Jun 1, 1988
Canadian Journal of Philosophy
Different people live different lives. Each life consists of experiences that are not shared with the other lives. These facts are sometimes referred to as the ‘separateness of persons.’ Some writers have appealed to the separateness of persons to support or to criticize moral views. John Rawls thinks that the separateness of persons supports egalitarianism, while Robert Nozick believes that it supports a rights view. I will call the claim that the separateness of persons counts in favor of a particular moral view the ‘positive connection.’ Both these writers think that utilitarianism is objectionable because it ignores the moral importance of the separateness of persons. I will call the claim that the separateness of persons counts against a moral view the ‘negative connection.’ In this paper I will discuss several different attempts at explaining the connection between the separateness of persons and specific moral views. I will begin by describing how egalitarianism, unlike utilitarianism, treats individual lives as morally important units. I will discuss the kind of egalitarianism that aims at equality, but the same points could be made about egalitarian views that give priority to helping the worst off or require that everyone should receive at least a specified minimum share of resources or happiness.