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Bernard Williams wrote in his essay “The Idea of Equality”:

Leaving aside preventive medicine, the proper ground of distribution of medical care is ill health: this is a necessary truth. Now in very many societies, while ill health may work as a necessary condition of receiving treatment, it does not work as a sufficient condition, since such treat- ment costs money, and not all who are ill have the money; hence the possession of sufficient money becomes in fact an additional necessary condition of actually receiving treatment. . . . When we have the situation in which, for instance, wealth is a further necessary condition of the receipt of medical treatment, we can once more apply the notions of equality and inequality: not now in connection with the inequality be- tween the well and the ill, but in connection with the inequality be- tween the rich ill and the poor ill, since we have straightforwardly the situation of those whose needs are the same not receiving the same treatment, though the needs are the ground of the treatment. This is an irrational state of affairs . . . it is a situation in which reasons are insufficiently operative; it is a situation insufficiently controlled by reasons—and hence by reason itself

Is this example of a teleological argument?

Doctor may have telos, But what does it mean for medical care (actions of a doctor) to have telos? Isn't telos of an action is whatever the performer of that action wants it to be? Or did I misunderstood something?

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  • Why is it teleological? It seems like a moral argument appealing to the widely shared values of fairness and social justice. According to that, the only legitimate ground for rationing medical care is the relative need dictated by patients' state of health (this maxim is broadly accepted by medical community, for example). That assumed, the dependence of this rationing in practice on their state of wealth is irrational. If "telos" means "values" then no, shared values are not subject to what individuals want them to be. They are culturally and, in part, even biologically grounded. – Conifold Feb 6 '20 at 9:42
  • Only in the sense of "I want that so I should just get it" is teleological. – puppetsock Feb 6 '20 at 16:00

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