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Title: What to do when there isn't enough : the fair distribution of scarce goods
Author: Vong, Gerard
ISNI:       0000 0004 2744 930X
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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My DPhil submission consists of a series of papers on related topics on the moral philosophy of scarce benefit distribution. It focuses on two types of scarce benefit distribution case. The first type occurs when which all potential beneficiaries of a good each have an equally strong moral claim on an equal benefit from the resource but scarcity or indivisibility prevents us from benefiting all potential beneficiaries. Call these cases equal conflict cases. In 'Anti-Majoritarianism', I argue against the view defended by both utilitarians and non-utilitarians that in equal conflict cases you always ought to give the benefit to as many people as possible. I argue that doing so is neither morally right nor fair. In 'Weighing Up Weighted Lotteries', I argue that the philosophical debate between unweighted and weighted lottery benefit distribution procedures has been misconceived and that fairness requires us to use a new kind of weighted lottery that I call the exclusive composition-sensitive lottery. In 'Can't Get No Satisfaction', I defend a new view that I call the dual-structure view about how lotteries satisfy potential beneficiaries' claims in equal conflict cases and highlight the implications of that view for the distribution of donor corneas to those who have suffered corneal degeneration. The second type of this distributional problem occurs when we can either benefit a very large number of potential beneficiaries with a very small benefit (call these the many) or a very small number of potential beneficiaries with a very major benefit (call these the few). In "Valuing the Few Over the Many" I argue that there are cases where not only ought we to benefit the few over the many no matter how numerous the many are, but it is also better to do so. However, this conclusion can be shown to conflict with a number of widely held tenets of value theory. I evaluate different ways of accommodating these intuitions and argue that in some contexts, benefits are not of finite value. The view I defend in 'Valuing the Few Over the Many', combined with some intuitively plausible axiological claims, is inconsistent with the transitivity of the 'better than' relation. In 'Making Betterness Behave' I argue that for what I call the conditional non-coextensive thesis: if 'better than' is not transitive, one ought to take the position that 'more reason to bring about rather than' is transitive. I argue that one can generate a transitive 'more reason to bring about rather than' deontic ordering from a non-transitive axiological ordering in a principled way. This deontic ordering avoids the major practical objections (money pumps, moral dilemmas and threats to practical reasoning) to non-transitivity of the 'better than' relation.
Supervisor: Broome, John; Parfit, Derek Sponsor: Oxford University Press Clarendon Fund
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Philosophy ; Ethics (Moral philosophy) ; Practical ethics ; fairness ; scarcity ; distributive ethics ; lotteries ; value theory