Moral Philosophy Seminar (Monday - Week 6, HT22)

Moral Philosophy Seminar

When a misfortune befalls us, it is natural for us to react: “Why me?” This is not just the question: “Why did this unfortunate event occur?” Nor are we simply wondering: “Why do such things happen?” The self-reference implies an alternative: “Why didn’t this happen to someone else?” Importantly, this is not an expression of idle curiosity. It is a (usually silent) cry of protest – not just against the fact that these things happen, but against the fact that one of these things has happened to me. I am interested in the moral significance of this natural reaction. In particular, I am interested in what lies behind the moral judgment that explains the observation in parentheses, and what this judgment suggests about the disposition to privilege oneself over others. If, as I believe, we are often morally permitted to promote our own interests over others, if it is our disposition to do so that underlies the “why me?” reaction, and if we are right to think there is something shameful about reacting this way, what does this suggest about the moral significance of our morally permissible self-privileging behavior? How much comfort can we take in the fact that such behavior is compatible with treating one another “with respect”? How might our way of relating to others be different if we were not susceptible to the “why me?” reaction?

Those who wish to attend should ask the convenor through email to add them to the mailing list if they are not already on it.


Moral Philosophy Seminar Convenor: Jeremy Fix