The Practical, the Political and the Ethical seminar series

The Practical, the Political and the Ethical seminar series
11 June 2019, 5.30pm - 7.15pm
Room 102 (the Philosophy Seminar Room) in UCL 19 Gordon Square

Prioritarianism: a Response to Critics

Matthew Adler (Duke/LSE)


Prioritarianism is a moral view that ranks outcomes according to the sum of a strictly increasing and strictly concave transformation of individual well-being. Prioritarianism is welfarist (namely, it satisfies axioms of Pareto Indifference, Strong Pareto, and Anonymity) as well as satisfying three further axioms: Pigou-Dalton (formalizing the property of giving greater weight to those who are worse off), Separability, and Continuity. Philosophical discussion of prioritarianism was galvanized by Derek Parfit’s 1991 Lindley Lecture. Since then, and notwithstanding Parfit’s support, a variety of criticisms of prioritarianism have been mounted: by utilitarians (such as John Broome and Hilary Greaves); egalitarians (such as Lara Buchak; Michael Otsuka and Alex Voorhoeve; Ingmar Persson; and Larry Temkin); and sufficientists (Roger Crisp). In this talk, drawing upon my recent “Prioritarianism: A Response to Critics” (18 Politics, Philosophy and Economics 101 [2019], co-authored with Nils Holtug), I offer a person-affecting defense of prioritarianism; describe the major criticisms; and reply to them.

The Institute of Philosophy hosts a regular workshop series entitled ‘The Practical, the Political, and the Ethical’. The series was created in 2015 by Véronique Munoz-Dardé (UCL) and Hallvard Lillehammer (Birkbeck) in order to discuss work in progress from visiting speakers. This year the series is convened by Robert Simpson (UCL) and Joe Horton (UCL). The seminar generally meets on alternate Tuesdays from 5.30 to 7.15pm in the spring and summer terms. Talks are normally 50 minutes (no pre-circulation of the paper), followed by discussion. All are welcome.  


Institute of Philsophy
020 7664 4865