Journal of Applied Philosophy 31 (3):254-270 (2014)

Ben Colburn
Glasgow University
The Continuity Test is the principle that a proposed distribution of resources is wrong if it treats someone as disadvantaged when they don't see it that way themselves, for example by offering compensation for features that they do not themselves regard as handicaps. This principle — which is most prominently developed in Ronald Dworkin's defence of his theory of distributive justice — is an attractive one for a liberal to endorse as part of her theory of distributive justice and disadvantage. In this article, I play out some of its implications, and show that in its basic form the Continuity Test is inconsistent. It relies on a tacit commitment to the protection of autonomy, understood to consist in an agent deciding for herself what is valuable and living her life in accordance with that decision. A contradiction arises when we consider factors which are putatively disadvantaging by dint of threatening individual autonomy construed in this way. I argue that the problem can be resolved by embracing a more explicit commitment to the protection (and perhaps promotion) of individual autonomy. This implies a constrained version of the Continuity Test, thereby salvaging most of the intuitions which lead people to endorse the Test. It also gives us the wherewithal to sketch an interesting and novel theory of distributive justice, with individual autonomy at its core
Keywords dworkin  distributive justice  responsibility  continuity  equality  disability  autonomy
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DOI 10.1111/japp.12060
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References found in this work BETA

"Sovereign Virtue" Revisited.Ronald Dworkin - 2002 - Ethics 113 (1):106-143.
Equality for the Ambitious.Andrew Williams - 2002 - Philosophical Quarterly 52 (208):377-389.
Mistakes and the Continuity Test.Hugh Lazenby - 2016 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 15 (2):190-205.

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Citations of this work BETA

Preferences, Reasoning Errors, and Resource Egalitarianism.Alexandru Volacu - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (8):1851-1870.
Hypothetical Insurance and Higher Education.Ben Colburn & Hugh Lazenby - 2016 - Journal of Philosophy of Education 50 (4):587-604.
Disadvantage, Disagreement, and Disability: Re-Evaluating the Continuity Test.Jessica Begon - forthcoming - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy:1-30.

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