Event Location

Professor Sophia Moreau, University of Toronto

Can someone be bound by a moral obligation and yet at the same time have a moral complaint about being so bound?  That is, there is something they morally ought to do.  Yet we and they feel that they have a moral complaint about being bound to do it, because of a certain institutional injustice or because of other agents’ acts of wrongdoing, which generated the obligation and continue to taint it –for instance, because of the many gendered practices that result in women shouldering a disproportionate share of caregiving obligations, or because of the many injustices that leave migrants obliged to do things that we think should not be asked of anyone.  In such cases, the agent’s moral complaint appears not to negate their obligation but to coexist with it --shaping this obligation and the related obligations of other agents in subtle ways.  When this occurs, the agent has what I shall call an “objectionable obligation.”  Do such obligations really exist?  Is the idea even coherent?  What might we do a better job of noticing within moral or political theory if we took the existence of objectionable obligations seriously?  These are the questions I shall address in this talk. I shall argue that although certain prominent moral theories like consequentialism and contractualism appear to leave little conceptual space for such obligations, they are in fact quite commonplace; and we need to appeal to them to make sense of our intuitions about many moral dilemmas and to see clearly the experiences and the kind of exploitation faced by members of many subordinated social groups.

Sophia Moreau is Professor of Law and Philosophy (with a cross-appointment in the Department of Philosophy), a Faculty Associate at the U of T’s Centre for Ethics, and a Faculty Associate of Victoria College. She is an Associate Editor of Philosophy & Public Affairs, Book Reviews Editor of the University of Toronto Law Journal, and a member of the Editorial Boards of the journals Law and Philosophy and Legal Theory. Prior to coming to the University of Toronto, she clerked for Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin at the Supreme Court of Canada; was a Frank Knox Memorial Fellow at Harvard University; and was a Commonwealth Scholar at Balliol College, Oxford. 


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