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Setting Health-Care PrioritiesWhat Ethical Theories Tell Us$
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Torbjörn Tännsjö

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190946883

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190946883.001.0001

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The Maximin/Leximin Theory

The Maximin/Leximin Theory

(p.22) 3 The Maximin/Leximin Theory
Setting Health-Care Priorities

Torbjörn Tännsjö

Oxford University Press

Presented in this chapter is the Rawlsian idea that one should take seriously the distinction between (and integrity of) persons. This distinction between, and integrity of, persons, is the metaphysical rationale behind the normative idea here discussed to the effect that absolute priority should be given to the person who is worst off. This is the maximin idea. Once the needs of those who are worst off have been catered to, we ought to tend to the needs of those who come next in line. This is the leximin idea. In the defence of these normative ideas it is taken for granted that interpersonal comparisons of happiness are possible and that compensation within lives but not between lives is permissible. This idea is contrasted with the utilitarian maxim that we ought to maximize the sum total of happiness. It is argued that the metaphysical rationale behind the maximin/leximin idea is consistent with utilitarianism so the choice between the maximin/leximin and utilitarianism relies in the final analysis on normative, not metaphysical, considerations.

Keywords:   Rawls, distinction between persons

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