Relationships and Responsibilities *

Samuel Scheffler

in Boundaries and Allegiances

Published in print September 2002 | ISBN: 9780199257676
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600197 | DOI:
 Relationships and Responsibilities  *

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In opposition to the voluntarist view that special responsibilities must be based on consent or some other voluntary act, this essay sketches a non‐reductionist account of such responsibilities. The non‐reductionist account begins with the idea that to value non‐instrumentally one's relationship to another person is to see that person's needs, interests, and desires as providing one with reasons for action and thus, in effect, to see the relationship as a source of special responsibilities. Scheffler then argues that one's relationships to other people do in fact give rise to special responsibilities when they are relationships that one has reason to value. Towards the end of the essay, he considers how a non‐reductionist might respond to two objections to special responsibilities, the voluntarist objection and the distributive objection. In meeting both objections, the non‐reductionist could concede that there are other moral values in addition to special responsibilities while still maintaining that special responsibilities must be part of any adequate moral scheme.

Keywords: distributive objection; moral values; non‐reductionism; reasons for action; relationships; special responsibilities; value; voluntarism

Chapter.  7398 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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