Communitarianism and a free-standing theory of justice.

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Murali

Murali did his undergraduate degree in molecular biology with a minor in biophysics from the National University of Singapore (NUS). He then changed direction and did his Masters in Philosophy also at NUS. Now, he is currently pursuing a PhD in Philosophy at the University of Warwick.

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14 Responses

  1. Avatar Tom Van Dyke
    Ignored
    says:

    For the record, Mr. M, I wasn’t talking justice, I was saying don’t sweat the small stuff.  But I love being quoted, even when it’s off my point, so thx, dude.  You spelled my name right anyway [capital “V”!] and that’s all that counts.

    I’m not into that “cosmic justice” thing, and I think law is a poor prism through which to view reality.  The wise man leaves most things unlitigated.

    And I’m far more with Habermas than Rawls about what language [religious? philosophical?  empirical?] is permissible in the public square.  Me, I try natural law, which is at least an attempt at a lingua franca.  But if somebody wants to thump Bible, mebbe it’ll still make some sense without signing on to the whole deal.

    Come to think of it, I really like Jesus’ vineyard story, which is prob why I’m not all #OWS and all.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_Workers_in_the_VineyardReport

    • Avatar George A. Chien in reply to Tom Van Dyke
      Ignored
      says:

      Tom, this is the second time I’ve seen you cite this parable.  I’m really curious what you read in these words.

      I have preached on this many times (it comes up in the lectionary every three years) and I have to say that it leads me precisely to being more #OWS, not less.  In the parable, everyone receives the same payment, those who worked all day and those who were hired the last hour–a full day’s wage. Those who worked longer thought that they would be entitled to more, but they were wrong.

      So, it’s all grace.  There is no deserving.  Everyone is treated equally.  The 99% and the 1%, the 47% and the 53%.  Jesus definitively undermines the whole moral basis of the capitalist project.  God’s gifts of food, shelter, all the necessities of life, free given to each and to all.  No-one deserves to have more.  No-one deserves to have less.  No-one has earned.  All have received freely.

      This may be why St. Augustine stated that anyone who possesses more than he or she needs has stolen from the poor.

      I’m pretty sure that the parables of Christ generally, and this one in particular, give more critique to capitalism than support thereof.Report

      • Avatar NoPublic in reply to George A. Chien
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        says:

        I’m pretty sure that the parables of Christ generally, and this one in particular, give more critique to capitalism than support thereof.

        Shhhh.  Don’t tell the neo-Calvinists that, it’ll just confuse them and make them angry.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to George A. Chien
        Ignored
        says:

        Mr. Chien, thx for asking: Fairness isn’t justice, is my reading.  It was “unfair” to those who worked all day to be paid only the same as those who worked only an hour.

        “But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way…”

        That was the agreement at the beginning of the day; the employer justly paid the agreed-upon wage.  What he paid those who worked only an hour was of no concern to anybody else.

        I don’t envy the 1%, or the members of the Lucky Sperm Club, or anyone who has more than me.  It’s not my concern.  This is a worldview, and why so many Americans feel no resentment toward the rich, or “the system.”Report

  2. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    says:

    We as a coimmunity are better off if people aren’t starving in the street.  That applies to the whole community, we who pay the taxes that feed the indigent, as well as those who receive the direct benefits.  I consider anyone who would dispute this by saying “I don’t benefit, because I could spend that money on myself” a sorry excuse for a human being.

    If that be illogic, make the most of it.Report

    • Avatar Murali in reply to Mike Schilling
      Ignored
      says:

      We as a coimmunity are better off if people aren’t starving in the street. That applies to the whole community, we who pay the taxes that feed the indigent, as well as those who receive the direct benefits

      This would be true only if there were some negative externatlities that were associated with there being people strving on the street. This is probably true (due to increased crime, issues of stability etc). Otherwise if you were thinking of some other way in which I could be better off (apart from considerations about externalities) by keeping other people off the street, I’m going to ask how?

      I consider anyone who would dispute this by saying “I don’t benefit, because I could spend that money on myself” a sorry excuse for a human being

      From the mere fact that I dont benefit from preventing people from starving on the street (if it is in fact a fact), it does not follow that I should not do anything about it. Morality sometimes requires us to make sacrifices for others. I shouldnt cheat others even if I wont get caught and I could gain a lot from cheating not because it is in my interest to do so, but because it is the right thing to do!Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Murali
        Ignored
        says:

        If you were thinking of some other way in which I could be better off (apart from considerations about externalities) by keeping other people off the street, I’m going to ask how?

        You’re better off because you no longer live in a place so inhuman that people are allowed to starve in the street.  Also because, should a series of misfortunes put you at risk of that, you’ll be taken care of as well, but that’s a minor point.

        From the mere fact that I dont benefit from preventing people from starving on the street (if it is in fact a fact), it does not follow that I should not do anything about it.Morality sometimes requires us to make sacrifices for others. 

