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Fair equality of opportunity remains a compelling but complex normative ideal. During this this mini-symposium, we will discuss a number of thorny questions central to the debates on distributive justice.

Detail Summary
Date 12 February 2015
Time 15:30 - 17:30
Location Oudemanhuispoort
Room Venue: Oudemanhuispoort A2.11

Papers presented: 

Colin MacLeod (Philosophy, Victoria) 

Equality of Opportunity and the Consequences of Choice

Roland Pierik (Legal Philosophy UvA):

Nonideal Luck-Egalitarianism: A Critique of Dworkin’s Theory of Improvement and an Alternative Defense


Gijs van Donselaar, (Philosophy, University of Amsterdam)


Michael Merry, (Philosophy, University of Amsterdam)


Room Venue: Oudemanhuispoort A2.11

Oudemanhuispoort 4-6
1012 CN Amsterdam

Amsterdam Centre for Inequality Studies

MacLeod's Homepage


Colin MacLeod Equality of Opportunity and the Consequences of Choice

Equality of opportunity as an ideal of justice is attractive, in part, because it gives recognition to the idea that the responsible choices of individuals should influence the distribution of resources. However, there are different ways of construing the ideal of choice-sensitivity. This paper considers how specification of the ideal of choice sensitivity should incorporate considerations the gravity of the consequences of choice for the interests persons who make choices. Although differences in choices of individuals can legitimately affect access to resources, a plausible view should make the consequences of choice suitably proportional to the character of the choices people make. For instance, small differences in the responsible choices of individuals should not result in radically unequal life prospects or persons even if individuals are equally situated with respect to a set of opportunities. 



Roland Pierik: Nonideal Luck-Egalitarianism 

Abstract: Over the last two decades, luck-egalitarianism has dominated the debate on distributive justice. In particular, Ronald Dworkin’s equality of resources is regarded as one of the canonical approaches. Yet, luck-egalitarianism has become the subject of serious critique for being too ideal-theoretical, unduly abstract, and too far disconnected from actual political discussions in here-and-now societies. This paper aims to contribute to this debate, by critically analyzing a central but less prominent element of Dworkin’s work: his nonideal ‘theory of improvement.’ The paper will defend three claims. The first is that Dworkin’s ideal-theoretical argument provides the most convincing defense of the luck-egalitarian ideal. The second is that his nonideal theory of improvement, revolving around ‘resource deficits’ and ‘liberty deficits’ is both ad hoc and incomplete because it remains too much within his ideal-theoretical methodology and categories. The third claim is that there is a more promising alternative non-ideal implementation of Dworkin’s luck-egalitarianism ideal, focusing on ‘social endowments’ and ‘natural endowments.’ The aim of the paper is to develop this alternative theory of nonideal luck-egalitarianism that will do a better job in providing practical guidance for urgent egalitarian question that liberal-democratic societies face today.