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Philosophical Studies

, Volume 146, Issue 1, pp 139–157 | Cite as

Aggregation, Partiality, and the Strong Beneficence Principle

  • Dale Dorsey
Article

Abstract

Consider the Strong Beneficence Principle (SBP): Persons of affluent means ought to give to those who might fail basic human subsistence until the point at which they must give up something of comparable moral importance. This principle has been the subject of much recent discussion. In this paper, I argue that no coherent interpretation of SBP can be found. SBP faces an interpretive trilemma, each horn of which should be unacceptable to fans of SBP; SBP is either (a) so strong as to be patently absurd; (b) implausible given its acceptance of a form of numbers skepticism; (c) drained of all its demanding force. In the conclusion, I show how the problems with SBP generalize to all similarly demanding principles of beneficence.

Keywords

Beneficence Peter Singer Aggregation Partiality 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Erin Frykholm, Sam Rickless, Adam Streed, Peter Vallentyne, and a collection of anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. I would also like to thank Matt Zwolinksi, Larry Alexander, and the participants at a 2006 University of San Diego Law School roundtable on the duty to rescue for insight and inspiration.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA

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