Algorithmic fairness and resentment

Philosophical Studies:1-33 (forthcoming)
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In this paper we develop a general theory of algorithmic fairness. Drawing on Johnson King and Babic’s work on moral encroachment, on Gary Becker’s work on labor market discrimination, and on Strawson’s idea of resentment and indignation as responses to violations of the demand for goodwill toward oneself and others, we locate attitudes to fairness in an agent’s utility function. In particular, we first argue that fairness is a matter of a decision-maker’s relative concern for the plight of people from different groups, rather than of the outcomes produced for different groups. We then show how an agent’s preferences, including in particular their attitudes to error, give rise to their decision thresholds. Tying these points together, we argue that the agent’s relative degrees of concern for different groups manifest in a difference in decision thresholds applied to these groups.



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Author Profiles

Boris Babic
California Institute of Technology
Zoë Johnson King
Harvard University

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