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Thresholds and the good : a program of political evaluation


Morality requires not only an account of the right, but also of the good. This is well-understood. In this dissertation, I argue that plausible concerns of political morality merit reconsideration of the proper account of the good. Many people believe that political morality ought to take an interest in a basic social minimum, a standard below which no citizens should be allowed to fall. Concern for the welfare of the poorest, however, is well captured by an axiological theory that itself is independently plausible. In this dissertation, I argue that the good displays three features. First, the evaluation of states of affairs ought to reflect strong concern for the achievement of a basic minimum. Second, this basic minimum is part of an independently plausible account of human well-being that grants heavy axiological weight to certain threshold achievements. Third, in evaluating the distribution of threshold achievements, including the basic minimum, the least well-off ought to be given absolute axiological priority. If my account of the good can adequately capture firm intuitions concerning the world's poorest, this is a significant result. However, the interest of this theory goes beyond the political interest in a basic social minimum. I argue that a threshold-laden axiology can solve persistent and troubling worries for any account of value including Lives for Headaches, a troubling conclusion I discuss in Chapter Two. The theory of well-being proposed in Chapter Three is also plausible in the face of popular rival accounts

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