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Telic Priority: Prioritarianism’s Impersonal Value

  • Christoph Hanisch EMAIL logo


I develop the recent claim that prioritarianism, and not only its egalitarian competitors, must be committed to an impersonal outcome value (i. e. a value that makes a distribution better even if this does not affect anyone’s welfare). This value, that I label telic priority and that consists in the goodness of benefits going to the worst off recipients, implies implausible judgments that more than compete with ‘pure’ (Parfit) egalitarianism’s applause in leveling down scenarios. ‘Pure prioritarianism’, an axiological theory that would consist in an unqualified commitment to telic priority only, must therefore be developed into a pluralist version of the priority view. Contra Parfit, prioritarianism and egalitarianism are on a par concerning the relationship between their pure (and implausible) formulations and their pluralist (and plausible) versions. The final section explains why telic priority always assigns preference to the worst-off (and not merely to the worse-off).


I am indebted to audiences at Bowling Green State University and the University of Vienna. Moreover, I profited a lot from detailed conversations on earlier drafts with Jeffrey Moriarty and David Faraci. This paper project received funding from the European Union’s Horizon FP7 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 249377.


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Published Online: 2020-06-20
Published in Print: 2020-05-26

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