•  872
    Brute luck and responsibility
    Politics, Philosophy and Economics 7 (1): 57-80. 2008.
    The concept of agent-responsibility for an outcome (that is, of the outcome reflecting the autonomous choice of the agent) is central to both ethics and political philosophy. The concept, however, remains radically under-explored. In particular, the issue of partial responsibility for an outcome needs further development. I propose an account of partial responsibility based on partial causal contribution. Agents who choose autonomously in full knowledge of the consequences are agent-responsible,…Read more
  •  841
    Distributive Justice
    In Robert Goodin, Philip Pettit & Thomas Pogge (eds.), Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy, Blackwell. 2007.
    The word “justice” is used in several different ways. First, justice is sometimes understood as moral permissibility applied to distributions of benefits and burdens (e.g., income distributions) or social structures (e.g., legal systems). In this sense, justice is distinguished by the kind of entity to which it is applied, rather than a specific kind of moral concern.
  •  721
    In Hugh LaFollette (ed.), Ethics in Practice 3rd edition, Blackwell. 2007.
    Ethics in Practice, 3rd edition, edited by Hugh La Follette (Blackwell Publishers, forthcoming 2007).
  •  623
    In the old days, material egalitarians tended to favor equality of outcome advantage, on some suitable conception of advantage (happiness, resources, etc.). Under the influence of Dworkin’s seminal articles on equality[i], contemporary material egalitarians have tended to favor equality of brute luck advantage—on the grounds that this permits people to be held appropriately accountable for the benefits and burdens of their choices. I shall argue, however, that a plausible conception of egalitari…Read more
  •  550
    In David Estlund (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Political Philosophy, Oxford University Press. pp. 152. 2012.
  •  527
    Brute luck equality and desert
    In Sabrina Olsaretti (ed.), Desert and Justice, Clarendon Press. 2003.
    In recent years, interest in desert-based theories of justice has increased, and this seems to represent a challenge to equality-based theories of justice.[i] The best distribution of outcomeadvantage with respect to desert, after all, need not be the most equal distribution of outcomeadvantage. Some individuals may deserve more than others. Outcome egalitarianism is, however, implausible, and so the conflict of outcome desert with outcome equality is of little significance.[ii] Most contemporar…Read more
  •  500
    Maximizing act consequentialism holds that actions are morally permissible if and only if they maximize the value of consequences—if and only if, that is, no alternative action in the given choice situation has more valuable consequences.[i] It is subject to two main objections. One is that it fails to recognize that morality imposes certain constraints on how we may promote value. Maximizing act consequentialism fails to recognize, I shall argue, that the ends do not always justify the means. A…Read more
  •  472
    Moral dilemmas and comparative conceptions of morality
    Southern Journal of Philosophy 30 (1): 117-124. 1992.
    Earl Conee is a well known contemporary defender of the impossibility of moral dilemmas. In his 1982 paper "Against Moral Dilemmas" he argued that moral dilemmas are impossible because the existence of such a dilemma would entail that some obligatory action is forbidden, which is absurd. More recently, in "Why Moral Dilemmas are Impossible" he has defended the impossibility of moral dilemmas by claiming that the moral status of an action depends in part on the moral status of its alternatives…Read more
  •  463
    Libertarian Theories of Intergenerational Justice
    In Axel Gosseries & Lukas Meyer (eds.), Justice Between Generations, Oxford University Press. 2009.
    Justice and Libertarianism The term ‘justice’ is commonly used in several different ways. Sometimes it designates the moral permissibility of political structures (such as legal systems). Sometimes it designates moral fairness (as opposed to efficiency or other considerations that are relevant to moral permissibility). Sometimes it designates legitimacy in the sense of it being morally impermissible for others to interfere forcibly with the act or omission (e.g., my failing to go to dinner with …Read more
  •  447
    This is the first volume of Equality and Justice, a six-volume collection of the most important articles of the twentieth century on the topic of justice and equality. This volume addresses the following three (only loosely related) issues: (1) What is the concept of justice? (2) Is justice primarily a demand on individuals or on societies? (3) What are the relative merits of conceptions of justice based on equality, based on priority for those who have less, and based on ensuring that everyone …Read more
  •  438
    The rights and duties of childrearing
    William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal 11 991-1010. 2003.
    What rights and duties do adults have with respect to raising children? Who, for example, has the right to decide how and where a particular child will live, be educated, receive health care, and spend recreational time? I argue that neither biological (gene-provider) nor..
  •  408
    Left-Libertarianism and Liberty
    In Thomas Christiano & John Christman (eds.), Debates in Political Philosophy, Blackwell. pp. 17--137. 2009.
  •  401
    The nomic role account of carving reality at the joints
    Synthese 115 (2): 171-198. 1998.
    Natural properties are those that carve reality at the joints. The notion of carving reality at the joints, however, is somewhat obscure, and is often understood in terms of making for similarity, conferring causal powers, or figuring in the laws of nature. I develop and assess an account of the third sort according to which carving reality at the joints is understood as having the right level of determinacy relative to nomic roles. The account has the attraction of involving very weak metaphysi…Read more
  •  390
    Infinite value and finitely additive value theory
    Journal of Philosophy 94 (1): 5-26. 1997.
    000000001. Introduction Call a theory of the good—be it moral or prudential—aggregative just in case (1) it recognizes local (or location-relative) goodness, and (2) the goodness of states of affairs is based on some aggregation of local goodness. The locations for local goodness might be points or regions in time, space, or space-time; or they might be people, or states of nature.1 Any method of aggregation is allowed: totaling, averaging, measuring the equality of the distribution, measuring t…Read more
  •  384
    Libertarianism and the state
    Social Philosophy and Policy 24 (1): 187-205. 2007.
