In Defense of Liberal-Pluralism: 2nd Edition [2nd Revised ed.] 1443878421, 9781443878425

This book takes a critical view of Kantian and Neo-Kantian moral philosophers preference of universalism, the unity of m

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In Defense of Liberal-Pluralism: 2nd Edition [2nd Revised ed.]
 1443878421, 9781443878425

Table of contents :
Table of Contents
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six

Citation preview

In Defense of Liberal-Pluralism

In Defense of Liberal-Pluralism: 2nd Edition By

Upendra Chidella

In Defense of Liberal-Pluralism: 2nd Edition By Upendra Chidella This book first published 2015 Cambridge Scholars Publishing Lady Stephenson Library, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 2PA, UK British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Copyright © 2015 by Upendra Chidella All rights for this book reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. ISBN (10): 1-4438-7842-1 ISBN (13): 978-1-4438-7842-5

Dedicated to my wife, my son and To all those who value ‘living’ is integral to one and all


Preface ...................................................................................................... viii Acknowledgements ..................................................................................... x Chapter One ................................................................................................. 1 Introduction Chapter Two .............................................................................................. 29 The Individual-Collective Dilemma Chapter Three ............................................................................................ 80 A Critique of Moral Foundationalism Chapter Four ............................................................................................ 128 Public Reason: Impartiality and Reasonableness Chapter Five ............................................................................................ 158 Justificatory Liberalism: The Limits of Proceduralism Chapter Six .............................................................................................. 193 Moral Pluralism Conclusion ............................................................................................... 230 Liberal-Pluralism Bibliography ............................................................................................ 249 Index ........................................................................................................ 259


Collective life constitutes several types of conflicts and disagreements over what is right and wrong. Further, common morality and common good exposes the antagonism between the moral principle point of view and the individual or the personal point of view. The central problem of moral philosophy is whether we can have a rational resolution of any conflict or disagreement. Liberal moral philosophers of the Kantian and Neo-Kantian moral traditions claim that all our conflicts and disagreements are rationally resolvable through preference to universal principles, agent-neutral values and proceduralism, driven by the ideal of moral consensus that all rational-reasonable agents ideally agree, after all things considered. These are mere simplistic assumptions that make moral reasoning mere convenient to suit the axiomatic moral first principles for the purpose of moral explanation. Dealing with issues of morality, whether simple or hard cases, does not explain moral disagreement as justifiable in one-way or the other. On the contrary, we claim that rational resolution does not pertain to all interpersonal conflicts. The main emphasis is that in a complex social framework, conflicts and disagreements are implicit due to a certain role of irreducible plural claims; yet a better state-of-affairs can be achieved with a renewed preference to moral pluralism. The study develops an argument for moral pluralism, which claims that reason and morality are not to be determined by unification; but by the inevitability of difference. This frees morality from the clutches of necessary convergence that most liberal philosophers prefer to maintain as implicit in moral understanding. However, morality and rationality are to be treated as ‘domain-specific’ though some kinds of moral conflicts satisfy the resolvability criteria. Nevertheless, they possess different degrees of resolvability. We cannot resolve interpersonal moral conflicts by using unconditional and higher-order principles that have singular meanings. Liberal-pluralism is neither relativism nor antithetical to morality. The complex nature of conflicts compels us to gamble between the possibilities of overlapping agreement and incommensurable disagreements. Liberalpluralism, conceptualized here, centers around five important components of moral deliberation and intersubjective communication: reciprocity, fairness, cooperation, reasonableness and tolerance. This is what we owe to each other in a just society. Public justification and reasonable reason

