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Harmful Choices: Scanlon and Voorhoeve on Substantive Responsibility *

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How should the fact that a given policy offers people choice bear on policy selection? Should we favour choice-granting policies even if choices lead to harmful outcomes, and even if the causal thesis is true and people are not fully in control of how they choose? T.M. Scanlon and Alex Voorhoeve have tried to locate the significance of choice in the value or potential value that it has for choice-bearers. I show that this leaves them vulnerable to a general dilemma: either they can explain the significance of choice by supposing the causal thesis is false, or they cannot explain it when faced with certain policy cases. I argue that we should locate the significance of choice in the fact that having a choice means being in a position to treat others as they are due or not. My view can be summed up in a slogan: ask not only what choice can do for you; ask what having the choice means you can do to others.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford, ; 2: Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford,


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