Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Bernard Baumrin


Aristotle; Consequentialism; Ethics; Ethics of Care; Interpersonal Relationships; Kant


Close interpersonal relationships are a part of everyone's life at some point. For most people these relationships are actually prominent parts of their everyday lives. As such, it is important to figure out whether and how they fit into different normative theories of ethics. Relationships like those that exist as romantic couples, close friendships, and parent-child relationships share certain features with other close interpersonal relationships that I define as 'intimate relationships' in this dissertation. Intimate relationships are those that exist between people when they wish one another well, act for one another, do so mutually, treat one another as ends in themselves, and trust one another. If a normative theory is to account for moral value in intimate relationships then it must meet a set of necessary and sufficient conditions. My purpose in this dissertation is to synthesize these conditions after analyzing four distinct normative theories' accounts of moral value in intimate relationships: Kantianism, G.E. Moore's consequentialism, Aristotle's virtue ethics, and Virginia Held's ethics of care. These four theorists' approaches to normative ethics were selected because each theorist claims to value intimate relationships yet each provides a different account of that value. I first show that each theorist considers intimate relationships to be morally valuable and then analyze their theories' abilities to account for that value using four value terms: intrinsic good, extrinsic good, instrumental good, and final good. I then identify the components of each normative theory that either allow it to capture or prevent it from capturing the moral value of intimate relationships. This leads to the conclusion that a normative theory must allow for value in each of the components of an intimate relationship and appraise the relationships themselves to be more than instrumentally valuable in order to account for any moral value in the relationships. Those people who treat the intimate relationships in their lives as having moral value will be able to gauge the applicability of a particular normative theory to their lives by that theory's ability to meet the aforementioned criteria.