In Defense of Liberal-Pluralism


should be guided by the principle of accommodation of values while considering the fact of pluralism. Counting on the merits of moral imagination, we claim that reasonable agreement is possible through moral deliberation and persuasion. Due to this, minimal objectivity prevails without recourse to higher-order abstraction of impartial values. This assumption makes the difference between reasonable pluralism of the justificatory liberalism from substantial pluralism. The latter maintains that the nature of moral rightness and wrongness are essentially plural due to the capability of diverse thinking of the autonomous agents. But, autonomy of this kind does not violate the common good, as every individual possesses autonomy as well as social agency. Moral bargain needs to have a ‘recognition rule’ permitting both overlapping opinions and differing opinions on manifold issues of existence. Emergence of new conflicts may be taken as a persistent condition. We ought to recognize the fact that most of the moral questions are open-ended despite of having fixed points. Hence, unlike the foundational framework of liberal philosophy, we claim that liberal-pluralism treats conflicts as neither totally resolvable using rational methods nor absolutely irresolvable. This is the determining factor of human condition.


I joyfully express my heartfelt gratitude to those who made this work possible. This revised edition would not have been possible without sacrifice of time I was supposed to spend with my adorable wife, and my cute baby who brought love and innocence to this otherwise brute world. Their coming into my life changed the person inside me. I am extremely thankful to them for they had put up with my negligence toward them. It would be unethical on my part if I do not mention my mother and father for they hoped that I would do some good some where some time. I also thank Indian Institute of Technology Indore for providing me time to work on the earlier version of this book. Sincere gratitude is due to Jasmine Fernandez for copy-editing the draft with patience. I also thank Cambridge Scholars Publishing for giving me another opportunity to assimilate my random thoughts. I confess that this work is a decent and honest attempt, though isn’t magnificent enough, to put forth the point that our life is infinitely colorful, no matter we live under the same roof. Finally, I thank Carol Koulikourdi and Amanda Millar of CSP for coordinating everything. C. Upendra


Collective life generates the need for rights, equality and justice, and thus determines the normative-moral significance of our life-plans. Further, fulfillment of these plans are guided and determined by ‘common good’ and ‘common morality’. They are variously dealt within the larger frame of liberal-moral and political philosophy. The two main concerns of moral and political philosophers are how reasonable, are individuals in making their choices and preferences for their life-projects and how reasonable are individuals in making their respective value-claims. We state that interpersonal conflicts are principally disagreements of rationalized general principles of right and wrong. In such situations, many moral philosophers have opined that judgment and justification have to be carried out methodically to arrive at rational resolution of the conflicts among the agents. Here, we would like to state that conflict involves the issues of basic liberties and substantive freedoms. Contemporary liberal philosophy is faced with the herculean task – to find a logical relationship between diverse choices and diverse moralities. In this book the distinction between basic liberties and substantive freedoms is given a serious concern. In the liberal philosophical framework, in general, life-project is considered to have goals, desires, interests and preferences. Interpersonal conflicts are explained with respect to the disagreements on several issues that fall in the above categories. It signifies the everyday life replete with ‘mutually’ conflicting value-claims and valuations. Emphasis is laid on value-claim, which would mean that different moral rational agents would hold different value positions regarding various issues. Value-claim is an appropriate concept here as individuals make choices and justify these choices as right ones. These choices bear a resemblance to individuals’ valuing some in place of some other. Besides, it resembles how individuals value each other – especially how one forms belief about others, which are reflected in their attitudes and judgments. These value-claims also form the basis for treating one preference, as appropriate, from the rational-moral point of view, to the other.


