Permissions To Do Less Than the Best: A Moving Band<sup>1</sup>

Thomas Hurka and Esther Shubert

in Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199662951
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745195 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies In Normative Ethics

Permissions To Do Less Than the Best: A Moving Band1

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This chapter discusses two topics: the basis of agent-relative permissions to produce less than the best outcome, and the relation between them and the partialist view that you have stronger duties to promote the good of those who are closer to you. The paper's first part argues against the common view that agent-relative permissions result from a conflict between two types of reason, prudential and impartial; instead, their basis is two underivative prima facie permissions, one to pursue your own good and another not to pursue it. When these permissions are weighed against a prima facie duty to promote the good of all people impartially, the result is a band of permissions within which you may permissibly promote your own lesser rather than another's greater good (up to a limit) or his lesser rather than your greater good (again up to a limit). The paper's second part argues that the location of this band is not constant but moves down as the person you can benefit becomes closer to you. With a stranger the band's location is quite high, so you are permitted a considerable degree of agent-favoring but not much agent-sacrifice; with a friend or even more so a spouse the band is lower, so you are permitted less agent-favoring and more agent-sacrifice. And the reason the band moves is that prima facie permissions of constant strength are weighed against a duty to promote another's good that, given a partialist view, is stronger when the other is closer to you. The paper's last claims are illustrated with especially attractive graphs.

Keywords: permissions; options; supererogation; prima facie; partiality; self-referential altruism options

Chapter.  9618 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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