Basic equality


Confirmed patricipants include

  • Richard Asneson (UC San Diego)
  • Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen (AARHUS)
  • Andra Sangiovanni (EUI/KCL)

The principle of basic equality – which states that persons should be considered and treated as “equals” – is widely recognised as a fundamental assumption of any reasonable theory of justice (Kymlicka 2002; Sen 2006). Yet, as several critics observed, such a principle does not seem to rest on solid philosophical grounds. On the one hand, it is unclear how the possession of a scalar status-conferring property – e.g. sentience, the capacity to value, the capacity for autonomy, etc. – can account for persons’ equal moral status (Arneson, 1999). On the other hand, identifying a status-conferring property that a range of beings hold to an equal degree is not enough to conclude that they have equal moral status. Rather, it must also be shown that they do not possess a further status-conferring property to an unequal degree which can upset their equality in moral status (Husi, 2017).

In recent years, several attempts to answer these challenges to the principle of basic equality have been put forward. Some have argued that basic equality is grounded in the possession of a binary property (Sher 2014); others have contended that the basis of basic equality is to be found in a commitment to a form of respect for persons’ agential capacities, which entails that only the possession of a Rawlsian “range property” should be considered morally relevant when assessing persons’ moral status (Carter 2011). Still, others have argued that basic equality should not be grounded in the equal possession of a status-conferring property, but in the rejection of treating others as inferiors (Sangiovanni, 2017).

This panel aims at bringing together scholars who work on the topic of basic equality. Thus, we would particularly like to invite papers which address the following issues:

  1. What does it mean to have equal moral status? Does basic equality entail different kinds of prescriptive equality, such as political and social equality? Are there different kinds of basic equality corresponding to each kind of prescriptive equality?
  2. What is the basis of basic equality? Must basic equality depend on individuals’ possession of certain internal properties, or can it depend on their relating in certain ways? If the former, which properties, exactly?
  3. What is the scope of basic equality? For example, do nonhuman animals of certain kinds have equal moral status? Are children morally equal to one another? Are children and adults one another’s moral equals?
  4. What are the implications of basic equality for theories of justice? For example, does the answer to the question of the basis of basic equality have any implications for the currency of distributive justice?

Submission Guidelines

Please submit an approx. 500-word abstract of your paper prepared for blind review by 15 May 2020. We aim to respond within two weeks. All abstracts and enquiries about the workshop should be sent to

Full papers will be pre-circulated two weeks prior to the panel. At the moment, we aim to allow for 5 minutes for introductory remarks, and 55 minutes for Q&A, but this may be subject to change.

Registration for this conference will open in June. All participants must register in order to attend. This year’s fees are £240.00 for academics and £135.00 for graduate students and retirees. The deadline for bursary applications (available to current graduate students/early-career researchers and retirees only) will be the 14th June, and successful applicants will be informed by the 21st June. Only people accepted to present on a panel should apply for bursaries.

As organisers of this panel we do not allocate bursaries. However, please state in your application to our panel whether you intend to apply for a bursary.

We look forward to reading your abstracts!