Moral Demands in Nonideal Theory

Oxford University Press (2000)
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Abstract

Is there a limit to the legitimate demands of morality? In particular, is there a limit to people's responsibility to promote the well-being of others, either directly or via social institutions? Utilitarianism admits no such limit, and is for that reason often said to be an unacceptably demanding moral and political view. In this original new study, Murphy argues that the charge of excessive demands amounts to little more than an affirmation of the status quo. The real problem with utilitarianism is that it makes unfair demands on people who comply with it in our world of nonideal compliance. Murphy shows that this unfairness does not arise on a collective understanding of our responsibility for others' well being. Thus, according to Murphy, while there is no general problem to be raised about the extent of moral demands, there is a pressing need to acknowledge the collective nature of the demands of beneficence.

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Liam Murphy
New York University

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