The Principle of Equality Defended

AuthorTed Honderich
Date01 February 1983
Publication Date01 February 1983
DOI10.1111/j.1467-9256.1983.tb00153.x
SubjectArticle
Honderich
on
Well-Being
and
Equality
33
it still outweighs enormously goods such as entertainment.
last time, he says
nothing
about
how
much weight
the
primary desire has.
event, unless he does accord the primary desire lexical priority,
it
would seem that
the Principle indeed requires that money be spent
on
entertainment rather than
on
saving a life,if there
is
enough of
the
former.
In conclusion, it seems
to
me that the Principle of Equality ought not, as
Honderich thinks, to
be
accorded priority as a moral principle.
it
is
intolerably vague; and
to
the extent
it
can
be
made precise, it seems
to
conflict strongly
with
ordinary morality.
But,
to repeat for
the
In any
In its present form,
Notes
1.
tionderich,
T.
(198l), 'The Question of Well-Being and
the
Principle of Equality',
Mind,
Vol.
XC,
pp.481-504. All subsequent references
to
this
article are by
page number in parenthesis in the text.
In order to eliminate
distress
on
the
part
of
parents or relatives, one can
confine the experiments to abandoned babies.
It
would
not
be
a good objection to
this
that there might
be
other ways
of
raising
the average life-span of one of
the
tribes which would be less drastic.
for example, can't one
of
the
tribes be removed and resettled elsewhere? Granted
this point,
the
question is, given that exterminating one
of
the
tribes
is
the
only available means of raisi-e life-span of the other, does the Principle
dictate
this
course
of
action?
If
one applies
the
Principle across societies,
then,
assuming lexical priority
for
the
primary desire, it would seem allowable to reduce the people of England
to
bare susbistence in order
to
raise the life-span of Nigerians.
objected that Honderich allows confining
the
Principle to one society
or
nation,
on what basis would such a restriction be made?
2.
3. Why,
4.
If it is
It seems a purely ad hoc measure.
-0-000-0-
THE
PRINCIPLE
OF
EQUALITY
DEFENDED
TED
HONDERICH
My essay, 'The Question of Well-being and the Principle of Equality (Honderich,
198l), defines a class of
the
badly-off and defends the Principle of Equality. The
badly-off are defined
in
terms of certain extents
of
frustration in the fundamental
categories
of
human desire, these categories having to do
with
subsistence,
further
material goods, respect, freedom, personal relations, and culture.
The
Principle
of Equality is that
we
are
to
give priority to attempting
to
make well-off those who
are badly-off. We are
to
do
this
first by bringing into existence
new
means to well
being and by transferring existing surplus means from the well-off that will
not
in
fact affect their well-being; secondly by transferring means from
them
that will
affect their well-being, those at higher levels
to
be affected first, and observing
the limit
of
not
creating more of the badly-off; thirdly by seeking
to
reduce the
need
for
incentive-inequalities enjoyed by the well-off which do indirectly improve
the lot of
the
badly-off.
Dr.
Gordon
(Gordon, 1983) rightly notices a respect in which the political
philosophy based on
the
principle has
been
left unspecified.
principle, however, are unsuccessful.
they are
jejune.
challenged
.
His
objections to the
They are to my
mind
ill-judged. In some cases
Indeed,
there
are eight points on which these objections can be

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