrase, or make use of a point made by others, be sure to document the source. We are not particular about what style you use. All that matters is that your references be precise and usable. If you say that Parfit says that contracts are worthless, it should be clear on what page Parfit supposedly says that. The easiest way to give a reference is simply to put the source and page number in parenthesis. Papers without clear references (where needed) will be marked down.

3. Papers must be typed or printed double-spaced with wide margins (at least one inch) on all sides, so that there is plenty of room for marginal comments. Be sure to keep copies of your papers. Please do not use binders.

4. Papers for the course must be essentially correct in their "mechanical" aspects-- spelling, punctuation, grammar, typing, and so forth. Papers with more than 3 or 4 errors per page will be marked down, and if they are very messy, they will not only be penalized, but they will also be returned for correction before they are graded. Obviously spelling and typing are of no intrinsic importance, but messy papers are hard to assess; and it is not unfair to expect you to take responsibility for making sure that your papers are correct in these regards.

Hints on essay writing:

1. The point is to write a well-organized and unified argument for some clearly enunciated conclusion. The task of writing a good essay is virtually identical with the task of thinking out a clear thesis or conclusion that you want to defend and then elaborating and defending it. You should be able to say clearly and precisely not only what your seminar paper is about, but also what your paper maintains or shows. Be sure your seminar paper has both a thesis--that it asserts something definite--and a logical organization. Once it is clear what you what to show, you will have a criterion to decide what is relevant and the basis for organizing your paper. Can you put your main point clearly in a sentence? Can you say clearly in a sentence what your paper shows or proves? Are all the parts of your paper relevant to your main point? Is the structure of your argument clear? No good essay merely summarizes things you have read and then offers your remarks or points of comparison or differences you noticed. Every acceptable essay integrates its remarks into an argument of its own. Exposition of the views of others should always be part of your argument for your thesis.

2. Note that a well-organized paper is not merely orderly. For example, a paper that argues that Parfit argues claims 1, 2, and 3 and that one can defend claim 1 as follows, claim 2 as follows, but not claim 3 is certainly orderly, and it certainly has a thesis. But it would only be well-organized--truly one paper rather than three--if the discussions of the three claims bore some relations to one another and if the paper added up to some unified and substantive statement. Please do not put section headings in your papers.

3. Avoid first paragraphs that say things such as, "First I will discuss the views of Griffin and Sen. Then I will discuss their strengths and weaknesses. Then I will compare their conclusions and formulate my opinion." Passages such as these make it sound as if your argument will begin only on the last page. Exposition of the views of others has to find its place within your argument, not as a preface to your argument. If you think in terms of what you want to establish, and outline your paper in terms of stages in your argument, your essay will be much stronger.

4. Try to say exactly what you mean. Pay careful attention to your language. Sentences such as "Aristotle's happiness is an ancient view" are unacceptably careless. Value your words and use them accurately.

5. To help in organizing your thinking, you should attempt to answer the following three questions:

1. What is your thesis--that is, what is it that you are trying to maintain or show or prove? What is your main argument for your thesis?

2. What is the most important objection to or criticism of your thesis that you need to consider? Formulate that objection or criticism as an argument.

3. What is your argument in response to the objection or criticism mentioned in answer to question 2?

If you cannot answer these questions clearly and easily, then there are serious problems with your paper. Do not regard your papers as finished or acceptable until each clearly implies answers to the above questions. (But an essay is not, of course, a list of answers to any set of questions.) Taking the task of answering these questions seriously can make a big difference in the quality of your paper.

Special considerations in writing philosophical papers:

1. In a philosophical debate or a philosophical paper, the objective is to learn and to express the truth (or some anti-realist substitute). So you should try to make the arguments conflicting with your views as compelling as possible, before you answer them. If there are any objections to what you are maintaining that you cannot answer, then you cannot be sure that you are right. Work hard at trying to see "the other side (s) ".

Seeking help:

When working on your seminar papers, feel free to come talk with me. In addition, there are some excellent resources on the web for writing philosophy papers. I particularly recommend:

www.sfu.ca/philosophy/writing.htm This is brief, clear, and helpful.

http://www.princeton.edu/~jimpryor/general/writing.html Excellent, but much lengthier.

www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/philosophy.html For those who are serious about philosophy.

www.cofc.edu/~portmord/tips.htm Contains lots of references for further study.

A terrific general source on writing is Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. The first edition is available on the web at http://www.bartleby.com/141/