Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 1181–1204 | Cite as

Autonomy-Based Reasons for Limitarianism

  • Danielle ZwarthoedEmail author


This paper aims to provide autonomy-based reasons in favour of limitarianism. Limitarianism affirms it is of primary moral importance that no one gets too much. The paper challenges the standard assumption that having more material resources always increases autonomy. It expounds five mechanisms through which having too much material wealth might undermine autonomy. If these hypotheses are true, a theory of justice guided by a concern for autonomy will support a limitarian distribution of wealth. Finally, the paper discusses two issues autonomy-based limitarianism would raise. First, insofar as coercion invades autonomy, do autonomy-based reasons legitimate coercive measures to secure a limitarian distribution of wealth? Second, is a limitarian ethos consistent with the incentive to produce enough wealth to secure distributive justice?


Limitarianism Autonomy Wealth Distributive justice Coercion Incentives 



Versions of this article have been presented at the Political Philosophy and Philosophy of Law Video Workshop jointly organised by the universities of Cordoba and Louvain, at the Workshop in Economics & Philosophy (Université catholique de Louvain), at the Political Theory Group (University of Glasgow) and at the Philosophie et théorie économique seminar (University of Reims). I am grateful to all the participants for their helpful comments and questions, and in particular to Antoinette Baujard, Jean-Sébastien Gharbi, Brian Girvin, Axel Gosseries, Cyril Hédoin, Carl Knight, Lucas Misseri, George Pavlakos and Pierre Van Zyl. I also wish to thank two anonymous reviewers for the detailed and insightful comments they provided on earlier versions of the manuscript. All errors are my own.

The work reported in this publication had benefited from a grant from the Fonds Spécial de Recherche (FSR) of the Université catholique de Louvain.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Université Catholique de LouvainLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium

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