Res Publica

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 257–284 | Cite as

Nagel's `Paradox' of Equality and Partiality

  • Alan Thomas


Thomas Nagel has argued that we are theoretically committed to both ethical pluralism and liberal egalitarianism in a way that seems plausible but that the combination leads through time to a deep-seated incoherence within our own moral and political outlook.This paper critically examines Nagel’s arguments for this conclusion. The paradox is centrally generated by the dual role of the impartial perspective in Nagel’s argument. This dual role is analysed and rejected as based on a mistake about objectification, such that there is no conflict between the personal and impersonal point of view of the kind Nagel describes. His insightful account of the prospects for egalitarianism is, further, hindered by his account of the internal division of the self. A positive proposal is made for a feasible egalitarian ideal that overcomes such a dichotomy within the self in the context of civil society.

agent-relativity citizenship contractualism egalitarianism legitimacy partiality 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan Thomas
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Kent at CanterburyCanterbury, KentUK

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