Reasonable Partiality in Professional Relationships

Abstract

First, two aspects of the partiality issue are identified: (1) Is it right/reasonable for professionals to favour their clients’ interests over either those of other individuals or those of society in general? (2) Are special non-universalisable obligations attached to certain professional roles?

Second, some comments are made on the notions of partiality and reasonableness. On partiality, the assumption that only two positions are possible – a detached universalism or a partialist egoism – is challenged and it is suggested that partiality, e.g. to family members, lies between these two positions, being neither a form of egoism, nor of impersonal detachment. On reasonableness, it is pointed out that ‘reasonable’ is an ambiguous concept, eliding the notions of the ‘morally right’ and the ‘rational.’

Third, a series of practical examples are taken from counselling, medicine, law, education and religious practice and some common principles are abstracted from the cases and discussed. These include truth-telling, confidentiality, conflicts of interest between clients and particular others and between clients and society. It is concluded that while partiality can be justified as a useful tool in standard cases, particular circumstances can affect the final verdict.

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Correspondence to Brenda Almond.

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Almond, B. Reasonable Partiality in Professional Relationships. Ethic Theory Moral Prac 8, 155–168 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10677-005-3285-5

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Key Words

  • partiality
  • professional relationships
  • reasonableness