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Abstract

This essay contributes to the ethics of vulnerability and to the tradition of feminist care ethics by introducing the notion of second-person needs. Employing the work of Annette Baier, who argues that we are all ‘second persons’ insofar as personhood arises through a childhood in the care of others, it draws attention to the needs that are illuminated when we approach ourselves and others as second persons, and makes a case for the moral import of second-person needs. In drawing from and critically responding to Lisa Tessman’s concept of ‘burdened virtues,’ it also adds to a growing field of ethical work on moral damage. In particular, this paper reminds readers of the benefits of the virtue of sensitivity and attention to other’s suffering, without ignoring the toll that it can extract.


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