Friday, September 23, 2005

Intellectual moves

A fun one is saying that something we all disagree about, we actually agree about. We've just been looking at the wrong aspect of that thing. Take this which is brilliant:
It relates to the fact that every normative theory of social arrangement that has at all stood the test of time seems to demand equality of something--something that is regarded as particularly important in that theory. The theories involved are diverse and frequently at war with each other, but they still seem to have that common feature...But what about utilitarianism? Surely utilitarians do not, in general, want the equality of total utilities enjoyed by different people...In fact, the equality that utilitarianism seeks take the form of equal treatment of human beings in the space of gains and losses of utilities. There is an insistence on equal weights on everyone's utility gains in the utilitarian objective function.
--Amartya Sen. Inequality Reexamined, 12-3.

We're all egalitarians! Who knew?

2 Comments:

Anonymous Protagoras said...

Surely it is not news that utilitarianism has a strong egalitarian component? "Each to count for one, and none to count for more than one" comes from Bentham, after all. How does Sen think the various forms of egalitarianism relate to one another?

8:44 AM  
Blogger Isaac said...

Perhaps it's not news to political philosophers/political theorists, but it is to econ/math people like me :)

I'm not very far in, but the point is that the relevant question isn't why equality, because we all agree that we need equality of something, but equality of what. He then goes on to argue for equality of capabilities, but I'm only on page 16, so can't tell you much more.

9:04 AM  

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