A pluralist account of the basis of moral status

Giacomo Floris

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Standard liberal theories of justice rest on the assumption that only those beings that hold the capacity for moral personality (CMP) have moral status and therefore are right-holders. As many pointed out, this has the disturbing implication of excluding a wide range of entities from the scope of justice. Call this the under-inclusiveness objection. This paper provides a response to the under-inclusiveness objection and illustrates its implications for liberal theories of justice. In particular, the paper defends two claims: first, it argues that both the CMP and the potential capacity for moral personality (PCMP) are bases of moral status. This pluralist account of the basis of moral status can broaden the scope of justice and provide a solid philosophical justification for the common-sense intuition that almost all human beings have a moral status that is different and superior to that of nonhuman animals. Second, contra what is commonly suggested, it contends that potential and actual moral persons have different and unequal rights, other things being equal.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Early online date14 Aug 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Aug 2020


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