Moral Equality & Equal Respect

Moral Equality & Equal Respect

Giacomo Floris (University of Manchester)

Alex Pepper (University of Manchester)


Nowadays, it is widely accepted that all human beings are moral equals and, therefore, are entitled to equal respect. The truth of this principle is one few would deny. Despite or perhaps because of this, what grounds moral equality has been left underdeveloped. If we do in fact attempt to analyse this notion, we soon realise the question of basic moral equality is more complex than we have perhaps assumed. This is conceptually problematic as we are then bereft of an obvious way to justify equal moral respect: as Richard Arneson puts it, we might be left with the sense that “basic equality is neither ‘acceptable’ nor ‘rejectable’”.

Indeed several problems arise when attempting to find a status-conferring property: first, as Peter Singer proposes, it is questionable whether membership of the human species is a morally relevant property which is able to ground equal moral status – but then if we are not moral equals just because we are all human beings, in virtue of which capacity do we have equal moral standing?; secondly, to account for moral equality it is necessary to find a property which is equally held; however, this task has been proven hard to accomplish; finally, even if such a property exists and is equally possessed, it may still be unclear that moral equality is not a trivial concept. If we succeed in identifying such a property, nonetheless, problems remain.

The view that equal respect is entailed by moral equality has appealed to most liberal political theorists: John Rawls, Robert Nozick, and Ronald Dworkin are just a few amongst the many. We may then tend to agree on the concept of equal respect; yet there is significant disagreement over the plausibility of certain conceptions of respect. It is questionable, for example: whether respect is owed or earned; whether the quantifier ‘equal’ in ‘equal respect’ required or empty; finally, and perhaps most disagreed over, what a commitment to equal respect implies for wider political theory.

Thus, we would particularly like to invite papers which deal with the following topics:

  1. Papers concerning the ground(s) of (equal) moral status
  2. Papers concerning what is entailed by (equal) moral respect
  3. Papers which explore the relation between moral status and moral respect

The workshop aims at both specificity, particularly given the focus on the grounding of moral equality, but also encourages exploration of disparate arguments, especially given the potential wide range of different implications that can be entailed from a commitment to the principle of equal respect. Finally, this workshop aims to bring together highly abstract ideals with their real-world applications.


Submission Guidelines

Please submit an approx. 400-word abstract for your proposed paper by 2 June 2017. We aim to respond within a week.

All abstracts and enquiries about the workshop and should be sent to


At present, we aim to allow for 25 minutes per presentation; and 25 minutes for Q&A, but this may be subject to change.

Registration for this conference will open in May. All participants (convenors and paper-givers alike) must register in order to attend. The cost of registration is £230 for academics and £135 for graduate students/retirees. You may be eligible for a bursary to cover registration costs. The details for these can be found on the MANCEPT website. The deadline for Bursary applications is 16th June 2017.

We look forward to reading your abstracts!