Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Setting Health-Care PrioritiesWhat Ethical Theories Tell Us$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Torbjörn Tännsjö

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190946883

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190946883.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 20 January 2021

Some Controversial Implications of the Three Theories

Some Controversial Implications of the Three Theories

(p.54) 6 Some Controversial Implications of the Three Theories
Setting Health-Care Priorities

Torbjörn Tännsjö

Oxford University Press

Utilitarianism, the maximin/leximin theory, egalitarianism, and prioritarianism all come with, on the face of it, plausible rationales. However, these theories are inconsistent with one another, so they cannot all be true. It is of note, also, that each of them comes with some problematic implications. In particular, according to utilitarianism there are fewer reasons to extend the life of an unhappy person than the life of a happy person. Hence it has been thought to discriminate against disability. On the maximin/leximin theory, on the other hand, those who are worst off may seem to have a morally legitimate claim on all the good things in life (they become what is here nicknamed as ‘utility thieves’). Egalitarianism implies that levelling down to a situation where everyone is on the same low level of happiness means, at least in one respect, an improvement. Moreover, egalitarianism is insensitive in relation to momentary suffering. Prioritarianism does take suffering seriously, but apart from this it shares the standard problems with utilitarianism, which is only to be expected, since it is here seen as a mere amendment to utilitarianism.

Keywords:   disability, utility thieves, levelling down, complacency with regard to suffering

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .