Global Impartiality Thesis
There are two things often assumed to be obvious about impartiality. One is that impartiality is roughly equivalent to equality. People are treated impartially when they are treated equally. The other is that impartiality is demanded by justice – impartiality is always just, partiality is always unjust.
There is some truth to these claims, but much that is false. They radically oversimplify both the complexity of the notion of impartiality and its normative force. Suppose impartiality meant treating people equally. If impartiality is morally required, that would mean that we should give equal importance in our actions to everyone’s interests. This is highly implausible. A parent does no wrong to favor the interests of his children over the interests of other children. A person should give preference to the needs of her friends and relatives. One also has obligations to those to whom one has made promises, and these typically take precedence over the needs of strangers. Further, we have...
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