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Reader, Soran, Gillian Brock. Needs, Moral Demands and Moral Theory
2004, Utilitas 16 (3):251-266
Added by: Deryn Mair Thomas

In this article we argue that the concept of need is as vital for moral theory as it is for moral life. In II we analyse need and its normativity in public and private moral practice. In III we describe simple cases which exemplify the moral demandingness of needs, and argue that the significance of simple cases for moral theory is obscured by the emphasis in moral philosophy on unusual cases. In IV we argue that moral theories are inadequate if they cannot describe simple needs-meeting cases. We argue that the elimination or reduction of need to other concepts such as value, duty, virtue or care is unsatisfactory, in which case moral theories that make those concepts fundamental will have to be revised. In conclusion, we suggest that if moral theories cannot be revised to accommodate needs, they may have to be replaced with a fully needs-based theory.

Comment: In this paper, Brock and Reader present a novel argument for the moral saliency of the concept of need. In doing so, they challenge the reduction of need to other concepts in existing moral theory. The text would be well paired with Reader's "Needs and Moral Necessity" (or used instead) as a way to discuss alternative perspectives on moral theory which depart from traditional ethical accounts (i.e. consequentialism, deontology, virtue ethics). The text might also be well paired with Reader's "The Other Side of Agency" to discuss the virtues of patient-centred (rather than agent-centred) moral theory.

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