Relationships as Indirect Intensifiers: Solving the Puzzle of Partiality

European Journal of Philosophy 26 (1):390-410 (2018)

Jörg Löschke
University of Zürich
Two intuitions are important to commonsense morality: the claim that all persons have equal moral worth and the claim that persons have associative duties. These intuitions seem to contradict each other, and there has been extensive discussion concerning their reconciliation. The most widely held view claims that associative duties arise because relationships generate moral reasons to benefit our loved ones. However, such a view cannot account for the phenomenon that some acts are supererogatory when performed on behalf of a stranger but obligatory when performed on behalf of a loved one. This paper offers a novel view of associative duties, according to which such duties arise because relationships serve as indirect intensifiers of moral reasons: they decrease the cost to the agent that certain acts imply, and this increases the relative weight of the reasons that speak in favour of the act in an all-things-considered judgement. This reconciles moral egalitarianism and associative duties in a promising way: the moral worth of a person always generates the same moral reasons, but due to differences in the cost to the agent, these reasons sometimes amount to obligations and sometimes do not.
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Reprint years 2017, 2018
DOI 10.1111/ejop.12250
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