Abstract

A number of viable ethical theories allow for the possibility of duties to oneself. If such duties exist, then, at least sometimes, by treating ourselves badly, we wrong ourselves and could rightly be held responsible, by ourselves and by non-affected third parties, for doing so. Yet, while we blame those who wrong others, we do not tend to, nor do we think ourselves entitled to blame people who treat themselves badly. If we try, they might justifiably respond that it is none of our business. This disanalogy might be thought of as a reason for skepticism about duties to oneself. It allegedly indicates that self-inflicted harm, while irrational, is not immoral. In this paper, I argue that this disanalogy is deceptive. First, it relies on the unjustified assumption that our response to someone treating herself badly consists solely in a judgment that she is being irrational or foolish, which is incompatible with leading views about what constitutes blame. Second, the objection fails to recognize that third-party blame is positional: in some contexts, it is inappropriate for a third party to express blame just because of her position as a third party.

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