Extending the Second-Personal Standpoint


Stephen Darwall’s The Second-Person Standpoint is an ambitious attempt to ground all moral obligations in the authoritative and irreducibly second-personal demands that persons, as equal, free, and rational members of the moral community, make on each other. However, it is not clear how, according to this account, we can have moral obligations to those who are not second-personally competent, such as those with severe cognitive disabilities, children, and non-human animals. In this paper, I expand on two options for extending the second-personal standpoint to ground our directed duties to those who are not second-personally competent. The first option—the trusteeship approach—holds that we can ground such moral obligations through second-personally competent agents who act as trustees for those who are not second-personally competent. I argue that the trusteeship approach has counter-intuitive moral consequences and results in a deontic structure that, on its own, is inadequate to ground directed duties to (and the moral status of) those who are not second-personally competent. The second option is the quasi-second-personality approach. On this approach, a second-personally competent agent has a directed duty to a non-second-personally competent patient just in case the patient meets a weakened, quasi-second-personal competence requirement. The quasi-second-personality approach is, I argue, the most promising of the two options for a second-personal approach to morality to extend directed duties to those who are not second-personally competent. I suggest that the trusteeship approach, while inadequate on its own, is a useful supplement to the quasi-second-personality approach. Although the quasi-second-personality approach is the most promising, I close the paper by noting some of the serious challenges that remain for it.

June 16, 2016 — June 17, 2016
Università Degli Studi di Milano