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Browsing by Subject "responsibility-sensitive egalitarianism"

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  • Ahola-Launonen, Johanna (2012)
    This thesis is an analysis of the relationship between the concepts of chance, choice and responsibility in Michael Sandel’s 'The Case against Perfection' (2007). Sandel predicts that if genetic enhancements were introduced in the society, the social meaning of these concepts would change significantly and social solidarity would vanish. He argues that that if people were able to control their genome and the element of chance in the genetic lottery would be replaced with choice, individuals could be held responsible for their deficiencies. Thus, the societal motivation to share our wealth with the disadvantaged would be eroded. However, the philosophical premises in Sandel’s argument remain obscure. Therefore, a new means for the philosophical assessment of Sandel’s argument is introduced in my thesis. The method for the analysis is to examine the premises in Sandel’s argument by comparing it to responsibility-sensitive egalitarian theories and their critique. The central literature used in the analysis is Sandel’s 'Liberalism and the Limits of Justice' (1982) and 'Democracy’s Discontent: America in Search of a Public Philosophy' (1996). The examination of responsibility-sensitive egalitarianism is based on Ronald Dworkin’s article 'What is Equality? Part 2: Equality of Resources' (1981) and contrasted to John Rawls’ 'A Theory of Justice' (1971), and the critique of responsibility-sensitive egalitarianism is derived from Samuel Scheffler’s article 'What is Egalitarianism?' (2003). I suggest that Sandel’s argument is based on the principle of responsibility of the responsibility-sensitive egalitarian theories: unequal outcomes are just if they arise from factors for which individuals can properly be held responsible and are otherwise unjust. As Sandel’s argument entails this principle, the critique of the principle of responsibility can be applied to it. I conclude that due to extensive critique posed to the principle of responsibility, Sandel’s prediction about the changing notions of responsibility and solidarity is not as straightforward as he suggests. Furthermore, I propose that the principle of responsibility is not compatible with the general foundations of Sandel’s philosophy, which are the aspiration for cultivating a strong sense of community and social solidarity. The principle of responsibility does not foster social solidarity and, therefore, is not suitable for Sandel’s vision of a good society. This vision would be better achieved with a principle that guarantees a certain asset of basic needs to each person, regardless of the responsibility and control that people have in particular situations. It remains an open question why Sandel adopts in his argument the principle of responsibility that is contradictory to his general philosophy.