Chapter

Equality of What?

Amartya Sen

in Inequality Reexamined

Published in print September 1995 | ISBN: 9780198289289
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191596896 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0198289286.003.0002
 Equality of What?

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The two central issues in the ethical analysis of equality—‘Why equality?’ and ‘Equality of what?’ are addressed. It is noted that ethical plausibility is hard to achieve unless everyone is given equal consideration in some space (or variable) that is important in the ethical theory under consideration. In addition, it is difficult to see how an ethical theory can have general social plausibility without extending equal consideration to all at some level. However, it is argued that the question of ‘why equality’ is not a central issue in differentiating standard theories, since they are all egalitarian in terms of some space or variable; rather, it is ‘equality of what’ that is the important issue. The different theories give different answers to the question, ‘equality of what’ that are distinguishable in principle and involve conceptual different approaches, but whose practical force depends on the empirical importance of the relevant human heterogeneities that make equality in one space diverge from that in another.

Keywords: equality; ethical theories; heterogeneity; human diversity; inequality; space

Chapter.  8784 words. 

Subjects: Public Economics

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