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my two cents: whenever the needy group grew beyond this compelling "pete" fellow, i started to skim.

for what it's worth.


That's only about 1 cent's worth.


It seems to me that there's something fishy about thinking that one's obligations to Pete must be the same as one's obligations to Sue. The intuition here, I think, is that Pete and Sue are identically situated so whatever is true regarding Pete must be true regarding Sue. However, it seems to me that Pete and Sue need not be thought to be identically situated. The particular difference seems to be that Pete's need was discovered first.

Now, you might wonder why this should make a moral difference. After all, being discovered first doesn't, on its own, seem to be morally important. The analogy here is to standing in line for a scarce good. One's position in line doesn't make one more deserving in some morally deep way, but all the same it does deliver a kind of procedural fairness -- everyone is treated equally if everyone's allotment depends only on their position in line.

I think we could quibble about appropriate procedures in the case of Pete and Sue. Maybe, all things considered, flipping a coin or staging a lottery would be a better procedure. The main point, though, is that it's possible to concoct a procedure which will yield a morally acceptable answer to distributive questions even when that procedure does not itself operate by fixing on moral facts.

In the background here is, I think, some confusion regarding how to parse our own obligations to persons like Pete and Sue. The trouble arises, it seems, because there is a picture of the obligation as holding directly between the donor and the recipient. A better picture might parse the relationship as being somewhat less direct. So, the donor has an obligation to Pete, Sue, and everyone else to participate in social arrangements such that resources will be distributed according to a fair procedure.


I think you have successfuly articulated the phenomenological logic with Pete and Sue. Very well done. Thank you.


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