Chapter One

Before advancing further, we need to make it clear that conflict is taken to be fundamental and factual. There are several reasons why conflict becomes unavoidable. When we talk about fulfillment of the life-projects, every individual is granted with autonomy to realize the goals to the maximum possible extent. Conflicts occur because in any context there is more than one person involved in the fulfillment of life-projects. The current study presupposes interpersonal context or the multi-agent framework that can be used interchangeably. The reason for an emphasis on the notion of interpersonal is that we can reflect on the limitations of generalization and universalization in our moral judgments. The multiagent framework does not ground itself on the fact that what is right for one is a right principle for all in all the cases. This does not mean that the interpersonal as such is missing in the theories of liberal rights and morality. A reflection on the point would enable us to understand three important things: the manner in which life-projects are fulfilled, the nature of collective life, and the nature of conflicts and disagreements. Treating conflict as essential at the fundamental level, liberal philosophers have argued that the goals, preferences and values are to be tied to the choices, i.e., choices that count from the rational point of view as morally and reasonably justifiable. These right choices are intended to be impartial from everyone’s point of view. The liberal philosophers’ idea is that an agent’s preference and values should not only be the ultimate one but also need to be justified by ultimate moral principles. This is the central idea within Kantian and Neo-Kantian moral frameworks. For, both of these moral frameworks, judgments and justification are to the extent vital that these philosophers would say that all choices and claims that are not justified are unreasonable and irrational. These would be called as moral conflicts and are interpersonal in nature. These conflicts are different from the single-agent moral dilemmas. The question is whether one is fair in wronging others in terms of moral worth. Judgment and justification are not free from contradictions. Kantians would argue that the application of categorical imperative would enable both moral deliberation and moral consensus.1 Moral understanding, moral imagination, and moral reasoning bring objectivity to rightness and 1

Barbara Herman, “Morality and the Everyday Life,” Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, 74.2(November 2000): 29-45. Also see her, “On the Value of Acting from the Matters of Duty,” The Philosophical Review, 90.3(Jul 1981): 359-382. Paul Guyer, “The Value of Agency,” Ethics, 106.2(January 1993): 404.423.



wrongness of actions and value-claims. Moral universalism would prefer to unity of morality rather than a fragmented one. The underlying idea of Kantian morality is that all rational agents agree on the authority of moral principles. The problem in the Kantian framework is not of the conceptual grounding, but the bases of these grounding. Moral agents are to be backed by the unconditional and supreme moral principles. The apprehension is that consensus approach to moral understanding may not help us in recognizing the importance of moral differences. The problem is how to apply rational principles to specific situations that are encountered in our daily experiences. This is where moral imagination and moral judgment are at loggerheads.2 The widely accepted view by liberal philosophers is ‘moral principles that all moral agents agree’. The counter view to this is that moral universalism cannot escape from diverse circumstances of moral disagreement. It means that what is right and wrong constitute difference of opinion by the moral agents. By moral differences, we mean that agents have different opinion about a particular action or moral worth. At the same time, two different moral agents can have different yet morally justifiable positions of right and wrong. When the applicability of moral principles get extended to multi-agent frameworks, like discourse processes, then agreement on general moral principles is difficult and challenging to the individuals themselves. Answers to questions such as what is a good life, how should we live with each other, and how should morality guide our actions do not reside in mere absolute standards. The hard view of the Universalists is that the absolute moral standards have the potential to consider a priori the fact of pluralism. If absolute moral principles have such a potential, then plurality should be the central concern of moral philosophers. Question such as “what is moral and rational” is not answered by a single idea. The assumption we make here is that morality has to be understood with respect to multiple rationalities. It is imperative on us to address the question, “Are we making pluralism a necessary condition?” We are not making pluralism as a necessary principle as universality in the case of moral foundationalism. We are only making it an essential condition of a complex interpersonal framework. Pluralism is a genuine interpersonal condition here. Our conception of pluralism tries to avoid conflict and disagreement for the sake of 2

Mark Johnson, “Imagination in Moral Judgment,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 46.2 (December 1985): 265-280.


