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Shai Shimon Yehuda Agmon Matt Hitchens

Abstract

A well-known objection to prioritarianism, famously levelled by Mike Otsuka and Alex Voorhoeve, is that it wrongly ignores the unity of the individual in treating intra-personal cases like inter-personal cases. In this paper we accept that there should be a moral shift between these cases, but argue that this is because autonomy is a relevant consideration in intra-personal but not inter-personal cases, and one to which pluralist prioritarians ought to attend. To avoid this response, Otsuka and Voorhoeve must (and do) assume we know nothing about the subjective information of the person being chosen for. But we show that this commits them to two controversial assumptions: that welfare consists in an objective list of goods, and – if one accepts an unorthodox but plausible account of the relationship between risk aversion and rationality – that there is only a narrow range of rational risk aversions. Only prioritarians who accept both these assumptions are on the hook of Otsuka and Voorhoeve’s objection; for all others, the examples have insufficient information, and so lose their sting.

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