The Moral Significance of Social Roles
Outside of specialized contexts, moral philosophy lacks an appreciation of the ethical commitments embedded within social roles such as that of "friend" and "spouse." The costs of this blindspot become especially high when considering certain problems that depend upon commonsense intuitions to discern what is or is not the "right" outcome. The problem of partiality--viewing one's relationships and projects as having intrinsic worth in themselves, rather than as a means to some other end, such as can be the case in some forms of utilitarianism--is one such example.
The present paper shows how unpacking the moral entailments of the roles of specific actors can alter our understanding of common case examples, rendering results contrary to the those traditionally assigned in moral writings. Moreover, if social roles become widely recognized for their impact upon general ethical thinking, that change can force major revisions in the methodology of moral philosophy.
James M. Donovan. 2008. "The Moral Significance of Social Roles" The SelectedWorks of James M. Donovan
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/james_donovan/51