3rd Pavia Graduate Conference in Political Philosophy – Abstract/Kaul

Volker Kaul

On a Social Ontology of Beneficence

Given the immense inequalities and suffering in the postcolonial world philosophers recur repeatedly to a universal moral obligation of rich people to give money to aid agencies. It is argued that from the fact that people are in severe needs derives the moral prescription to help upon your capacities. In this argumentation beneficence is a form of practical reason based on rationality. On the contrary, this paper will show that normative reasons for beneficence should lie in intersubjectivity. Moral knowledge is about moral reality, and this reality is constituted socially (social ontology of beneficence). Two philosophical approaches, the Humean moral theory of sentiments and a sociological extension of Hegel’s concept of Sittlichkeit (ethical life), justify a self-regarding, agent-relative and contextualised theory of beneficence.