Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Beyond Price Signaling: Choice, Information and Justice
by Braynen, William, Ph.D., The University of Arizona, 2012, 435; 3522687
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation explores the role of information in justice, with an eye to taking choice seriously.

Information is neither free nor ubiquitous, as has been obvious to economists for some time. Related puzzles are also prominent in epistemology and cognitive science, from framing effects to "fast and frugal heuristics". I import these concerns into distributive justice theory.

One important goal of justice theory is to formulate what makes a socioeconomic institution just or unjust and provide criteria for judging whether one distribution of benefits and burdens is less unjust than another. Given the attention that voluntary choice has received in providing moral justification for unequal distributions, it is surprising that the related question of informed choice has been overlooked.

Informed consent, for example, has more justificatory power than consent simpliciter. Information affects choice and choice affects outcomes. But if the costs and benefits of informing oneself are unknown to the agent before the point of choice but yet differ from agent to agent, then which allocation of information costs is just? This is a central question in this dissertation.

Because the closest attempt to dealing with choices made under risk and uncertainty is Ronald Dworkin's brute/option luck distinction, I focus on option luck, framing distributive justice as interplay between process and pattern (chapter 2). I advance arguments for the following: option luck is insufficient for justice even if we presuppose ideal epistemic agents (chapter 3), how information is presented matters for justice between non-ideal epistemic agents (chapter 4), and informed choice requires cognitive fit between the agent and the agent's socioeconomic environment (chapter 5).

I argue that Dworkin's hypothetical insurance market cannot guarantee any form of sufficientarianism even for affluent societies (chapter 6), proposing a different argument for sufficientarianism by combining (a) the perfect duty of beneficence with (b) the assumption that unfair disadvantages are unjust (chapter 7).

I argue that the notion of option luck is ill-suited for cooperative contexts of socio-economic interactions (chapter 8) and outline how we could evaluate the justice of a given assignment of epistemic responsibilities, using buyer beware as a case study (chapter 9).

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Christiano, Thomas
Commitee: Gill, Michael, Grim, Patrick, Kamtekar, Rachana
School: The University of Arizona
Department: Philosophy
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-A 73/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Philosophy
Keywords: Choice, Distributive justice, Economic justice, Information, Justice, Political philosophy
Publication Number: 3522687
ISBN: 9781267549679
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