One-by-one: moral theory for separate persons

Dissertation, London School of Economics (2020)
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You and I lead different lives. While we share a society and a world, our existence is separate from one another. You and I matter individually, by ourselves. My dissertation is about this simple thought. I argue that this simple insight, the separateness of persons, tells us something fundamental about morality. My dissertation seeks to answer how the separateness of persons matters. I develop a precise view of the demands of the separateness of persons. The separateness of persons imposes both a requirement on the justification of first-order moral principles as well as a requirement on the content of first-order moral principles. In specifying these demands, I argue that respecting the separateness of persons requires taking into consideration each person’s point of view separately. This requires taking into account the moral relations in which individuals stand to one another. I make use of this relational understanding of the separateness of persons to advance various debates in moral and political philosophy. I argue for a framework to assess to which extent the veil of ignorance can be reconciled with the separateness of persons. I also argue for a new view on the ethics of risk which is a form of contractualism that discounts risks only by their objective risk. Furthermore, I argue for a new solution to the problem of aggregation that is skeptical of aggregation and can set plausible limits to aggregation. Lastly, I provide a new relational agent-based justification for deontological constraints. In addition to answering how the separateness of persons matters, I defend the separateness of persons against challenges. Most importantly, I argue that the importance of the separateness of persons is not undermined even if we believe that our personal identity, i.e. whether we persist as the same person, is unimportant.



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Bastian Steuwer
Ashoka University

Citations of this work

Doing Less Than Best.Emma J. Curran - 2023 - Dissertation, University of Cambridge

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References found in this work

The Theory of Moral Sentiments.Adam Smith - 1759 - Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications. Edited by Elizabeth Schmidt Radcliffe, Richard McCarty, Fritz Allhoff & Anand Vaidya.
Actions, Reasons, and Causes.Donald Davidson - 1963 - Journal of Philosophy 60 (23):685.
Survival and identity.David Lewis - 1976 - In Amélie Rorty (ed.), The Identities of Persons. University of California Press. pp. 17-40.
Justice as fairness: Political not metaphysical.John Rawls - 1985 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 14 (3):223-251.

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