SAP sponsored event: Workshop on Daniel Muñoz’s forthcoming book ‘What We Owe to Ourselves’

May 15, 2024 9:00am — May 15, 2024 5:00pm
Contact: Theron Pummer for more information.
Click here to Register

Location: Edgecliffe 104
Registration required: email Theron Pummer (tgp4@st-andrews.ac.uk)
 
Provisional Schedule 
945am: Coffee/tea, welcome
10am: Jordan MacKenzie (Virginia Tech)
1115am: Thomas Schmidt (Humboldt University)
1225pm: Lunch
130pm: Quinn White (Harvard University)
240pm: Coffee/tea
300pm: Kerah Gordon-Solmon (Queen’s University)
415pm: Joseph Bowen (University of Leeds)
5:25pm: Walk around town or go to pub
630pm: Dinner
 
About the Workshop
This is a pre-read event. The book manuscript will be circulated to all participants by 15 April. There are 20 spaces available at the catered workshop, and 10 spaces available at the dinner. Please let me (tgp4) know if you have any access requirements I should be aware of which will help you attend this event.
 
About the Book
What We Owe to Ourselves is under contract with OUP. The book aims to unify, in a fresh and systematic way, the two main concepts in deontological morality. “Restrictions” forbid us from harming others for the greater good; “prerogatives” permit us not to harm ourselves. Muñoz argues that both concepts share a source in obligations. Restrictions consist in unwaived obligations to others, and prerogatives are waivable obligations we have to ourselves. Just as you owe it to me not to harm me for someone else’s greater good, you owe it to yourself not to harm yourself.
 
The key to this project is a thesis that Muñoz calls the Self-Other Symmetry: we owe the same basic things to ourselves as to a relevantly similar other. In the past, Symmetry has been criticized as being too restrictive, since we clearly have extensive freedoms when it comes to our own bodies and things. For me to slap your arm would be morally wrong; for me to slap my own is merely foolish. But the right way to understand this issue, Muñoz argues, is not by invoking a mysterious moral asymmetry between self and other. There is a simpler explanation: when I harm others, I might very well lack their consent, but I am always a willing party to my own intentional choices. Rather than a moral anomaly, our relation to ourselves is fundamentally like our relation to a consenting other. The limits of what I may do to myself can be derived from the limits of consent in general.
 
What’s more, the book is the first Self-Other Symmetric take on restrictions and prerogatives. The standard view is that prerogatives come from the special goodness of self-interest, while restrictions come from the special nastiness of blood on one’s own hands. This makes the moral agent seem rather self-centered, caring more about a good time and clean hands than about, say, reducing global poverty. Muñoz wants to turn this picture inside-out. You should care about everybody equally. But the choice of what happens to your body is still yours. This follows from the obligations that people owe you. I may not take your spare kidney (even if I need it more), since I am restricted by my obligations to you. You may keep the kidney if you wish, since you owe this to yourself. But the optimal choice—the “supererogatory” deed beyond the call—is to waive the obligations that you are owed for the sake of someone else’s greater good. Equal concern for all beings is the ideal, but when the sacrifice falls on you, the choice belongs to no one else.
 
Funding and Support
For supporting this workshop, we are grateful to the Scots Philosophical Association, the Society for Applied Philosophy, the Department of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews, and CEPPA.