The abstract individual is a model that represents real human beings in moral and political philosophy. It occupies a central role in individualist theories such as political liberalism and mainstream Western medical ethics. This article presents two methodological standards for assessing competing models. Taken together, the standards form an objective yardstick against which different constructions of the abstract individual can be evaluated. Thereby, the article introduces a new level of abstraction, and a new set of normative principles, to individualist moral and political philosophy which facilitates reliable moral judgments between different models of human beings.
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It should be noted that Haliburton’s theory may not be fully consistent here. While she argues that the “Choosing Self” is non-gendered, this being one of the model’s flaws, Haliburton also argues that the model nonetheless is gendered. She writes that “the conceptions of the self employed in much of bioethics are essentially male, not genderless, but this maleness is hidden behind the assumptions that structure these theories” (p. 135). One possible interpretation is that Haliburton points to a difference between tacit and explicit genderedness. The former is a problem, as it is (in this case) due to bias, whereas the latter is an asset. As it stands this seems to be an unresolved inconsistency. However, for the present purposes, I will simply ignore this possible ambiguity in Haliburton’s theory and assume that her main point is that the “Choosing Self” is non-gendered and that this is problematic.
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I wish to thank Henrik D. Kugelberg, the editor, and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on earlier versions of this paper. An earlier version of this manuscript has been presented at the research seminar at the Division of Philosophy, KTH Royal Institute of Technology.
The study was funded by The Swedish Institute (09005/2020).
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Ahlin Marceta, J. Constructing the Abstract Individual. Erkenn (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10670-021-00388-8