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Needs, Incommensurability and Well-being

Listed author(s):
  • Mozaffar Qizilbash

Some have argued for the priority of needs in moral and development theory, on the grounds that people have conflicting and incommensurable values and conceptions of the good. In this paper, I concentrate on one version of this view, that due to John Rawls. Rawls' view is that a person's advantage should be evaluated in terms of certain primary goods which are citizens' needs. I outline a variation on James Griffin's account of well-being, which involves certain values that make any human life better—prudential values. I argue that such values are commensurable, and that the account is consistent with pluralism. The discussion supports and helps us to understand various criticisms of Rawls. It also suggests that one argument for the priority of needs in development theory is invalid.

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Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Review of Political Economy.

Volume (Year): 9 (1997)
Issue (Month): 3 ()
Pages: 261-276

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Handle: RePEc:taf:revpoe:v:9:y:1997:i:3:p:261-276
DOI: 10.1080/751245295
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