September 2, 2017
The late G.A. Cohen is routinely considered a founding father of luck egalitarianism, a prominent responsibility-sensitive theory of distributive justice. David Miller argues that Cohen’s considered beliefs on distributive justice are not best understood as luck egalitarian. While the relationship between distributive justice and personal responsibility plays an important part in Cohen’s work, Miller maintains that it should be considered an isolated theme confined to Cohen’s exchange with Dworkin. We should not understand the view Cohen defends in this exchange as Cohen’s considered view. Accepting this thesis would change both our understanding of Cohen’s political philosophy and many recent luck egalitarian contributions. Miller’s argument offers an opportunity to reassess Cohen’s writings as a whole. Ultimately, however, the textual evidence against Miller’s argument is overwhelming. Cohen clearly considers the exchange with Dworkin to be about egalitarianism as such rather than about the best responsibility-sensitive version of egalitarianism. Furthermore, Cohen often offers luck egalitarian formulations of his own view outside of the exchange with Dworkin and uses luck egalitarianism as an independent yardstick for evaluating principles and distributions.