Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 8, Issue 1–2, pp 25–43 | Cite as

Reasonable Partiality and the Agent’s Point of View



It is argued that reasonable partiality allows an agent to attach value to particular objects of attachment via recognition of the value of the holding of that relation between agent and object. The reasonableness of partiality is ensured by a background context set by the agent’s virtues, notably justice. It is argued that reasonable partiality is the only view that is compatible with our best account of the nature of self-knowledge. That account rules out any instrumental relationship between moral demands and moral character, but that familiar claim is given an unfamiliar explanation. Instrumentality depends on a prior objectification of the self and it is that kind of objectification that, in the ethical case, represents a form of ethical evasion. Self-knowledge is transparent, incomplete and essentially connected with first person endorsement. The transparency condition is that knowledge of one’s state of mind is “taken” transparently to its object. More specifically, ethical transparency is the feature that my virtues do not exhibit themselves to me in self-knowledge, but take me transparently to the way in which they saliently represent the world as containing evaluative properties calling for various forms of response. It is concluded that reasonable partiality grounded in the nature of the virtues is the only reflective account of morality compatible with the most plausible account of the nature of self-knowledge. The demands of impartiality are incompatible with a condition of having a personal point of view, namely, that a self can stand in a non-alienated relation to itself via its capacity for self-knowledge.

Key Words

impartiality reasonable partiality self-knowledge 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of KentCanterbury, Kent

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