Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP)

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Talk: Frederik Van De Putte (Rotterdam/Ghent)

Location: Ludwigstr. 31, room 021

27.10.2022 16:00  – 18:00 


Original Position Arguments and Multidimensional Ignorance

joint work with Thijs De Coninck (Ghent University)


Original position arguments start from the assumption of rational, self-interested individuals making choices behind a veil of ignorance, and thus not knowing their position in society. On Rawls' well-known account, this leads them to choose in line with the difference principle, evaluating options in terms of the welfare of the worst off. Other scholars such as Harsanyi and Parfit have argued for different conceptions of justice, based on different notions of individual rationality behind the veil of ignorance. Even if such arguments may not lead to a unique policy or social choice rule, they still serve as a useful tool in sorting out our intuitions regarding procedural fairness and its relation to social choice.

The aim of this paper is to develop a formal model of original position arguments for social choice rules; a model that is rich enough to account for a range of philosophical positions, and yet in line with standard decision theoretic accounts of individual rationality. We will focus on cases of choice under ignorance, i.e. cases where the distribution of welfare that results from a given choice depends in part on the (unknown) state of the world. The upshot is that we have to enrich the standard model of decisions in such settings, if we want to achieve the right sort of model of original position arguments.