X-Phi and Impartiality Thought Experiments: Investigating the Veil of Ignorance

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Norbert Paulo
Thomas Pölzler


This paper discusses “impartiality thought experiments”, i.e., thought experiments that attempt to generate intuitions which are unaffected by personal characteristics such as age, gender or race. We focus on the most prominent impartiality thought experiment, the Veil of Ignorance (VOI), and show that both in its original Rawlsian version and in a more generic version, empirical investigations can be normatively relevant in two ways: First, on the assumption that the VOI is effective and robust, if subjects dominantly favor a certain normative judgment behind the VOI this provides evidence in favor of that judgment; if, on the other hand, they do not dominantly favor a judgment this reduces our justification for it. Second, empirical investigations can also contribute to assessing the effectiveness and robustness of the VOI in the first place, thereby supporting or undermining its applications across the board.


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Paulo, Norbert, and Thomas Pölzler. 2020. “X-Phi and Impartiality Thought Experiments: Investigating the Veil of Ignorance”. Diametros 17 (64):72-89. https://doi.org/10.33392/diam.1499.
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