Chapter One

disagreeing with each other. In this way, one can have a possible relief from arbitrary differences. The advantage of not making pluralism a necessary condition is that there is no escape from reasonable agreement whenever it is possible among the moral agents. The point is whether we can bring a substantial congruency between self-interest and morality.3 Moral judgment is not an easy affair if right and wrong are applicable overwhelmingly to all the issues of life. Interpersonal issues are of various kinds that further contain various kinds of conflicts. In such cases, it is even more difficult to simplify the complex moral understanding. What moral universalists do, is simplify the deeper conflicts for the explanatory convenience of the superiority of the rational account of morality. Critics of this position may point out that in any social framework, commensurable conflicts always outweighs the number of incommensurable tragic4 conflicts. Yet we require a pragmatic approach to communication where meanings are communicated not just for information for recognition. But, the issue is not of the numbers only. Moral conflicts also refer to differences over any issue of interpersonal concern. Multiple rationalities would convey is that there is no necessary condition that all should have one point of view on every issue of moral deliberation. There is a serious problem in claiming that different moral agents can have different moral viewpoints over any issue of conflicts. The urge in this regard is to avoid the feared loss of morality and its foundational status. The main concern of all the moral philosophers is that all our claims and actions should have potential to be evaluative. The fear is that if pluralism is made a fundamental principle, then moral evaluation and judgmentalism are affected drastically. Hence, all our value-claims are to be kept within the range of evaluative possibility. This evaluative possibility places the primacy of the rational-moral principle over the subjective claims thus yielding moral objectivity. Moreover, pluralism is treated as offering weak subjectivity. Much of the universalists confuse pluralism to be relativism. We will come to this point later in the chapter. 3

F. M. Kamm presents the effort made by Scheffler in having a hope of certain congruency between self-interest and morality. See his, “Rationality and Morality,” Nous, 29.4(December 1995): 544-555 [Critical Study of Human Morality by Samuel Scheffler] 4 Ronald Dworkin uses this word while arguing that Isaiah Berlin is wrong in assuming that there are more number of tragic conflicts in the society. See Avery Plaw, “Why Monist Critiques Feed Value Pluralism: Ronald Dworkin’s critique of Isaiah Berlin,” Social Theory and Practice, 30.1 (January 2004): 105.126.



Moral judgment is a more serious affair because through it moral agents justify or refute each other’s moral-claims to validity. For moral foundationalists, it happens by virtue of the adherence to the non-moral principles. Any assertion that lacks evaluative and normative concerns is considered to be non-moral in nature. This study, taking into account the issues dealt, cautiously refrains from getting into the debate between moral and non-moral. Engaging in a discussion over this falls outside the framework of the book. However, this distinction is taken as problematic here. For them, there are certain demands of morality that all rational-moral agents ought to fulfill, to realize reciprocity, fairness and cooperation. We acknowledge that there is a conflict between personal point of view and the principle point of view. At the moral level, foundationalists have no second thought of giving priority to the personal point of view. Agency determined by rational agency and categorical imperative prevails over the hypothetical imperative. At the interpersonal level, it can be seen as the conflict between the liberty principle and the democratic principle (between the personal point of view and the general point of view).5 If conflicts are to be resolved, then morality and rational resolvability should have a definite role. Rational resolution is treated as indispensable as far as collective morality is concerned. But the question that needs our urgent attention is, “how should we treat morality as ‘all-pervasive’ in the sense of overriding in nature or does morality has limits too?”6 Moral foundationalists would prefer the all-pervasive sense of morality whereas pluralists would emphasize on what we call realms of morality. The former emphasizes on the unity of morality while pluralists permit certain partial fragmented moral systems that constitute a moral theory. These two moral points of view are like arguing for living with harmony and living with differences. The current work highlights that too much harmony is unrealistic and extreme fragmentation is undesirable. It is true that the Kantian morality generates effective sense of moral deliberation. The question then would be what should be the basis of moral reasoning and moral judgment? What role does ‘principle’ play here? This calls for a choice between ‘choice-morality’ and ‘virtue-ethics. The choice is difficult yet. Foundationalists or universalists would say that interpersonal morality needs what is general and acceptable to all. 5

Peter De Maueffe, “Contractualism, Liberty and Democracy,” Ethics. 104.4(July 1994):764-783. 6 For instance see Samuel Scheffler, “Morality’s Demands and Their Limits,” The Journal of Philosophy, 83.10 (Oct 1986):531-537.


