Altruism, impartiality, and moral demands

In Jonathan Seglow (ed.), Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy. F. Cass Publishers 9-33 (2004)
Advocates of altruism maintain that altruism is an inherently beneficial and, therefore, morally desirable motivational disposition towards furthering other people's good. In this essay I dispute this claim by showing various ways in which altruism might come into conflict with plausible moral demands. The underlying problem is always one of moral myopia, an altruistic blind spot that interferes with altruism's capacity to track moral demands. To resolve the moral dilemmas associated with altruism, I argue, we need to embed altruistic dispositions in a more comprehensive moral framework. I propose that a theory of impartiality might succeed in embedding altruism in way that avoids the problems outlined in this essay, in addition to allowing room for altruistic motivations to play a genuine part. The main purpose of this essay is to draw attention to the complexities associated with the moral assessment of altruistic acts and choices
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DOI 10.1080/13698230410001702712
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