An Individual Reality, Separate from Oneself: Alienation and Sociality in Moral Theory

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy (2021)
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Abstract

I argue that the social dimension of alienation, as discussed by Williams and Railton, has been underappreciated. The lesson typically drawn from their exchange is that moral theory poses a threat to the internal integrity of the agent, but there is a parallel risk that moral theory will implicitly construe agents as constitutively alienated from one another. I argue that a satisfying account of agency will need to make room for what I call ‘genuine ethical contact’ with others, both as concrete objects in the world external to ourselves and as subjects who can recognize us reciprocally.

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Jack Samuel
New York University

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