Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2015

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



In this dissertation I defend an unorthodox theory of practical reason called Rational Impartialism. According to this view, one ought to have equal fundamental concern for the equal good of everyone. Central to my argument for Rational Impartialism are two of Henry Sidgwick’s axioms of ethics. According to the axiom of Equal Good, one ought to have equal fundamental concern for equal portions of the good. According to the axiom of Personal Irrelevance, the equal good of any two individuals is exactly similar qua portions of universal good. Sidgwick claims that from these two axioms we can deduce a principle of benevolence which is essentially the view I call Rational Impartialism. However, there are three problems with this deduction: (1) an egoist can accept the axioms but resist impartialism by insisting that ‘good’ is agent-relative, (2) if partiality towards loved ones is itself part of the good, then adherence to the axioms could be compatible with having ultimate reasons of partiality, (3) disagreement over the axiom of Equal Good seems to undermine its usefulness as a foundational ethical premise. I attempt to revive Sidgwick’s derivation of Rational Impartialism by responding to all three challenges.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Julia Driver

Committee Members

Anne Margaret Baxley, Eric Brown, Roger Crisp, Charlie Kurth, Frank Lovett


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