Higher Sem in Practical Philosophy: Anders Herlitz "Fixing claims in distributive theory"
Anders Herlitz (LU) will give a self-contained talk at the Higher seminar in Practical philosophy entitled:
Fixing claims in distributive theory
This paper outlines an often-overlooked distinction relevant to distributive theories that rely on references to individuals’ claims or complaints, expounds its importance and introduces hitherto underexplored problems with theories. Distributive theories that rely on claims include claim prioritarianism, aggregation of relevant claims and the competing claims view. Contractualism is a notable example of a theory that rely on complaints.
There are different motivations for basing theories on claims or complaints. One thought is that what is at stake for different people must stand front and center in all analyses of fairness since fairness is concerned with relations between persons and a focus on claims/complaints reflects this needed person-centeredness (see, e.g., Broome 1990-91; Scanlon 1998; Darwall 2006). Another reason is that it provides a way of taking the “separateness of persons” seriously (Adler 2012). A third, indirect motivation is that a theory based on claims can avoid certain problems in distributive theory, e.g., the levelling-down objection (Otsuka & Voorhoeve 2009).
Whatever the motivation to refer to claim, and whatever view one takes of what makes claims stronger (e.g., desert, well-being), there are different ways to think of individuals’ claims (or complaints) and how they are fixed. The paper presents three different views of how to fix claims: (i) “the baseline view” which says that an individual’s claim to an option is a function of how well off she is in the option and how well off she is if nothing is done, in the world such as it is before any distributor intervenes in it; (ii) “the binary view” which says that an individual’s claim to an option is a function of how well off she is in the option and how well off she is in the one unique option with which it is compared; and (iii) “the global view” which says that an individual’s claim to an option is a function of how well off she is in the option and how well off she is in all other options.
The paper, furthermore, shows that each of the views of how to fix claims run into significant theoretical challenges. Distributive theories that are interpreted in line with the baseline view are sometimes unstable so that they recommend constantly changing one’s mind: choosing distribution x over distribution y and immediately after that choice choosing y over x, then x over y again, and so on. Distributive theories that are interpreted in line with the binary claims across outcomes view sometimes generate cyclical evaluations. They might imply that distribution x is better than distribution y, that distribution y is better than distribution z, but that distribution z is better than distribution x. Distributive theories that are interpreted in line with the global view sometimes violate expansion consistency. They might imply that distribution x is better than distribution y when z is an available option, but that x and y are equally good when z is not an available option even when z is worse than both x and y. Theories that generate unstable recommendations, theories that generate cyclical evaluations and theories that violate expansion consistency are all exposed to value-pump arguments and there are strong reasons to think they are irrational.
The paper introduces a fourth view of how to fix claims that can avoid the theoretical challenges. On this view, claims are fixed within each individual outcome and outcomes are ranked with respect to how good they are in and of themselves. However, some questions regarding whether this view at all can be understood as an interpretation of individuals’ claims or complaints are raised.