The Authority of Morality and the Recognition of Persons
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AbstractMy aim in this dissertation is to vindicate morality by addressing the question of how others could have the authority to make claims on us even when we have no special concern for, or thick relationship to, them. My account purports to establish that others’ claims carry intrinsic motivational relevance and that acknowledging them in action is a matter of normative necessity.
I begin by pointing out that morality is connected to the possibility of wronging others rather than merely acting wrongly, and that many of our moral obligations are obligations to others. That implies that a vindication of morality must show that our moral duties to others are owed to the right party, in the right way. And I argue that certain moral theories fail on this score—either by not accommodating the authority of others, like versions of egoism, utilitarianism, and realism, or by accommodating it in the wrong way, like versions of Kantian constructivism.
To explain how the claims of other people could have intrinsic motivational relevance, I present an account of what it is to recognize others as persons with minds like our own. Recognizing someone as a person is an inherently motivating state, I propose, like recognizing someone as a friend. To see her as a person is to directly experience her power to make claims on our attitudes and will—a mode of awareness that implicates motives for treating her in proto-ethical ways.
To explain why acknowledging others’ claims is a matter of normative necessity, I advance a theory of the conditions of love so as to show that love is an ethical attitude. Love has this status because we must recognize in our beloved a value that is non-instrumental; independent of our love for, or relationship to, her; and reflexive in that the value of her life consists in its value for her specifically. When we do so, we are committed to acknowledging that same value in other people as well. And since as human beings we have a basic need for the love of others, this ethical attitude is inescapable.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:39987933
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