Moral Philosophy Seminar (Monday - Week 4, TT19)

Susan Wolf

The moral status of mature human persons entitles them both to consensual relationships and to equal social status. This status is plausibly grounded in possession of reflective and critical reason -- "humanity", in Immanuel Kant's sense -- and it contrasts with the most minimal moral status, which is likely grounded in consciousness. The latter status entitles beings against unjustified harm, but does not entitle them to equal or consensual relationships. In this presentation I articulate and defend a moral status intermediate between these, a status that entitles those who have it to intelligible relations: we must address ourselves to them, and we must attend to how they understand their treatment. This does not entail consensuality. It involves accountability, but this type of accountability is compatible with social hierarchy. I propose further that judgment, not critical reason, underlies this intermediate moral status. It is thus distinct from the status of mature humans, for (as I motivate and explain) many nonhuman animals possess a capacity for non-reflective, non-critical judgment. There are accordingly at least three types of moral status, I argue, and these constitute both a status hierarchy and a developmental sequence.

Convener: Ed Lamb

Members of the audience are invited to join the speaker and the convener for drinks and dinner at a local restaurant following the talk (at their own expense). There will be some limit on the number of people who can attend. Please RSVP to Ed Lamb to reserve a place. Please note that we will no longer be going to dinner afterwards at Somerville College to continue questioning the speaker. In future terms the time of the seminar may be brought forward to 15.00 - 17.00, which would make it possible for all to go to pre-dinner drinks. Please let Ed Lamb know if this change of time would make you more or less likely to attend.