Similarity and the trustworthiness of distributive judgements

Economics and Philosophy 35 (3):537-561 (2019)

Abstract

When people must either save a greater number of people from a smaller harm or a smaller number from a greater harm, do their choices reflect a reasonable moral outlook? We pursue this question with the help of an experiment. In our experiment, two-fifths of subjects employ a similarity heuristic. When alternatives appear dissimilar in terms of the number saved but similar in terms of the magnitude of harm prevented, this heuristic mandates saving the greater number. In our experiment, this leads to choices that are inconsistent with all standard theories of justice. We argue that this demonstrates the untrustworthiness of distributive judgments in cases that elicit similarity-based choice.

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Alex Voorhoeve
London School of Economics

References found in this work

Thinking, Fast and Slow.Daniel Kahneman - 2011 - New York: New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
A Theory of Justice: Revised Edition.John Rawls - 1999 - Harvard University Press.
Ethics and Intuitions.Peter Singer - 2005 - The Journal of Ethics 9 (3-4):331-352.

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