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Language and luck

  • Helder De Schutter

    ()

    (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium)

  • Lea Ypi

    (London School of Economics, UK)

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    In this article, we examine how language and linguistic membership might feature in luck egalitarianism, what a luck-egalitarian theory of linguistic justice would look like, and, finally, what the emphasis on language teaches us about the validity of standard luck-egalitarian assumptions. We show that belonging to one language group rather than another is a morally arbitrary feature and that where membership of a specific linguistic group affects individual chances, the effects of such bad brute luck ought to be neutralized on the luck-egalitarian view. We assess two ways of redressing those kinds of unjustified inequalities: the ‘universal language’ option and the ‘linguistic advantages for all’ option. But we also argue, in the second part, that exploring luck egalitarianism through the lens of language exposes some difficulties intrinsic in many existent luck-egalitarian theories. We argue that treating circumstances one identifies with as choices is problematic. In addition, we argue that the linguistic preconditions of both the capacity to be responsible as well the exercise of responsibility complicate the idea of individual responsibility on which most luck-egalitarian theories rely. We conclude by suggesting the need to develop a luck-egalitarian theory of justice which is less reliant on causal features of the distinction between choice and circumstance and which is more sensitive to the idea of collective cooperation as opposed to individual responsibility.

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    File URL: http://ppe.sagepub.com/content/11/4/357.abstract
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    Article provided by in its journal Politics, Philosophy & Economics.

    Volume (Year): 11 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 4 (November)
    Pages: 357-381

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    Handle: RePEc:sae:pophec:v:11:y:2012:i:4:p:357-381
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