The Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues


Alec Walen


Representing conceptual relationships in graphic form can be clarifying. The exercise can make the graph composer and the graph reader ask questions they otherwise might not have asked. Of course, graphs also require the composer to make choices: what do you put in, what do you merely approximate, what do you try to make precise, what might look more precise than you mean to be? These choices need to be explained and defended to make the graphs meaningful representational tools. But if explained and defended, graphs can provide a distinctively helpful tool, especially to those like moral philosophers who tend to represent their thought only in words.

In this paper, I grapple with four topics that I consider core to what I call “basic deontology.” Basic deontology concerns what people are duty bound to do as agents and what may be done to them as patients based solely on their interactions as people. That is, it excludes special relationships such as those between friends or family members, promisors and promisees, tortfeasors and tort victims, debtors and creditors. Those relationships are fundamentally important to deontology too, but it is my belief that they are secondary or non-core in this sense: they are cabined by what can be done between strangers. For example, a parent has a special duty of care for her children, but she may not simply harm strangers for the sake of benefiting her children; the benefits she owes them must come from the resources she is free to use, given the claims of all others to the resources shared between people as such, and must be delivered in ways that don’t cause unjustifiable harm to others who relate to her simply as fellow moral agents.





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Lawrence Alexander & Steven D. Smith

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