Asymmetry and self-sacrifice

Philosophical Studies 70 (2):117 - 132 (1993)
Recent discussions of consequentialism have drawn our attention to the so-called “self-other” asymmetry. Various cases presented by Michael Slote and Michael Stocker are alleged to demonstrate a fundamental asymmetry between our obligations to others and ourselves.1 Moreover, these cases are taken to constitute a difficulty for consequentialism, and for the various versions of utilitarianism in particular. I agree that there is a fundamental asymmetry between our obligations to ourselves and to others, and that this fact is inconsistent with the letter of traditional utilitarianisms. However, I do not think this represents a deep shortcoming of the spirit behind utilitarianism. In this paper I will argue that the self-other asymmetry can be accommodated in a broadly utilitarian framework. First, in section one, I characterize moral “asymmetry” in general. Then, in section two, I argue that the cases presented by Slote and Stocker do indeed represent a genuine self-other asymmetry. In part, this involves criticism of an attempt to accommodate the asymmetry within a preferentist framework. Finally, I will present my own solution to the problem of self and other
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DOI 10.1007/BF00989586
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References found in this work BETA
Christina Hoff Sommers (1986). Filial Morality. Journal of Philosophy 83 (8):439-456.
John Cottingham (1983). Ethics and Impartiality. Philosophical Studies 43 (1):83 - 99.
Michael Slote (1984). Morality and Self-Other Asymmetry. Journal of Philosophy 81 (4):179-192.
Michael Stocker (1976). Agent and Other: Against Ethical Universalism. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 54 (3):206 – 220.

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Citations of this work BETA
Douglas W. Portmore (2007). Consequentializing Moral Theories. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 88 (1):39–73.
Douglas W. Portmore (2009). Consequentializing. Philosophy Compass 4 (2):329-347.
Scott Hill (2011). An Adamsian Theory of Intrinsic Value. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 14 (3):273-289.

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