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Moral Entanglements: Ad Hoc Intimacies and Ancillary Duties of Care *

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This paper develops and explores the idea of moral entanglements: the ways in which, through innocent transactions with others, we can unintendedly accrue special obligations to them. More particularly, the paper explains intimacy-based moral entanglements, to which we become liable by accepting another’s waiver of privacy rights. Sometimes, having entered into others’ private affairs for innocent or even helpful reasons, one discovers needs of theirs that then become the focus of special duties of care. The general duty to warn them of their need cannot directly account for the full extent of these duties, but does indicate why a silent retreat is impermissible. The special duties of care importantly rest on a transfer of responsibilities that accompanies the privacy waivers. The result is a special obligation of beneficence that, while grounded in a voluntary transaction, was never voluntarily undertaken. Impartialist views of beneficence cannot capture the relevant phenomena well.

Affiliations: 1: Georgetown University, richardh@georgetown.edu

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