Giving up levelling down

Brown, C. (2003) Giving up levelling down. Economics and Philosophy, 19(1), pp. 111-134. (doi:10.1017/S0266267103001044)

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Abstract

The so-called “Levelling Down Objection” is commonly believed to occupy a central role in the debate between egalitarians and prioritarians. Egalitarians think that equality is good in itself, and so they are committed to finding value even in such equality as may only be achieved by “levelling down”–i.e., by merely reducing the better off to the level of the worse off. Although egalitarians might deny that levelling down could ever make for an all-things-considered improvement, they cannot deny that it may make things better in at least one respect. Prioritarians, on the other hand, do deny this; according to them, levelling down cannot make things better in any respect. In this paper I argue that the Levelling Down Objection leans far too heavily on a heretofore unanalysed notion: namely, the notion of “being better in this or that respect.” I propose what I take to be a plausible analysis of that notion, and show that, given the proposed analysis, the prioritarian is no less vulnerable to the Levelling Down Objection than is the egalitarian. I conclude that proponents of the Levelling Down Objection need either to suggest a better analysis or abandon the Levelling Down Objection altogether.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Brown, Dr Campbell
Authors: Brown, C.
Subjects:B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > Philosophy
Journal Name:Economics and Philosophy
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
ISSN:0266-2671
Published Online:15 July 2003

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