        Yes, it does  Excluding the sense of having done one’s moral duty leaves too narrow a definition of “benefits”.Report

        • Avatar Murali in reply to Mike Schilling
          Ignored
          says:

          Excluding the sense of having done one’s moral duty leaves too narrow a definition of “benefits”

          Including the sense of having done one’s moral duty makes it too wide. Four reasons

          1. You make a mockery of self sacrifice. Now doing the right thing is in your interest.

          2. You make things circular. Why do the right thing? because it is in your interest. Why is it in your interest? Because it is the right thing

          3. It is just plain wrong. Some people are not interested in doing the right thing. But the right thing is still the right thing whether or not they are interested in doing it

          4. You create a problem when talking about justice. The problem of justice arises because people make claims against eachother and we need to find a principled way to resolve such problems. Well, if doing the right thing was in people’s interests, then they would never really make claims against each other. The way we talk about justice and social and political institutions, we need a definition of self-interest that makes it possible to advance claims against others. That is the only way which would match the way we normally use words.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Murali
            Ignored
            says:

            Including the sense of having done one’s moral duty makes it too wide.

            If you’re willing to give me a moral authority upon whose rules I can make my foundation, I’d be more than happy to entertain the pointer.

            Until then, I’m stuck using my own moral measurements which rely quite heavily on my sense of my own moral duty.Report

            • Avatar Murali in reply to Jaybird
              Ignored
              says:

              If you’re willing to give me a moral authority upon whose rules I can make my foundation, I’d be more than happy to entertain the pointer.

              Until then, I’m stuck using my own moral measurements which rely quite heavily on my sense of my own moral duty.

              I’m not sure what this has to do with the right way to cash out the notion of self interest. Whatever code of conduct you have, it is a moral code if and only if at least its most fundamental principle is universalisable. There is nothing about the notion about the notion of pursuing your own self interest which necessitates that the pursuit of it in all its forms be universalisable. This is not to say that the pursuit of your own happiness, constrained in some particular way, is not the kind of thing which can be universalised. It can. Its just that the side constraints have to be spelled out in some detail.

              That’s why, for any reasonable definition of morality, there are going to be some ways of pursuing your own interests which would be morally wrong/bad/worse… Any moral code which unconditionally identifies it with self interest is either an unreasonable qua moral code or unreasonable qua definition of self interest.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Murali
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                says:

                Any moral code which unconditionally identifies it with self interest is either an unreasonable qua moral code or unreasonable qua definition of self interest.

                This requires substantial argument. Pre-theory, people have moral as well as material motivations for acting as they do. To arbitrarily restrict self-interest to only the rational pursuit of material interests is not only question begging, but descriptively false. In fact, that’s what I take Mike’s point to be above: if acting on moral concerns is irrational, then so much the worse for rationality.

                For my part, I think this is one of those stopping places where people get off the libertarian/classical liberal bus – me included. Homo-economicus is not only a mythical creature, he’s an impossible one as well. No one except the sociopathic is motivated exclusively by material self-interest (having more) in decision process. Most people make decisions by choosing between material and non-material rewards, and even then, material rewards are only a means for achieving, or permitting expression, of other non-material values. So non-material values, be they morals, values, preferences, etc., are always part of the calculus (unless, of course, someone comes along and just offers an increase in your material well being without any cost being incurred).

                Another way to say it is that according to the theory being proposed, if a person chose to not maximize their material self-interest in exchange for increasing some non-material value (like dignity, say), they’d be irrational.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                Exc, Mr. Stillwater.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                 In fact, that’s what I take Mike’s point to be above: if acting on moral concerns is irrational, then so much the worse for rationality

                I didn’t say that. In fact, I said the precise opposite.

                 Pre-theory, people have moral as well as material motivations for acting as they do. To arbitrarily restrict self-interest to only the rational pursuit of material interests is not only question begging, but descriptively false

                Fine, some, if not many people are morally motivated. But if by self-interest, all we mean is that it is part of someone’s goal set, then it would be trivial because whatever I do voluntarily I am always acting self interestedly (in so far as I’m pursuing my goal set with th mos efficient means possible). That looks a lot more like homo economicus

                Another way to say it is that according to the theory being proposed, if a person chose to not maximize their material self-interest in exchange for increasing some non-material value (like dignity, say), they’d be irrational. 

                As I’ve said, this would only be the case if you thought that all rationality involved was pursuing material self interest.

                But if by self-interest  we restricted ourselves to only talking about our selfish interests (material or otherwise), then people could be rational in pursuing their moral interests and not be entirely self-interested beings. Because rationality would be about the pursuit of all our goals moral and non-moral material and otherwise.

                So, when I tax Peter to help Paul, I am helping Paul, and I want to be able to describe a situation such that I am not necessarily helping Peter either. This would not necessarily have anything to do with whether I say such a situation is right or wrong, but I want to be able to describe it without moralising it. The moralised description of self interest does not allow me to do so.Report

  3. Avatar Joecitizen
    Ignored
    says:

    Washington:  “Can it be, that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a Nation with its Virtue?”

    Extracting the providence reference, remains the question:

    Is permanent felicity of a Nation connected with its Virtue?

    personalized:

    Is the permanent felicity of man connected to his Virtue?

     Report

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