Families, Nations, and Strangers *

Samuel Scheffler

in Boundaries and Allegiances

Published in print September 2002 | ISBN: 9780199257676
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600197 | DOI:
 Families, Nations, and Strangers *

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Scheffler's main aim in this essay is to explore the nature of ‘associative duties’—the special duties that participants in close personal relationships and members of significant social groups are thought to have to one another. These duties occupy a central position in common‐sense moral thinking, even though their precise content is often unclear. Scheffler considers two objections to associative duties: the voluntarist objection, rooted in an ideal of freedom and autonomy; and the distributive objection, rooted in a principle of equality. Like associative duties themselves, the values of freedom and equality exert genuine authority within common‐sense moral thought, and so there are deep internal conflicts in our thinking about the extent of our responsibilities to different individuals and groups.

Keywords: associative duties; autonomy; common‐sense morality; distributive objection; equality; freedom; personal relationships; social groups; voluntarism

Chapter.  9318 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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