Vol. 3 (2018), Issue 1 (open)



Bogdan Olaru   -PHILOSOPHY--------

Institute of Economic and Social Research, Romanian Academy, Iași

Teza statutului moral egal. Dilema egalitarianului / The Theory of Equal Moral Status. The Egalitarian Dilemma
Keywords: moral status; equality; equal moral consideration; the egalitarian dilemma;

The ideal of moral equality allows for various interpretations depending on one’s preferred focus (interests, dignity, etc.). I argue that, whatever the focus, the call for equality ends up in difficulties prompted by what I describe as the argument from essential characteristic. This argument puts the question of equality in terms of finding a criterion of moral status that is both clear-cut and morally relevant. In the first section, I present this argument and the resulting egalitarian dilemma, which states that no criterion can meet both requirements. The second section displays three ways in which this dilemma was used against the ideal of moral equality: rejecting equality altogether, downgrading equality as derivative principle subservient to other principles, and as a counterargument to any attempt to justify equality based on alleged humankind’s defining features. I discuss some ways of deconstructing the egalitarian dilemma, but I dismiss them as unsatisfactory. It follows that the most pertinent way to make the case for equality as a fundamental principle and source of moral obligations is, given the strength of the egalitarian dilemma, to accept this dilemma as a successful objection against the argu-ment that equal moral consideration originates in some special characteristic that defines moral status and is shared by those described as equals. One should look for other meaningful, non-metaphysical ways to justify equality.