Rank-Weighted Utilitarianism and the Veil of Ignorance

Ethics 131 (1):87-106 (2020)
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Lara Buchak argues for a version of rank-weighted utilitarianism that assigns greater weight to the interests of the worse off. She argues that our distributive principles should be derived from the preferences of rational individuals behind a veil of ignorance, who ought to be risk averse. I argue that Buchak’s appeal to the veil of ignorance leads to a particular way of extending rank-weighted utilitarianism to the evaluation of uncertain prospects. This method recommends choices that violate the unanimous preferences of rational individuals and choices that guarantee worse distributions. These results, I suggest, undermine Buchak’s argument for rank-weighted utilitarianism.

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Jake Nebel
Princeton University

References found in this work

Equality or Priority?Derek Parfit - 2001 - In John Harris (ed.), Bioethics. Oxford University Press. pp. 81-125.
Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision Under Risk.D. Kahneman & A. Tversky - 1979 - Econometrica: Journal of the Econometric Society:263--291.

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