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Women in Philosophy – Dr. Anca Gheaus: “Fair Equality of Opportunity in Unjust Circumstances”

February 6, 2018, 18:15–19:45
S 6, GW II

This lecture is part of the series “Women in Philosophy”.

Abstract: Fair equality of opportunity is a principle that regulates competition for unequally desirable social positions; it requires that individuals with the same level of ambition and native talent have the same opportunities - or, in different words, a level playing field. In distributionally jus societies, the magnitude of inequalities is itself regulated by a different principle - for instance, by luck egalitarianism, or some kind of prioritarianism, or, at the very least, sufficientarianism. By contrast, in certain kinds of unjust circumstances, two joint features render the competition for social positions morally objectionable: (a) the competition is in an important sense non-voluntary and (b) the pay-offs are unjustly unequal. In such circumstances, I argue, there is little if any value to to leveling the playing field. To the extent to which existing societies are unjust, current preoccupation with lack of social mobility is misguided: it makes no moral difference whether one is a victim of injustice due to lack of native talent or due to unlucky familial circumstances.

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