Moral Entanglements: Ad Hoc Intimacies and Ancillary Duties of Care

in Journal of Moral Philosophy
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?


This paper develops and explores the idea of moral entanglements: the ways in which, through innocent transactions with others, we can unintendedly accrue special obligations to them. More particularly, the paper explains intimacy-based moral entanglements, to which we become liable by accepting another’s waiver of privacy rights. Sometimes, having entered into others’ private affairs for innocent or even helpful reasons, one discovers needs of theirs that then become the focus of special duties of care. The general duty to warn them of their need cannot directly account for the full extent of these duties, but does indicate why a silent retreat is impermissible. The special duties of care importantly rest on a transfer of responsibilities that accompanies the privacy waivers. The result is a special obligation of beneficence that, while grounded in a voluntary transaction, was never voluntarily undertaken. Impartialist views of beneficence cannot capture the relevant phenomena well.




Seana Valentine Shiffrin, ‘Promising, Intimate, Relationships, and Conventionalism’, Philosophical Review 117 (2008), pp. 481-524, at 481. Cf. p. 500 for a similar claim about the sort of consent that waives rights, giving others permissions they would not otherwise have.


 See, e.g., Catherine MacKinnon, Toward a Feminist Theory of the State (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989) and Martha C. Nussbaum, Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame, and the Law (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004).


 Cf. Anita Allen, Uneasy Access: Privacy for Women in a Free Society (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1988).


T.M. Scanlon, What We Owe to Each Other (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), p. 224.


Sarah Buss, ‘Appearing Respectful: The Moral Significance of Manners,’ Ethics 109 (1999), pp. 795-826, at p. 817.


 See, e.g., Edmund Pellegrino, ‘The Internal Morality of Clinical Medicine: A Paradigm for the Ethics of the Helping and Healing Professions,’ Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 26 (2001), pp. 559-79.


Judith Wagner DeCew, ‘Privacy,’ Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edwin N. Zalta, revised Sept. 2006, introduction;, accessed 1/30/2010.


Judith Wagner DeCew, In Pursuit of Privacy: Law, Ethics, and the Rise of Technology (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997).


Paul Benson, ‘Agency and Self Worth,’ Journal of Philosophy 91 (1994), pp. 650-68.


Tamar Schapiro, ‘What Is a Child?,’ Ethics 109 (1999), pp. 715-738, at 736.


 E.g., John Christman, ‘Autonomy: A Defense of the Split-Level Self,’ Southern Journal of Philosophy 25 (1986), pp. 19-35 and ‘Autonomy and Personal History,’ Canadian Journal of Philosophy 21 (1991), pp. 1-24; Paul Benson, ‘Autonomy and Oppressive Socialization,’ Social Theory and Practice 17 (1991), pp. 385-408.


Robert Goodin, Protecting the Vulnerable: A Reanalysis of Our Social Responsibilities (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), p. 110.


Ibid., pp. 33 & 163n. At 134n., Goodin comments that his aim is to overcome the traditional distinction between justice and charity by showing “that both types of duties really derive from the same source, namely, the vulnerability of one person to the other” (my emphasis).


Ibid., p. 33. See also the previous note.


Barbara Herman, ‘The Scope of Moral Requirement,’ Philosophy & Public Affairs 30 (2001), pp. 227-256, p. 231.


Wenar, ‘Responsibility and Severe Poverty,’ p. 256.


Ibid., p. 265; cf. p. 261.


Ibid., p. 260.


Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 14 14 9
Full Text Views 1 1 1
PDF Downloads 1 1 1
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0