    Although Robert Nozick has argued that libertarianism is compatible with the justice of a minimal state—even if does not arise from mutual consent—few have been persuaded. I will outline a different way of establishing that a non-consensual libertarian state can be just. I will show that a state can—with a few important qualifications—justly enforce the rights of citizens, extract payments to cover the costs of such enforcement, redistribute resources to the poor, and invest in infrastructure to…Read more
  •  377
    Equal Negative Liberty and Welfare Rights
    International Journal of Applied Philosophy 25 (2): 237-41. 2011.
    In Are Equal Liberty and Equality Compatible?, Jan Narveson and James Sterba insightfully debate whether a right to maximum equal negative liberty requires, or at least is compatible with, a right to welfare. Narveson argues that the two rights are incompatible, whereas Sterba argues that the rights are compatible and indeed that the right to maximum equal negative liberty requires a right to welfare. I argue that Sterba is correct that the two rights are conceptually compatible and that Narveso…Read more
  •  376
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2008.
    Libertarianism holds that agents initially fully own themselves and have moral powers to acquire property rights in external things under certain conditions. It is normally advocated as a theory of justice in the sense of the duties that we owe each other. So understood, it is silent about any impersonal duties (i.e., duties owed to no one) that we may have.
  •  319
    Responsibility and False Beliefs
    In Carl Knight & Zofia Stemplowska (eds.), Justice and Responsibility, Oxford University Press. 2011.
    An individual is agent-responsible for an outcome just in case it flows from her autonomous agency in the right kind of way. The topic of agent-responsibility is important because most people believe that agents should be held morally accountable (e.g., liable to punishment or having an obligation to compensate victims) for outcomes for which they are agent-responsible and because many other people (e.g., brute luck egalitarians) hold that agents should not be held accountable for outcomes for w…Read more
  •  306
    Left-Libertarian Theories of Justice
    Revue Economique 50 859-878. 1999.
    Libertarian theories of justice hold that agents, at least initially, own themselves fully, and thus owe no service to others, except through voluntary action. The most familiar libertarian theories are right-libertarian in that they hold that natural resources are initially unowned and, under a broad range of realistic circumstances, can be privately appropriated without the consent of, or any significant payment to, the other members of society. Leftlibertarian theories, by contrast, hold that…Read more
  •  304
    Paretian egalitarianism with variable population size
    with Bertil Tungodden
    In John Roemer & Kotaro Suzumura (eds.), Intergenerational Equity and Sustainability, Palgrave Publishers. 2007.
    in Intergenerational Equity and Sustainability, edited by John Roemer and Kotaro Suzumura, (Palgrave Publishers Ltd., forthcoming 2007), ch.11.
  •  299
    On the possibility of nonaggregative priority for the worst off
    with Marc Fleurbaey and Bertil Tungodden
    Social Philosophy and Policy 26 (1): 258-285. 2009.
    We shall focus on moral theories that are solely concerned with promoting the benefits (e.g., wellbeing) of individuals and explore the possibility of such theories ascribing some priority to benefits to those who are worse off—without this priority being absolute. Utilitarianism (which evaluates alternatives on the basis of total or average benefits) ascribes no priority to the worse off, and leximin (which evaluates alternatives by giving lexical priority to the worst off, and then the second …Read more
  •  270
    Equality and the duties of procreators
    In David Archard & Colin Macleod (eds.), Children and Political Theory, Oxford University Press. 2002.
    I formulate and defend a theory of special procreative duties in the context of a liberal egalitarian theory of justice. I argue that (1) the only special duty that procreators owe their offspring is that of ensuring that their life prospects are non-negative (worth living), and (2) the only special duty that procreators owe others is that of ensuring that they are not disadvantaged by the procreators’ offspring (a) violating their rights or (b) adversely affecting their equality rights and duti…Read more
  •  260
    Explicating lawhood
    Philosophy of Science 55 (4): 598-613. 1988.
    D. M. Armstrong, Michael Tooley, and Fred Dretske have recently proposed a new realist account of laws of nature, according to which laws of nature are objective relations between universals. After criticizing this account, I develop an alternative realist account, according to which (1) the nomic structure of a world is a relation between initial world-histories and world-histories, and (2) a law of nature is a fact that holds solely in virtue of nomic structure (and not, for example, in virtue…Read more
  •  233
    “Answers to five questions on normative ethics”
    In Jesper Ryberg & Thomas S. Peterson (eds.), Normative Ethics: Five Questions, Automatic Press/vip. 2007.
    I came late to philosophy and even later to normative ethics. When I started my undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto in 1970, I was interested in mathematics and languages. I soon discovered, however, that my mathematical talents were rather meager compared to the truly talented. I therefore decided to study actuarial science (the applied mathematics of risk assessment for insurance and pension plans) rather than abstract math. After two years, however, I dropped out of university,…Read more
  •  222
    Libertarianism holds that agents initially fully own themselves. Lockean libertarianism further holds that agents have the moral power to acquire private property in external things as long as a Lockean Proviso—requiring that “enough and as good” be left for others—is satisfied. Radical right-libertarianism, on the other hand, holds that satisfaction of a Lockean Proviso is not necessary for the appropriation of unowned things. This is sometimes defended on the ground that the initial status of …Read more
  •  205
    Over the past few decades, there has been increasing interest in left-libertarianism, which holds (roughly) that agents fully own themselves and that natural resources (land, minerals, air, etc.) belong to everyone in some egalitarian sense. Left-libertarianism agrees with the more familiar right-libertarianism about self-ownership, but radically disagrees with it about the power to acquire ownership of natural resources. Merely being the first person to claim, discover, or mix labor with an una…Read more