Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Christie Hartley

Second Advisor

William Edmundson


What justifies democracy? Recently, some philosophers have argued that because an unequal distribution of political power would necessarily lead to an objectionable hierarchy, democratic institutions and procedures are required for social relations of equality. On one construal of this argument, unequal political power is objectionably hierarchical because it embodies a widespread inegalitarian judgement. But this version of the argument fails to show that unequal political power is always objectionable, nor does it capture the reason-giving authority of democratic decisions. In this thesis, I draw on relational egalitarianism to argue that persons’ moral equality specifically demands relations of equal respect, which excludes relations in which some are treated as having greater fundamental authority than others. Such an account, I argue further, can show why unequal political power will necessarily constitute an objectionable hierarchy and can better capture the authority of democratic decisions.


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