The partiality we display, insofar as we form and sustain personal attachments, is not normatively fundamental. It is a byproduct of the deference and responsiveness that are essential to our engagement with the world. We cannot form and sustain valuable personal relationships without seeing ourselves as answerable to the other participants in those relationships. And we cannot develop and sustain valuable projects without responding to the constraints imposed on our activities by the nature and requirements of those projects themselves. More generally, we cannot engage with the world without meeting it on its terms, and we cannot meet the world on its terms without responding differentially – or displaying partiality – with respect to the objects of our engagement. Partiality is thus a byproduct of engagement. We cannot engage with the world at all without exhibiting forms of partiality.
Samuel Scheffler is University Professor in the Department of Philosophy at NYU. He works primarily in the areas of moral and political philosophy and the theory of value. His writings have addressed central questions in ethical theory, and he has also written on topics as diverse as equality, nationalism and cosmopolitanism, toleration, terrorism, immigration, tradition, death, and the future of humanity. Scheffler received his A.B. from Harvard and his Ph.D. from Princeton. From 1977-2008 he taught at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of six books: The Rejection of Consequentialism, Human Morality, Boundaries and Allegiances, Equality and Tradition, Death and the Afterlife (Niko Kolodny ed.), and Why Worry about Future Generations? He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities, and he has been a Visiting Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. His first book was awarded the Matchette Prize of the American Philosophical Association. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters, and a foreign member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. He is currently at work on a book (tentatively) titled The Lives We Lead: Personal Attachment and the Passage of Time.
This podcast is an audio recording of Dr Scheffler's talk - "Partiality, Deference, and Engagement" - at the Aristotelian Society on 20th June 2022. This recording was produced by the Backdoor Broadcasting Company.