Reflections on Equality, Value and Paradox


  • Saul Smilansky Department of Philosophy, University of Haifa, 199 Aba Khoushy Ave, Mt Carmel, Haifa 3498838, Israel



I consider two difficulties which have been presented to egalitarianism: Parfit’s “Levelling Down Objection” (LDO) and my “Paradox of the Baseline” (POB). I show that making things worse for some people even with no gain to anyone is actually an ordinary and indeed necessary feature of our moral practice, yet nevertheless the LDO maintains its power in the egalitarian context. I claim that what makes the LDO particularly forceful in the case against egalitarianism is not the very idea of making some people worse off with no gain to others, but the disrespect for (non-egalitarian) value inherent in egalitarianism; and similarly that the POB is a reductio of choice (or luck)-egalitarianism because of its inversion of the intuitively correct attitude to the generation of value. I conclude that in the light of the absurdity and paradox so frequently lurking in moral and social life, and particularly with the complexity of modern life and obliquity of change, we need to be much more modest than egalitarians have been in putting forth ambitious moral and social models. 


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Smilansky, S. (2015). Reflections on Equality, Value and Paradox. Res Cogitans, 10(1).