Kantian Beneficence and the Problem of Obligatory Aid

in Journal of Moral Philosophy
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Abstract

Common sense tells us that in certain circumstances, helping someone is morally obligatory. That intuition appears incompatible with Kant's account of beneficence as a wide imperfect duty, and its implication that agents may exercise latitude over which beneficent actions to perform. In this paper, I offer a resolution to the problem from which it follows that some opportunities to help admit latitude and others do not. I argue that beneficence has two components: the familiar wide duty to help others achieve their ends and a narrow duty to avoid indifference to others as end-setters. Although we are not always required to help, we are always required not to be indifferent. When helping someone is the only way not to be indifferent to a person, helping him/her is obligatory. My account avoids certain difficulties with other proposed solutions and can also address an important concern about proximity.

Kantian Beneficence and the Problem of Obligatory Aid

in Journal of Moral Philosophy

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