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Seminars in Moral Philosophy Week 4 HT09

Event Name Seminars in Moral Philosophy Week 4 HT09
Start Date 9th Feb 2009 4:30pm
End Date 9th Feb 2009 6:30pm
Duration 2 hours

Sarah Stroud (McGill) to be held in the Lecture Room, 10 Merton Street, Oxford - Seminars in Moral Philosophy webpage


Contemporary moral philosophy has been much preoccupied with issues of partiality, but surprisingly little ink has been spilled on the question of what partiality is. What seems to be implicit in the literature is a conception of partiality as attaching greater weight to the interests of certain people, or preferring to distribute benefits to them over others. I argue in this paper for a reconceptualization of partiality. In thinking about partiality, I argue, we should focus not on how we choose to distribute benefits, but on the phenomenon of plural agency. Such we-agency is a pervasive feature of a wide variety of relationships, and it is plausible to hold that it is of moral significance. I argue that understanding partiality–or justified partiality–in terms of plural agency is superior from the point of view of both moral psychology and moral theory to the standard conception of partiality. It can explain what we agree about concerning partiality, and it yields a principled way to make progress toward resolving the issues we disagree about. It does have some normative implications which may strike you as odd or objectionable, but I argue that these concerns are not as serious as they may seem at first. I do however also present some alternative versions of the thesis for the faint of heart: these represent ways to preserve an important role for plural agency in justified partiality without going as far as the radical thesis.

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