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Can Consequentialists Honour the Special Moral Status of Persons?

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  • PETERSON, MARTIN

Abstract

It is widely believed that consequentialists are committed to the claim that persons are mere containers for well-being. In this article I challenge this view by proposing a new version of consequentialism, according to which the identities of persons matter. The new theory, two-dimensional prioritarianism, is a natural extension of traditional prioritarianism. Two-dimensional prioritarianism holds that well-being matters more for persons who are at a low absolute level than for persons who are at a higher level and that it is worse to be deprived of a given number of units than it is good to gain the same number of units, even if the new distribution is a permutation of the original one. If a fixed amount of well-being is transferred from one person to another and then transferred back again, two-dimensional prioritarianism implies that it would have been better to preserve the status quo.

Suggested Citation

  • Peterson, Martin, 2010. "Can Consequentialists Honour the Special Moral Status of Persons?," Utilitas, Cambridge University Press, vol. 22(04), pages 434-446, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:utilit:v:22:y:2010:i:04:p:434-446_00
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