Working Papers

Here are some papers I am currently working on.  If you have any thoughts about them, I’d love to hear them (you can access them by clicking on the title).

Arrell, Robbie, ‘Is there a Genuine and Ineliminable Tension between General and Associative Duties?’

What should you do when faced with a choice between performing either a general duty or an associative duty in situations where you cannot perform both? Can your associative duties towards those with whom you share special relationships ever justifiably take precedence over the general duties you owe all persons simply in virtue of shared humanity, even if your associate’s need is comparatively much less urgent than the stranger’s?

In this paper I argue that, at least sometimes, the answer must be yes, and so we must conclude that the tension between general and associative duties is indeed genuine and ineliminable. The fact is we have at least two independent sources of moral duties that come with no set of priority rules such that could determine which duties should always take precedence over the others. That said, however, the tension is not as thoroughgoing as some would have us believe. Firstly, associative duties (as opposed to mere reasons of partiality) are far less common than the literature tends to suggest; and secondly, the degree of material resource distribution required within special relationships is likewise ordinarily much less than widely assumed. Indeed, I conclude that whilst the tension between general duties and associative duties is genuine and complex, the penchant for most of us in the West to excuse ourselves from fulfilling general duties by appeal to associative duties seems, for the most part, morally unsustainable.


Arrell, Robbie, ‘One Thought More on Partiality’

Given sufficient time and inclination, one could compile a comprehensive list of all the persons to whom one bears associative reasons and duties of partiality. But how might one explain the List? A natural place to start would be with the three theories of partiality that dominate the philosophical literature. The Relationships Theory says all and only those person with whom we share relationships comprised of shared histories which we have reason to value intrinsically make the List; the Individuals Theory explains the List by reference to the unique value and qualities of the particular persons upon it; and the Projects Theory says the explanation of The List derives not from our relationships or our others, but from our personal projects in which they are implicated. However, it turns out that each of these explanations of the List of persons towards whom one bears associative reasons and duties is problematically inadequate.  In this paper, I suggest a different explanation derived from Philip Pettit’s account of robustly demanding goods.  On this account, it is not our relationships, our others, or our projects we should look to for explanations of The List, but rather the robustly demanding relationship good of special concern.


Arrell, Robbie, ‘Countries, Compatriots, and Associative Duties’

Some philosophers focus exclusively on special relationships between individuals and the special reasons and duties of partiality they generate, but for others, the story of what might be called ‘ethical partiality’ does not end there. In particular, some commentators argue that the duties we owe to countries/compatriots are ‘associative duties’, putatively similar in form to the duties we have in virtue of being parents, children, friends, lovers, etc. However, there appears to be something more troublesome about the claim that individuals have duties of partiality towards co-members of their communities than there is to the claim that individuals have duties of partiality towards their nearest and dearest. In this paper I suggest one respect in which we are right to be troubled by such claims. I argue that we cannot have associative duties to our countries/compatriots; and that this is so whether we are said to have these duties in virtue of the value we attach to our places of citizenship/co-citizens, our nations/co-nationals, or our patriae/fellow patriots.