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 Review117 (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).
E.g., John Christman, ‘Autonomy: A Defense of the Split-Level Self,’Southern Journal of Philosophy25 (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.
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 Affairs30 (2001), pp. 227-256, p. 231.