Partiality, Impartiality and Reasons
By: Jesse Moore (Ph.D. candidate, Rhodes)
Most of us think that it is right that we are allowed to treat our loved ones better than we treat others, and that we are sometimes required to do so. The notion that it is permissible or obligatory to favour certain people over others due to the type of relationship that we have with them is not in and of itself overly controversial. Given this, the debate regarding this kind of partiality is largely focussed on how such favouring is justified. In this debate, a distinction is often made between the type of reasons that define partiality and impartiality. Partiality is said to involve agent-relative reasons, whereas impartiality is said to involve agent-neutral reasons. I argue that while this distinction in reasons is useful, the claim that these types of reasons define partiality and
impartiality is mistaken. Instead, we should think about the partiality/impartiality distinction in terms of the sources of our reasons, rather than the types of reasons involved. This, however, implies that any attempt to reconcile partiality and impartiality is doomed to failure.