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Views Read Edit View history. New-World ethics dispensed with all such external sources of meaning.
Impartiality is a very significant attempt to respond to this challenge. Impartialist moral philosophy aims to show how we can have reason, indeed compelling reason, to be moral in a world where life has no meaning beyond itself. Impartialist political philosophy aims to show how we can have reason, indeed compelling reason, to be just in a world where the very question of life's meaning is deeply, and permanently, in dispute. My suggestion is that, in such a world, we must embrace impartialism in both moral and political philosophy, but that we must embrace a form of' impartialism which takes seriously the partial concerns we have for others.
This, I believe, is our best hope of showing why impartial considerations should have priority, and it is also our best hope of affirming the permanence of pluralism in good faith.
This is my attempt to explain exactly how impartialism can command allegiance at the individual level, and how it can provide a response to the fact of pluralism which is more than a modus viviendi but less than the assertion of a specific. It is an argument to the effect that, in a world where life has no meaning beyond itself, we can find both meaning and morality in the partial concerns we have for particular others. In order to do that, however, I must first say something however rough and ready about what impartialism is and what motivates commitment to it.
One powerful and recurrent theme in the literature is that impartialism reflects a commitment to equality. The requirement of impartiality can take various, forms, but it usually involves treating or counting everyone equally in soma respect--according them the same rights, or counting their good or their welfare or some aspect of it the same in determining what would be a desirably result or a permissible course of action.
Similarly, Brian Barry associates impartiality with equality, arguing that the whole idea of justice as impartiality rests upon a fundamental commitment to the equality of all human beings. This kind of equality is what is appealed to by the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and by the American Declaration of Independence.
Only on this basis can we defend the claim that the interests and viewpoints of everybody concerned must be accommodated' Barry Impartialist political philosophy, then, is a way of spelling out, and indeed living out, our belief in the fundamental equality of all human beings.
However, this widespread agreement about the centrality of impartiality. Famously, Rawls rejects the utilitarian suggestion that impartiality is to be attained by taking each person to account because, he says, such a procedure undermines the separateness of persons and reduces impartiality to impersonality.
Crudely, his complaint is that utilitarianism, so interpreted, can legitimize sacrificing some people in the name of greater overall benefit.
Impartiality - Oxford Handbooks
When this happens the losers do not, in fact,count. One principle of utility asks is that This is surely an extreme demand. In fact, when society is conceived as a system of cooperation designed to advance the good of its members, it seems quite incredible that some should be expected, on the basis of political principles, to accept lower prospects of life for the sake of others. For both Barry and Rawls, the best way of understanding impartialist commitment to the equality of all human beings is via the concept of reasonable agreement.
Brian Feltham and John Cottingham
Since the losers in such an agreement recognize that they could not reasonably have expected to do better under any alternative arrangement, the principles of justice that are delivered can properly be said to have taken everyone's interests into account, and thus to have reflected the commitment to equality that lies at the heart of impartialism.
Political impartialism, then, is informed by a concern for and commitment to equality: some for example, some utilitarians think that this commitment is best honoured by taking each to count for one, and summing the overall benefit. Others notably contractarians think that it is best honoured by asking what it would be reasonable for people to agree to in appropriate conditions. But whatever the best way of honouring it, impartialist political philosophers seem to be agreed that it is indeed the value of equality which underpins and explains the attractiveness of impartiality.
Moreover, this same understanding of impartiality as grounded in equality is also to be found in moral philosophy.
It involves abstracting from one's own interests and one's particular attachments to others. To be moral is to respect others as having equal value to oneself, and as having an equal right to pursue their own interests'.
In both moral and political philosophy, therefore, impartiality reflects a commitment to equality, even though the way in which that commitment is to be made manifest is a matter of dispute. But if impartialism generally is a way of reflecting commitment to the equality of all human beings, political impartialism is restricted in at least two, and arguably three, significant ways. First, it confines itself to questions of justice, where justice is only one value amongst others it is only a part of' morality, not the whole of it.
By confining itself to questions of justice, political impartialism displays a restriction in subject mutter.