Impartiality Essay

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Impartial Morality Introduction: T HIS essay presents the key issues surrounding the concepts of partiality and impartiality in ethical theory. In particular, it argues that the tension between partiality and impartiality has not been resolved. Consequently, it concludes that the request for moral agents to be impartial does demand too much. To achieve this goal, this essay consists of four main parts. The first part gives an overview of the concept of impartiality. The second deals with the necessity of impartiality in consequentialism and deontology. The third deals with the tension between partiality and impartiality (Demandingness Objection). Specifically, how a duty to perform supererogatory acts follows from impartial morality. The fourth and final part refutes positions that maintain that partiality and impartiality have been reconciled. Therefore, it demonstrates that current ethical theories that demand moral agents to behave in a strictly impartial fashion are unreasonable. The Concept of Impartiality: In his best known work on moral theory Nicomachean Ethics (350 BCE, p.1131), Aristotle proposes that to be impartial is to ‘treat like cases alike’.1 Another commonly accepted definition of impartiality is, ‘to be unbiased by one's personal preferences or interests in one's judgments’.2 Indeed, many philosophers accept these definitions as being trivially true. However, Bernard Gert suggests that the concept of impartiality is not so simple. In his work, Impartiality and Morality (2008, p.4), Gert proposes the following definition of impartiality, ‘A is impartial in respect R with regard to group G if and only if A's actions in respect R are not influenced at all by which member(s) of G are benefited or harmed by these ... ... middle of paper ... ...therwise would be obligatory. However, many feel that if a theory contains various footnotes and other qualifications, it diminishes the plausibility of that theory. Conclusion: To summarise, this essay has shown that the concept of impartiality is a relationship between a moral agent and a particular group. It requires that one be not influenced by which member of the group is benefited or harmed by his or her actions. Moreover, it has also shown that impartiality is a necessary condition for the ethical theories of utilitarianism and deontology. Such theories, however, cannot account for human intuition that suggests that it is acceptable to be partial in some circumstances. Finally, this essay has shown that the conflict between partiality and impartiality has not been resolved. As such, the request to be impartial with regard to morality does demand too much.

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