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Article: Is There a Genuine Tension between Cosmopolitan Egalitarianism and Special Responsibilities

Updated: Jun 22, 2021

[Full text available here.]

Abstract: Samuel Scheffler has recently argued that some relationships are non-instrumentally valuable; that such relationships give rise to “underived” special responsibilities; that there is a genuine tension between cosmopolitan egalitarianism and special responsibilities; and that we must consequently strike a balance between the two. We argue that there is no such tension and propose an alternative approach to the relation between cosmopolitan egalitarianism and special responsibilities. First, while some relationships are non-instrumentally valuable, no relationship is unconditionally valuable. Second, whether such relationships give rise to special responsibilities is conditional on those relationships not violating certain moral constraints. Third, these moral constraints arise from within cosmopolitan egalitarianism itself. Thus the value of relationships and the special responsibilities to which they give rise arise within the parameters of cosmopolitan egalitarianism itself. The real tension is not between cosmopolitan equality and special responsibilities, but between special responsibilities and the various general duties that arise from the recognition, demanded by cosmopolitan egalitarianism, of a multiplicity of other basic goods. Indeed, even the recognition of special relationships itself gives rise to general duties that may condition and/or weigh against putative special responsibilities.

(c) 2006 Springer

Photo: Frans Francken the Younger, The Seven Works of Mercy, 1605

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