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What is the Point of Sufficiency?

Journal of Applied Philosophy

Published online on


Telic sufficientarians hold that there is something special about a certain threshold level such that benefiting people below it, or raising them above it, makes an outcome better in at least one respect. The article investigates what fundamental value might ground that view. The aim is to demonstrate that sufficientarianism, at least on this telic version, is groundless and as such indefensible. The argument is advanced in three steps: first, it is shown that sufficientarianism cannot be grounded in a personal value. Neither, secondly, is it committed to the person‐affecting view, the view that says that nothing can be better (worse) if there is no one for whom it is better (worse). This, in itself, is of interest because some sufficientarians reject egalitarianism precisely for its alleged incompatibility with the person‐affecting view. Sufficientarians' disavowal of the person‐affecting view implies that their view, similarly to egalitarianism (and, perhaps less famously, prioritarianism), must be anchored in some impersonal value. But crucially, and this is the third step of the argument, there is no apparent value that can fit that role. We must conclude, then, that telic sufficientarianism is groundless.