Relationships and the Limits of Reasonable Partiality
Ritcey, Nolan S.
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The problems associated with an overly impartial moral psychology are well discussed in the literature on utilitarianism, consequentialism, and rational decision moral theory. Criticisms of these approaches to morality center on how they invite us to think in terms which alienate us from those things which matter to us most, our friends and family, our special projects, and our personal integrity. To the extent that these criticisms are successful, they recommend viewing morality and moral reasoning in the context of personal concerns. This inquiry is an investigation into how to understand the reasons of partiality as genuine reasons, and to determine, broadly, how to understand reasonable partiality. The account presented here has descriptive and normative elements. It is descriptive of the grounds of special responsibilities and the restrictions on what relationships are capable to support special responsibilities. It is normative insofar as it answers questions regarding what relationships should support special responsibilities and what significance they should have in comparison to other important considerations. The primary focus is on how relationships do, and should, modify a moral agent’s practical outlook. The practical relevance of relationships is modeled on a theory of joint action, which sets out how joint actions modify an individual’s practical outlook by making certain considerations necessarily salient. The resulting position is primarily deflationary with regard to the conflict between morality, on the one hand, and partiality on the other. The joint action presentation reveals that relationships do not need to conflict with morality, but can, and should, incorporate moral principles into the central aims and action sequences which are their mainstays. Reasonable partiality is simply the form of reasoning that adequately recognizes the joint enterprises that compose a person’s relationship. Accordingly, controversial acts of reasonable partiality, such as transfers of wealth, are categorized as substantive positions within a theory of what counts as adequate recognition, not necessary to all partiality