Logos

Research Group in Analytic Philosophy

Egalitarianism under Severe Uncertainty

    Alex Voorhoeve (LSE)

Date: 27 March 2019

Time: 15:00

Place: Seminari de Filosofia UB

Abstract

Decision-makers face severe uncertainty when they are not in a position to assign precise probabilities to all of the relevant possible outcomes of their actions. Such situations are common—novel medical treatments and policies addressing climate change are two examples. Many decision-makers respond to such uncertainty in a cautious manner and are willing to incur a cost to avoid it. There are good reasons for taking such an uncertainty-averse attitude to be permissible. However, little work has been done to incorporate it into an egalitarian theory of distributive justice. We aim to remedy this lack. We put forward a novel, uncertainty-averse egalitarian view. We analyze when the aims of reducing inequality and limiting the burdens of severe uncertainty are congruent and when they conflict, and highlight practical implications of the proposed view. We also demonstrate that if uncertainty aversion is permissible, then utilitarians must relinquish a favorite argument against egalitarianism.