An article by Alex Voorhoeve and me called ‘Why It Matters That Some Are Worse Off Than Others: An Argument against the Priority View’ (Philosophy & Public Affairs) includes a link to this post ‘for remarks by Derek Parfit in reply to this article, plus the authors’ response’. Parfit’s reply, ‘Another Defence of the Priority View’, has been published in this special issue of Utilitas on prioritarianism. I’ve now just published an article called ‘Prioritarianism and the Measure of Utility’ (Journal of Political Philosophy) that responds to Parfit’s. Here’s an excerpt that conveys the gist of my article:

Myles Burnyeat, John Roemer, T. M. Scanlon, and Philippe Van Parijs will be speaking at a memorial for Jerry Cohen on Saturday, June 19, at 2.15 pm, in the Codrington Library of All Souls College, Oxford. There will also be a reception in Jerry’s memory at the UCL Philosophy Department on Thursday, June 17, at 5 pm.

Chapter 14, entitled ‘Moral Intuitions, Cognitive Psychology, and the Harming/Not-Aiding Distinction’, engages with well-known empirical studies by Kahneman and Tversky that are thought to cast doubt on the reliability of our judgments about what ought to be done in particular cases. Kahneman and Tversky argue that such judgments are unreliable because they are susceptible to ‘framing effects’. A person’s judgments are subject to a framing effect if he comes to a different conclusion about what ought to be done in a given set of circumstances when presented with a different true description (i.e., framing) of the available options. One and the same policy can, for example, be described as protecting against losses or as yielding gains. According to Kahneman and Tversky, people tend to regard the sacrifice that is justifiable for the sake of preventing losses as greater than the sacrifice that is justifiable for the sake of securing equivalent gains. Hence their judgments shift if one and the same policy is (accurately) described (a) as protecting from losses or (b) as yielding gains:

[Insert title here]
By Mike Otsuka

Heard of any good titles of articles in moral, legal, or political philosophy lately? (I’m just after good titles. Never mind the quality of the articles themselves.) Here are a couple off the top of my head:

Hillel Steiner, “Silver spoons and golden genes: talent differentials and distributive justice”, in The Genetic Revolution and Human Rights (OUP, 1999)


Peter Vallentyne, “Of mice and men: equality and animals”, Journal of Ethics (2005)

Steiner’s piece is on the relevance of nature and nurture to distributive justice. (Steiner laments that it was Thomas Nagel rather than he who coined the phrase “silver spoons and golden genes”.) Vallentyne’s is on whether egalitarians ought to massively redistribute resources from human beings to lesser animals in order to compensate the latter for their relatively unimpressive lives.

The title of this article …

G. A. Cohen, “If you’re an egalitarian, how come you’re so rich?” Journal of Ethics (2000)

…was good enough to end up on the cover of the author’s next book. I’m still waiting for someone to write a companion piece entitled “If you’re a libertarian, how come your income is so average?”.

But the best title I can think of is…

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