Dilemmas of Loyalty: Lesson 1

What do we owe one another? Dilemmas of loyalty

“Should nations apologize for historic wrongs? To answer this question, we need to think through some hard questions about collective responsibility and the claims of community” (210).

Should we atone for the sins of our predecessors?

Moral Individualism

“For the moral individualist, to be free is to be subject only to obligations I voluntarily incur; whatever I owe others, I owe by virtue of some act of consent – a choice or a promise or an agreement I have made, be it tacit or explicit” (213).

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“As we have seen, the notions of consent and free choice loom large, not only in contemporary politics, but also in modern theories of justice. Let’s look back and see how various notions of choice and consent have come to inform our present-day assumptions” (214).

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“Like Kant, Rawls observed that the choices we make often reflect morally arbitrary contingencies. Someone’s choice to work in a sweatshop, for example, might reflect dire economic necessity, not free choice in any meaningful sense” (214).

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Both Kant and Rawls “conceive the moral agent as independent of his or her particular aims and attachments” (214).

Translate this: ”When we will the moral law (Kant) or choose the principles of justice (Rawls), we do so without reference to the roles and identities that situate us in the world and make us the particular people we are” (215). Using Kant and Rawls reasoning, can we be responsible for past wrongs done by our generations long ago or have collective responsibility?
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“Conceiving persons as free and independent selves doesn’t only make a difference for questions of collective responsibility across generations. It has a more far-reaching implication: Thinking of the moral agent is this way carries consequences for the way we think about justice more generally. The notion that we are freely choosing, independent selves supports the idea that the principles of justice that define our rights should not rest on any particular moral or religious conception; instead, they should try to be neutral among competing visions of the good life” (215).

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Should Government be morally neutral?

Translate this: ”For Aristotle, the purpose of politics is not only to easy economic exchange and provide for the common defense; it is also to cultivate ____________ and form __________” (215).
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Translate this: ”Before we can investigate the __________ of an ideal constitution, it is necessary for us first to determine the __________ of the most desirable way of life. As long as that is obscure, the nature of the ideal constitution must also remain obscure” (215).
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Translate this: For Kant and Rawls, a government adopting a certain conception of the good life is an affront to human freedom. Is this true?
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“Only then, after we’ve arrived at the principle that defines our duties and rights, can we ask what conceptions of the good are compatible with it” (217).

Translate this: When Aristotle reasons about justice, he doesn’t have the right prior to the good. He reasons from the good. Is this true?
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Justice and Freedom

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Translate this: ”He(Aristotle) sees justice as a matter of _______ between persons and the ends or goods appropriate to their nature” (218).
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Translate this: ”Much of the argument over the role of government and markets is a debate about how best to enable individuals to pursue their ________ for themselves” (218).
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Claims of Community

Translate this: ”The weakness of the liberal conception of ____________ is bound up with its appeal. If we understand ourselves as free and independent selves, unbound by moral ties we haven’t chosen, we can’t make sense of a range of moral and political obligations that we commonly recognize, even prize” (220).
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“How is it possible to acknowledge the moral weight of community while still giving scope to human freedom? If the voluntarist conception of the person is too spare – if all our obligations are not the product of our will – then how can we see ourselves as situated and yet free” (221)?

Storytelling beings

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Translate this: Using this reasoning, a modern day German or modern day white American would have to share collective responsibility for past atrocities, right?
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“MacIntyre’s narrative conception of the person offers a clear contrast with the voluntarist conception of persons as freely choosing, unencumbered selves. How can we decide between the two? We might ask ourselves which better captures the experience of moral deliberation, but that is a hard question to answer in the abstract. Another way of assessing the two views is to ask which offers a more convincing account of moral and political obligation. Are we bound by some moral ties we haven’t chosen and that can’t be traced to a social contract” (223)?

Obligations beyond consent

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Translate this: If the liberal account of obligation is right, then the average citizen has no special obligation for his fellow citizens, right?
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Translate this: If the narrative account of obligations is right, then the average citizen has a special obligations for his fellow citizens, right?
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“On the narrative account, these identities are not contingencies we should set aside when deliberating about morality and justice; they are part of who we are, and so rightly bear on our moral responsibilities” (224).

So far there are 2 categories of moral responsibility for the liberal conception of morality: Natural duties (universal and don’t require consent) and Voluntary obligations (particular and require consent).

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“Their(obligations of solidarity) derives from the situated aspect of moral reflection, from a recognition that my life story is implicated in the stories of others” (225).

Translate this: Spanning both liberal and narrative account of moral obligations, what three categories of moral responsibility are there?
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