Obligations of Nearness

Journal of Value Inquiry 42 (1):1-21 (2008)
Abstract
Frances Kamm argues that physical distance is per se relevant to our duty to give aid to strangers.
Her methods, however, fail to bring into light the relevance per se of distance. To understand the claim that
distance is per se morally relevant, it is helpful to use distinctions devised by Jonathan Dancy among
different roles a feature may play in the explanation of moral reasons, yielding thus different senses of
relevance. A feature can directly count in favor of an action, enable another feature to count in favor of an
action, or strengthen the favoring already done by another feature. For the relevance of nearness that is at
issue in Kamm's thesis, if nearness is relevant at all to our duty to aid strangers, it cannot be relevant in the
way Kamm takes it to be. It cannot directly count in favor of aiding or be a special reason to aid, someone
that non-near agents lack. Nor can physical distance be seen as a consideration that strengthens our
independently existing pro tanto duty to aid strangers, whenever we are near them.
Keywords Frances Kamm  Distance  Particularism  Peter Singer  Favourer
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