Choice and Luck in Recent Egalitarian Thought

  • Timothy Hinton


Contemporary egalitarians often appeal to a distinction between inequalities issuing from choice as opposed to those stemming from brute luck. Inequalities of the second kind, they say, ought to be redressed, while those of the former may be allowed to stand. In this paper, I scrutinize the role played by the notion of brute luck in Ronald Dworkin's theory of equality. My intention is to show that Dworkin seeks to occupy what turns out to be an untenable middle position. He is sandwiched unhappily between G. A. Cohen's radical brute luck egalitarianism, on the one side, and a non-egalitarian conception of justice that rejects entirely the appeal to brute luck, on the other. It follows from the untenable nature of Dworkin's position that egalitarians face a much starker choice than he realizes. They should either wholeheartedly embrace the brute luck story or else find another way of grounding their position.

Philosophical Papers Vol.31(2) 2002: 145-167

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eISSN: 0556-8641