Volume 57, Issue 1, March 1997
Friendship, Virtue, and Impartiality
The two dominant contemporary moral theories, Kantianism and utilitarianism, have difficulty accommodating our commonsense understanding of friendship as a relationship with significant moral implications. The difficulty seems to arise from their underlying commitment to impartiality, to the claim that all persons are equally worthy of concern. Aristotelian accounts of friendship are partialist in so far as they defend certain types of friendship by appeal to the claim that some persons, the virtuous, are in fact more worthy of concern than are other persons. This article argues that we can preserve the underlying impartiality of Kantianism and utilitarianism, while also preserving a certain partiality with respect to our friends: the partiality of commonsense only seems objectionable if we fail to understand the true grounds, nature, and implications of such partiality. Neo-Aristotelian partiality should be rejected in favor of commonsense partiality.