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The ‘Terrible Beauty’ of Imperfect Duties – Onora O’Neill and Amartya Sen on the Duty of Assistance

  • Susan P. Murphy
Chapter
Part of the Studies in Global Justice book series (JUST, volume 13)

Abstract

This chapter returns to the central question – to what extent do contemporary ethical approaches to the duty of assistance offer ways to resolve the tensions faced by those engaged in the current practice of assistance? Through an examination of the approaches offered by Onora O’Neill and Amartya Sen, it argues that both deontological and consequentialist frameworks can provide ways to resolve the tensions faced by those engaged in the practice of assistance. Both accounts are potentially disruptive in that they prompt questioning, critical reflection, and enable dynamic approaches to aid that stretch considerably beyond simple and determinate prescriptive actions. They clarify the basis of the duty of assistance as an imperfect duty that is wide in reach, and is open and unspecified in its requirements. Both approaches construct robust accounts of active situated agents engaging in a process of practical reasoning that supports agents to figure out how to specify the requirements of this duty in particular, concrete circumstances. Both accounts also point to additional considerations for those supporting such practices, and in particular, how agents might navigate issues related to harm and the matter of responsibility for the outcomes of action.

Keywords

Practical Reasoning Moral Standing Moral Basis Imperfect Duty Impartial Spectator 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan P. Murphy
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Natural SciencesTrinity College DublinDublin 2Ireland

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