David Enoch: "Backgrounding Agent-Relativity"

Event date
12 October 2023
Event time
17:00 - 19:00
Oxford week
MT 1
Goodhart Seminar Room University College

David Enoch (Hebrew University and Oxford)

Notes & Changes


Deontological constraints, it is often observed, are such that they ought not to be violated, at least sometimes, even in order to minimize constraint violations. This feature of deontological constraints arguably requires agent-relativity – there must be a way in which my own violations carry more weight with me than others’. Still, if someone knows that they can either bring about one violation or five, if they pause to ask “But wait, will the single violation be mine?” their question, I want to insist, is inappropriate.  

Utilizing an analogy from the epistemic case of peer disagreement (where giving more weight to one’s own belief compared to one’s peer seems chauvinistic, but where some believer-relativity can nevertheless still be maintained), I argue that the right way for deontologists to think about agent-relativity is not in terms of the considerations we take into account in deliberation, but rather as something coloring the deliberating itself. In this way, agent-relativity has to be backgrounded. 

In this paper, I defend this picture, and pursue some of its implications – for how we should think of the paradox of deontology, the intending-foreseeing distinction, cases of my own future constraint violations, and the project of consequentializing deontology.



David Enoch, Rodney Blackman Chair in the Philosophy of Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and recently appointed Professor of the Philosophy of Law at Oxford, will deliver the first paper of Michaelmas Term 2023: “Backgrounding Agent-Relativity”

This seminar takes place in the Arthur Goodhart Seminar Room, University College, at 5:00pm on Thursday October 12.

The Room is located on a second floor, and can be accessed through Logic Lane from High St. or Merton St. without having to go through the main entrance to Univ College.

This event is open to anyone. No registration needed.

Pre-reading is desirable and strongly suggested, but not a requirement to attend.


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