Capability Egalitarianism and Moral Selfhood

2003 Ethical Perspectives  
Many egalitarian philosophers are troubled by the disparity between the living standards of the rich and the poor in modern societies and by the disparity between the average living standards of people in developed and underdeveloped countries. However, they find it difficult to agree on the appropriate 'space' or measure in which people should be accounted as equal or unequal. The disagreement arises mainly due to the intuitive moral ideas about the human person or the self one wants to
more » ... e and promote in formulating egalitarian principles. Rawls (1971) was motivated to propose his ideal of equality of primary goods in order to overcome the limitations of the utilitarian view of the human person. Utilitarianism sees persons as locations or sites of utility where activities such as having pleasure or pain, happiness, and desire-fulfillment take place. It does not intrinsically value the qualitative separateness of persons and their freedom of choice. Rawls (1971 Rawls ( , 1980)) , on the contrary, considers that each person is an end and possesses an inviolable capacity for freedom and self-determination understood as the ability to form, revise and rationally pursue her own conception of the good. "The self", says Rawls, "is prior to the ends which are affirmed by it " (1971: 560). Consequently, a liberal society based on 'justice as fairness', without imposing any particular conception of the human good, distributes equal amounts of 'primary goods' of basic liberties, freedom of movement and choice of occupation, powers and prerogatives of offices and positions of responsibility, income and wealth and the social bases of self-respect, to its citizens in accordance with the Difference Principle so that their capacity for self-determination is not violated. Dworkin (2000: 11-64, 330-1) agrees with Rawls's rejection of the utilitarian view of the person and his effort to put back people's capacity for freedom and self-determination at the heart of the egalitarian conception. However, Dworkin thinks that Rawls's equality of primary goods does not
doi:10.2143/ep.10.1.503868 fatcat:querzunoavgmvbtmrgzxbzchwa