At the outset of the Republic, Polemarchus advances the bold thesis that “justice is the art which gives benefit to friends and injury to enemies”. He quickly rejects the hypothesis, and what follows is a long tradition of neglecting the ethics of enmity. The parallel issue of how friendship (and other positive relationships) affects the moral sphere has, by contrast, been greatly illuminated by discussions both ancient and contemporary. This article connects this existing work to the less explored topic of the normative significance of our negative relationships. I explain how negative partiality should be conceptualized through reference to the positive analogue, and argue that at least some forms of negative partiality are justified. I further explore the connection between positive and negative relationships by showing how both are justified by ongoing histories of encounter (though of different kinds). However, I also argue that these relationships are in some important ways asymmetrical (i.e. friendship is not the mirror image of enmity).
Jan Willem Wieland and Rutger van Oeveren
Why act when the effects of one’s act are negligible? For example, why boycott sweatshop or animal products if doing so makes no difference for the better? According to recent proposals, one may still have a reason to boycott in order to avoid complicity or participation in harm. Julia Nefsky has argued that accounts of this kind suffer from the so-called “superfluity problem,” basically the question of why agents can be said to participate in harm if they make no difference to it. This paper develops and responds to Nefsky’s challenge.
Andreas T. Schmidt
Several Dutch politicians have recently argued that medical voluntary euthanasia laws should be extended to include healthy elderly citizens who suffer from non-medical ‘existential suffering’ (‘life fatigue’ or ‘completed life’). In response, some seek to show that cases of medical euthanasia are morally permissible in ways that completed life euthanasia cases are not. I provide a different, societal perspective. I argue against assessing the permissibility of individual euthanasia cases in separation of their societal context and history. An appropriate justification of euthanasia needs to be embedded in a wider solidaristic response to the causes of suffering. By classifying some suffering as ‘medical’ and some as ‘non-medical’, most societies currently respond to medical conditions in importantly different ways than they do to non-medical suffering. In medical cases, countries like the Netherlands have a health care, health research and public health system to systematically assign responsibilities to address causes of medical suffering. We lack such a system for non-medical suffering among elderly citizens, which makes completed life euthanasia importantly different from euthanasia in medical cases. Because of this moral ‘responsibility gap’, focusing on the permissibility of completed life euthanasia in separation of wider societal duties to attend to possible causes is societally inappropriate. To spell out this objection in more philosophical terms, I introduce the concept of acts that are morally permissible but contextually problematic.