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Moral Philosophy and Politics

Editor-in-Chief: Schefczyk, Michael

Managing Editor: Schmidt-Petri, Christoph

Ed. by Meyer, Lukas Heinrich / Peacock, Mark / Schaber, Peter

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Collective Obligations and Demandingness Complaints

Brian Berkey
Published Online: 2019-03-13 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/mopp-2018-0059


It has been suggested that understanding our obligations to address large-scale moral problems such as global poverty and the threat of severe climate change as fundamentally collective can allow us to insist that a great deal must be done about these problems while denying that there are very demanding obligations, applying to either individuals or collectives, to contribute to addressing them. I argue that this strategy for limiting demandingness fails because those who endorse collective obligations to address large-scale moral problems have no grounds for denying that the relevant collectives are obligated to do what is impartially best. Specifically, I argue that appeals to the claim that collective obligations to do what is impartially best would be objectionably demanding cannot succeed, for two reasons. The first is that demandingness complaints cannot be aggregated across the individual members of a collective. And the second is that demandingness complaints cannot plausibly be asserted on behalf of collectives themselves. I conclude by suggesting some reasons to think that collective obligations to address large-scale problems will tend to imply demanding individual obligations.

Keywords: collective obligation; demandingness; aggregation; moral patients


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About the article

Published Online: 2019-03-13

Published in Print: 2019-05-27

Citation Information: Moral Philosophy and Politics, Volume 6, Issue 1, Pages 113–132, ISSN (Online) 2194-5624, ISSN (Print) 2194-5616, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/mopp-2018-0059.

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