Prioritarianism can usefully be seen as a corrective to both egalitarianism and utilitarianism. It allegedly corrects for egalitarianism insofar as it tends toward equality but seems immune to the Leveling Down Objection. It allegedly corrects for utilitarianism insofar as it emphasizes improving peoples' lives but is distribution‐sensitive, favoring benefiting those who are worse off over those who are better off, other things equal. The best way to understand the view and assess its prospects is to see whether on closer examination it can indeed avoid the pitfalls of the two more traditional views it might replace. What emerges from such a closer examination is that prioritarianism must be very carefully specified to avoid the Leveling Down Objection. More significantly, to clearly avoid problems associated with utilitarianism, prioritarianism must be formulated in deontic rather than telic terms. It is not clear, however, that such a deontic prioritarianism has any advantages over deontic egalitarianism.
Philosophy Compass – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2014
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