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Basic Equality and the Contexts of Opacity Respect

Prof. Dr. Ian Carter
Wednesday, November 2, 2022, 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm

This seminar is planned as a hybrid event.  Registration is required for non-CEU members.

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Abstract | In previous work, I have argued that our basic equality is grounded in a kind of respect for persons which I have called ‘opacity respect’. In this paper, I defend my account against one of several challenges that have been presented in the recent literature: the challenge to the effect that opacity respect is not always an appropriate moral attitude in interpersonal relations and that it therefore fails to explain the appropriateness of treating people as equals. I defend my account by distinguishing between different ‘contexts of reasoning’ in which opacity respect might or might not be an appropriate moral attitude. Opacity respect is not appropriate in all reasoning contexts, but neither is basic equality a morally relevant feature of all such contexts. Moreover, those contexts in which opacity respect is appropriate tend also to be those in which we view individuals as basically equal. By making some relevant distinctions between the different contexts of opacity respect, I hope to show how critiques of opacity respect as a moral attitude have been over simplistic and have failed to invalidate its role in explaining our basic equality.


Bio | Ian Carter is professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Pavia, Italy. He studied at Newcastle University (BA), the University of Manchester (MA), and the European University Institute in Florence (PhD). He was a lecturer at the University of Manchester before moving to the University of Pavia in 1993, and has since held visiting positions at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Prof. Carter’s philosophical work has concentrated on fundamental normative concepts in contemporary political philosophy, in particular freedom, rights, and equality. His seminal monograph A Measure of Freedom (1999) investigated the problems involved in evaluating and measuring social freedom and examined the place of the measurement of freedom in a theory of justice. Prof. Carter has since then applied his work to the analysis of the concept of freedom of choice and contributed to the discussion of the relation between freedom and power, as a prominent liberal critic of the republican conception of freedom. More recently, he has played an influential role in debates about the foundations of egalitarianism, developing an account of basic equality grounded in the idea of opacity respect. He is currently working towards a monograph that further develops the idea of opacity respect and its implications for egalitarian justice. 

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Meeting ID: 942 5206 2740
Passcode: 451148