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K-State Today

April 5, 2017

Nir Eyal to present 'Against Fair Chances' April 6

Submitted by Teresa Zerbe

Nir Eyal, associate professor of global health and population at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, will present "Against Fair Chances" at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 6, in 203 Dickens Hall. 


The following two dilemmas of distributive justice have something in common.

Treatment vs. prevention: Since some preventative measures — eg. male circumcision for HIV/AIDS — are more cost-effective than antiretroviral treatment, is it fair to reserve the entire available budget for the former, depriving infected patients of any hope?

Economic disparities assessment: Take a given economic gap between the poorest and the richest. Is that gap more unfair when it has a social gradient? For example, is there something inherently unfair about the overrepresentation of a racial minority or of the least educated among the poor?

These two dilemmas ask whether fairness requires protecting (relatively) high risk individuals such as infected patients, and as members of a social group with relatively low economic standing. Economist Peter Diamond and others have argued that fairness applies directly to the distribution of prospects and risks. The vast contemporary writing on "fair chances" likewise assumes that risk distributions can be fair or unfair. 

Eyal will argue, contra Diamond and ethicists — Broome, Frick, Kamm, Hausman, Daniels, Oberdiek, Otsuka, and Parfit — that notions of fairness and unfairness do not directly apply to the distribution of prospects and risks. Equalizing prospects lacks intrinsic worth. Personal outcomes are the only true "currencies" of distributive justice.

Eyal's lecture is sponsored by they philosophy department. 

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