Slouching Towards Equality

19 Pages Posted: 1 Oct 2009

Date Written: May 1999


Drawing on his work in two previous articles, Christopher Peters contends that uncertainty about substantive moral norms cannot justify a presumption of equal treatment. Arguments for equal treatment in the face of uncertainty are types of consequentialist claims; they are not claims of what Peters calls prescriptive equality, that is, for treating likes alike merely because they are alike. Peters contends that the consequentialist case for equal treatment as a response to uncertainty fails in two respects. First, it fails to demonstrate that equal treatment is likely to be a more satisfactory response to moral uncertainty than unequal treatment. Second, it is logically incoherent because it simultaneously relies upon and denies the possibility of confidence in moral judgment. Peters concludes that no valid case can be made for defaulting to equal treatment in the face of moral uncertainty.

Keywords: moral norms, equal treatment, prescriptive equality, consequentialist claims, moral uncertainty, unequal treatment, nonegalitarian justice, epistemic asymmetry

JEL Classification: K19, K39

Suggested Citation

Peters, Christopher J., Slouching Towards Equality (May 1999). Iowa Law Review, Vol. 84, No. 4, 1999. Available at SSRN: or

Christopher J. Peters (Contact Author)

UA School of Law ( email )

150 University Ave.
Akron, OH 44325-2901
United States
330-972-7343 (Phone)


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