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Ronald Dworkin on Life - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 417
Life/Dworkin/Weinstein: In his recent Sovereign Virtue, Dworkin presses hard his familiar defence of equality of resources, appealing to what he calls the 'challenge model' of ethical value, which he insists is non-consequentialist. For Dworkin, lives go better when they are lived from the inside with 'ethical integrity', meaning when they are not lived mechanically from the outside in accordance with rote habit. Ethically honest lives are skilful performances exhibiting ongoing, critical self-reflection. For such lives, choice is constitutive of living well.
DworkinVsUtilitarianism: Welfarism and utilitarianism are immoral since they instrumentalize choice in the name of promoting states of affairs.*
Equality: For Dworkin, equality of basic resources 'flows from' the challenge view. If living well means meeting the challenges we assign ourselves, then having sufficient basic resources is ethically imperative. And if it is 'equally important how each person lives', then everyone ought to have equal basic resources. Hence, 'ethical liberals begin with a strong ethical reason for insisting on an egalitarian distribution of resources' (Dworkin, 2000a(1): 279). In other words, equal concern and respect somehow entail resource egalitarianism since equality 'must be measured in resources and opportunities' (2000a(1): 237; also see Dworkin, 1985(2): 192-3).
Notwithstanding the circularity of arguing that equal concern and respect entail treating people equally along some separately identified domain, Dworkin never stipulates precisely what he means by equality of resources also 'flow[ing] from' the challenge model.**
But if the latter is meant to be a source of justification, then Dworkin's egalitarian liberalism begins to look like Sen's more than Dworkin realizes. >Egalitarianosm/Sen.

* Following Sen, Dworkin (2000a(1): ch. l) considers utilitarianism a form of welfarism. For Sen's rejection of utilitarianism though not consequentialism, see Sen (1979)(2). Also see Dworkin (2000a(1): ch. 7) for his criticisms of Sen 's and Cohen's conceptions of equality.

** In Dworkin's recent response to Miller's review of Sovereign Virtue, he says that by equal resources 'flow[ing] from' equal concern and respect, he means 'consistent with'. He also says that his book aims to 'find attractive conceptions of democracy, liberty, community and individual responsibility that are consistent with or flow from' equal resources in order to 'protect' these
values 'from subordination' to equality (Dworkin, 2000b(3): 15). Now this meaning of 'flowlingl from' merely requires that distributive justice be compatible with equal concern and respect and not that it is entailed by it.


1. Dworkin, Ronald (2000a) Sovereign Virtue. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
2. Sen, Amartya (1979) 'Utilitarianism and welfarism'. The Journal of Philosophy, LXXVI: 463-89.
3. Dworkin, Ronald (2000b) 'Equality - an exchange'. Times Literary Supplement (London), I December: 15-16.

Weinstein, David 2004. „English Political Theory in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Dworkin I
Ronald Dworkin
Taking Rights Seriously Cambridge, MA 1978

Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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