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Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Vol 7$
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Mark C Timmons

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198808930

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198808930.001.0001

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The Centrality of One’s Own Life

The Centrality of One’s Own Life

(p.229) 11 The Centrality of One’s Own Life
Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Vol 7

Stephen White

Oxford University Press

We are all, to some degree or other, self-centered; we tend to concentrate on our own needs and interests to the relative exclusion of most other people’s. This chapter explores the prospects for justifying such partiality on grounds of individual autonomy. Two versions of this approach are considered. The first develops the idea that, to be autonomous, an agent must have available a significant range of morally permissible options. This approach is rejected in favor of a second, according to which a strong duty of impartial beneficence would objectionably render an agent subject to the wills of other agents. That is, insofar as a person is entitled to a special authoritative status in relation to what she does, that person will bear the primary responsibility for how well her life goes. The chapter concludes by considering the implications for our understanding of morally required beneficence.

Keywords:   partiality, impartiality, self-concern, autonomy, beneficence, responsibility, agent-centered options, imperfect duties

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