8th Pavia Graduate Conference in Political Philosophy – Abstract/Shields

Liam Shields

What is Sufficientarianism?

The literature in distributive ethics suggests that if sufficiency has a role in distributive ethics it must be either as a level of advantage beyond which distributive criteria no longer apply or as a level of advantage so important that we should maximize the number of people who achieve it. However, appeal to sufficiency in either of these roles has some inherent defects. As a result the prospects for sufficientarianism, the view that there is an indispensable role for sufficiency in distributive ethics, have appeared bleak. This paper argues that a deeper understanding of how sufficiency may be distinctive in distributive ethics shows that sufficiency need not suffer from those defects and, moreover, this understanding helps us to appreciate that there are far more roles sufficiency can play in distributive ethics. The author argues that appeal to sufficiency is distinctive where it picks out a level of advantage where a shift in our reasons to benefit people further takes place. The author then argues that we have reasons to be optimistic about the prospects for sufficientarianism because we have reasons to think that such shifts do take place. This is because we have fundamentally satiable reasons of distributive ethics.