Justifiability to Each Person
Parfit (Derek)
Source: Ratio, vol. 16, no. 4 (December, 2003), pp. 368-390
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Concluding Paragraphs

  1. Similar claims apply to cases that involve unequal benefits or burdens. Return to the case in which we could either give Black fifty more years of life, or give five more years to each of many other people — people who would all, without our help, die just as young as Black. We could reasonably expect Black to agree that the single benefit to her could be morally outweighed by some number of these lesser benefits to these other people.
  2. Scanlon also believes that, by appealing to his Individualist Restriction, we can avoid some implausible utilitarian conclusions. This belief, I have argued, misdiagnoses how utilitarians reach these conclusions. Utilitarians go astray, not by adding together different people's benefits and burdens, but by rejecting all distributive principles. Given Scanlon's Individualist Restriction, as we have seen, his formula can lead to some conclusions that are at least as implausible, in part because they conflict with all plausible distributive principles.
  3. Scanlon claims that, if he gave up his Individualist Restriction, his contractualist theory would cease to provide 'a clear alternative to utilitarianism'. That, I believe, is not so. Scanlon underestimates what his theory can achieve. If Scanlon dropped his Individualist Restriction, his formula could support various non- utilitarian principles. That would strengthen his theory, and make it provide a better alternative to utilitarianism.


For the full text, see Parfit - Justifiability to each person.

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