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Harman, Elizabeth, , . The potentiality problem
2003, Philosophical Studies 114 (1-2):173 – 198.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Abstract: Many people face a problem about potentiality: their moral beliefs appear to dictate inconsistent views about the signifcance of the potentiality to become a healthy adult. Briefy, the problem arises as follows. Consider the following two claims. First, both human babies and cats have moral status, but harms to babies matter more, morally, than similar harms to cats. Second, early human embryos lack moral status. It appears that the first claim can only be true if human babies have more moral status than cats. Among the properties that determine moral status, human babies have no properties other than their potentiality that could explain their having more moral status than cats. So human babies’ potentiality to become adult persons must explain their having more moral status than cats. But then potentiality must raise moral status generally. So early human embryos must have some moral status. It appears that the view that must underlie the first claim implies that the second claim is false.

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Hurley, Susan, , . Luck and Equality
2001, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 75: 51-72.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

Abstract: I argue that the aim to neutralize the influence of luck on distribution cannot provide a basis for egalitarianism: it can neither specify nor justify an egalitarian distribution. Luck and responsibility can play a role in determining what justice requires to be redistributed, but from this we cannot derive how to distribute: we cannot derive a pattern of distribution from the ‘currency’ of distributive justice. I argue that the contrary view faces a dilemma, according to whether it understands luck in interpersonal or counterfactual terms.

Comment: Useful as further reading on distributive justice, especially in connection to Ronald Dworkin’s resource-egalitarian theory and Gerald Cohen’s egalitarianism.

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Olsaretti, Serena, , . Liberty, Desert and the Market: A Philosophical Study
2004, Cambridge University Press.
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Added by: Carl Fox, Contributed by:

Abstract: Are inequalities of income created by the free market just? In this book Serena Olsaretti examines two main arguments that justify those inequalities: the first claims that they are just because they are deserved, and the second claims that they are just because they are what free individuals are entitled to. Both these arguments purport to show, in different ways, that giving responsible individuals their due requires that free market inequalities in incomes be allowed. Olsaretti argues, however, that neither argument is successful, and shows that when we examine closely the principle of desert and the notions of liberty and choice invoked by defenders of the free market, it appears that a conception of justice that would accommodate these notions, far from supporting free market inequalities, calls for their elimination. Her book will be of interest to a wide range of readers in political philosophy, political theory and normative economics.

Comment: Attacks libertarian defences of market distributions on the grounds that they are either justified or the result of free choices. Provides a good counterpoint to Nozick’s entitlement theory in particular, and draws out important issues on the relationship between choice, voluntariness, and responsibility. Olsaretti’s own account of voluntariness, which she develops in the later chapters is hugely influential. Would make good reading for an in-depth treatment of libertarianism and/or Nozick’s entitlement theory. Would also provide very substantial further reading.

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Steinbock, Bonnie, , . Speciesism and the Idea of Equality
1978, Philosophy 53 (204): 247-256.
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Added by: Rochelle DuFord, Contributed by:

Abstract: Most of us believe that we are entitled to treat members of other species in ways which would be considered wrong if inflicted on members of our own species. We kill them for food, keep them confined, use them in painful experiments. The moral philosopher has to ask what relevant difference justifies this difference in treatment. A look at this question will lead us to re-examine the distinctions which we have assumed make a moral difference.

Comment: This journal article is a response to Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation, though you need not have read Animal Liberation in order to understand this article, as Steinbock provides a clear overview of Singer’s main claims. The text would be useful for rebutting Singer’s arguments in a course on animal ethics or environmental ethics. It would also be of use in a course on moral theory that involved questions of moral consideration or moral equality.

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