Room 10.27 RRST
Room 10.27, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus, HKU


Jan 23 2020


4:00 pm - 5:30 pm


Department of Philosophy

Department of Philosophy

A Buck-Passing Account of ‘Moral Equality’


Elaine Yim
University of Hong Kong


The belief that all human beings are ‘moral equals’ is widespread within the canon of Western liberal philosophy. However, it is unclear precisely what ‘moral equality’ or its associate terms mean, what grounds our ‘moral equality’ and what the implications of being ‘moral equals’ are. In this paper, I distinguish between two ways of understanding ‘moral equality’: the ‘explanatory’ and ‘buck-passing’ accounts. The explanatory account states that there are descriptive properties of a being that ground a derivative status of ‘being moral equals’ to the beings. The derivative status, ‘moral equality,’ provides some reasons to explain why human beings who possess certain descriptive properties equally, prima facie, ought to be treated equally in some respect x. The buck-passing account claims that those initial properties act as reasons for behaving in certain ways, thereby partly constituting the ‘moral equality’ of the beings. ‘Moral equality’ is redundant and does not tell you anything new. I argue that the buck-passing account of moral equality is a more accurate way of understanding moral equality based on two arguments. The first argument is a negative one based on abductive reasoning: if, even the richest attempts for an explanatory account fails, it is unclear what further work could be done by calling two beings ‘moral equals.’ The other argument is that, the buck-passing account is explanatory parsimony: less assumptions are required to get to the same conclusions about the concrete moral implications arising from the descriptive properties. This gives a buck-passing account the advantages of simplicity and elegance.

Thursday, January 23
4:00-5:30 pm

Room 10.27 Run Run Shaw Tower
Centennial Campus
University of Hong Kong

For inquiries: Amit Chaturvedi amitc@hku.hk

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