Differential Demands

In Marcel van Ackeren & Michael Kuhler (eds.), The Limits of Moral Obligation: Moral Demandingness and Ought Implies Can. Routledge. pp. 36-50 (2015)

Authors
Vanessa Carbonell
University of Cincinnati
Abstract
If the traditional problem of demandingness is that a theory demands too much of all agents, for example by asking them to maximize utility in every decision, then we should ask whether there is a related problem of “differential demandingness”, when a theory places vastly different demands on different agents. I argue that even according to common-sense morality, the demands faced by particular agents depend on a variety of contingent factors. These include the general circumstances, the compliance of others, the available resources, the agent’s relevant relationships, the agent’s psychological constitution, and the agent’s knowledge. Some agents, for instance, find themselves in a “sacrifice hazard”: a situation where morality calls for a huge unforeseen sacrifice. I argue that if moral demands are differential, it is harder than one might think to assess a theory’s general level of demandingness in the abstract.
Keywords demandingness  sacrifice  knowledge  moral obligation  supererogation
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