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International Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 52, Issue 4, December 2012

Chris Bessemans
Pages 397-404
DOI: 10.5840/ipq201252441

Universalizability in Moral Judgments
Winch’s Ambiguity

Peter Winch once objected to Sidgwick’s universalizability thesis in that an agent’s nature would be of no interest to his judgment or the judgment about the agent’s action. While agreeing upon the relevance of the agent-as-person in moral judgments, I disagree with Winch’s conclusions. The ambiguity in Winch’s text reveals that Winch’s moral judgment is inconsistent, and this indicates that there is something wrong in Winch’s account. My claim, for which I am indebted to Aurel Kolnai, is that inserting the relevance of the circumstantially relevant features of the agent-as-person does not imply that one has to deny the universalizability of moral judgments. Differences in agents, if relevant to the situation, can cause differentiations in judgments and can allow bystanders to say that the agent did right or wrong although they themselves would have acted differently. But this possibility does not mean that the universalizability of moral judgments should be denied.

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