Partiality and the Virtues JOHN COTTINGHAM
Much of philosophical ethics suffers from being overly impersonal. Utilitarianism, on one strongly advocated interpretation, urges on us a life of rigorous impartiality, enjoining us to push our own children to the back of the queue when there are stronger utility-claimants in line.1 Even the 'indirect' or 'rule' versions of utility theory seem to allow us our partialities and personal ties only grudgingly: the seal of approval depends on our solemnly demonstrating (if we can) that the general institution of such preferential commitments helps maximize global utility.2 Consequentialism's chief rival, deontological ethics, also seems to locate morality in a place well apart from our ordinary impulses of partiality. Notwithstanding the scholarship and eloquence of its defenders,3 Kant's insistence that moral worth is reserved for the austerely motivated act of pure duty, 'uninfluenced by any sensible interest',4 seems to bleach out the moral worth from much of our lives--conditioned as they are by the ties of partiality, the 'sensible warm motions' of the human heart.____________________
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Publication information: Book title: How Should One Live?Essays on the Virtues. Contributors: Roger Crisp - Editor. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 1998. Page number: 57.
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