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A Matter of Perspective: Evaluating Agent-Relative Consequentialism

Rebecca Raible (2014); Mentor(s): Peter Kung; Susan Castagnetto (SCR); Andrew Schroeder (CMC)

Abstract: Hamburgers might taste much better to me than they do to you, and the color red can be your favorite while I prefer periwinkle. A ranking of foods from best to worst, or of colors, can be agent-relative; that is, it can depend upon the perspective from which we do our evaluations. Some philosophers argue that moral value is also agent-relative. So, the badness or goodness of an action partly depends on who is evaluating the action—perhaps saving baby B is particularly good from my perspective (maybe I am B’s sister), so good, in fact, that I can save baby B even if this means not saving three other babies. My continuing research project attempts to make sense of agent-relative value, particularly exploring whether or not agent-relative consequentialist theories are attractive to traditional consequentialists and to feminist ethical theorists. I attempt to interpret what is “good relative to” an agent as what is “good for” an agent, but conclude such an interpretation is ultimately unattractive to traditional consequentialists. However, my research indicates that an agent-relative moral theory would be very attractive to feminists, even under certain “good for” approaches.
Funding Provided by: Pomona College SURP