Chapter One

Autonomy functions in the way that individual and collective reasoning should overlap at some point of time. This point of convergence is indicative of the Archimedean point7 for all the moral claims. Universalists maintain that the value of agency lies in the fact that a moral agent is subject to several constraints that prevent her/him from indulging into immoral and non-rational considerations. In this sense, morality has thumb rules for individuals as well as for the society. The Kantian moral philosophers claim that what is rational for an individual is rational for a collective due to reason and universalization. The fundamental assumption of the Kantian morality is if there is no conflict at the basic level, then there will be none at the deeper-level. This indicates the Kantian defenders’ confidence in the adequacy of foundational principles. The scope of moral disagreement is either totally wiped out from the Kantian moral framework or total resolution of the conflicts is the belief of the foundationalist moral philosophers. The problem with such an understanding of morality is that it does not really capture the essence of diverse nature of life. Diversity or moral variance becomes one of the important determinants of moral understanding because different persons understand life processes differently. All these comprehensions are not the result of everyone’s adherence to ultimate principles only. Similarly, we do not really pursue only ultimate goals, but goals that drive our everyday life as the basic values are not the only ultimate values. Denial of ultimate moral principles and the same criterion for choices brings us to reason out why agents have different opinions over the simple and profound questions such as- what is moral? What is objectively moral? Why should we have rational agreement? Understanding human life is a complex process and in that social life is far more complex in itself. It is complex because different persons’ perception of right and wrong, desirable and undesirable, permissible and impermissible is 7

The original position is Rawls’s Archimedean Point, the fulcrum he uses to obtain critical leverage. See John Rawls. A Theory of Justice (London: Oxford University Press, 1971), pp. 230-232. Kai Nielsen, while discussing about ethical subjectivism puts forth a question, “Is it the case that we should accept the most perspicuous formulation of ethical subjectivism as the beast sustained claim about the formulation of morality such that we should believe that efforts such as Rawls’s or Gert’s to achieve an Archimedean point in morality are fundamentally misguided?” See his discussion paper, “Ethical Subjectivism Again,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 37.1 (September 1976): 123-124.



different. In that persons have irreducible preferences and values towards various aspects of life. These preferences would not be agent-neutral preferences for the reason that agents are more concerned about the right choices as well as ultimate ends. Rather, our preferences and values towards life are more agent-relative or agent-based as we chose them to be our goals. We are critical of the notion that only impartial, ultimate, and higher-order interests have the potential to become moral judgments. What are moral conflicts and moral disagreements? Moral conflicts are those situations where moral agents cannot reach objective agreement over right and wrong. Most of the values conflict, thus causing arbitrary judgments, that indicates the poverty of moral judgment. These conflicts are indications of moral disagreements that are basic to many issues related to rights, equality and justice. These are to be seen different from single-agent moral dilemmas. The case of dilemmas can be resolved in some way or the other through the prescriptive rational moral principles. A conflict, unlike a dilemma, can be due to incommensurability and incompatibility in our value preferences. But in the case of issues of interpersonal concern, disagreement has an equal possibility to that of agreement. It is in a way denial of overriding objectivity of morality.8 All moral disagreements are part of these moral conflicts. Moral conflict is more than a dilemma here because most of the times different people hold different point(s) of views over a particular issue. We cannot even say that they have equal compelling force in the true sense as they are invoked from different moral perspectives. There is no standard point to measure all these moral perspectives. This is called as moral incommensurability. Moral disagreements are explained by making a reference to moral incommensurabilities of several kinds. Universalists persistently endeavor to ground morality in commensurable values as much as possible. Pluralists and relativists talk about disagreement with an emphasis on incommensurabilities. Another important question to be discussed here is that whether incommensurabilities are not reconcilable even after intense deliberation? The idea behind raising such a question is that moral pluralism is easily acceptable if one follows three important ideals: reciprocity, fairness and cooperation. 8 William Tolhurst, “The Argument from Moral Disagreement,” Ethics, 97.3(April 1987):610-621. S. I. Benn, “Persons and Values: Reasons in Conflict and Moral Disagreement,” Ethics, 95.1(October 1984):20-37. David O. Brink, “A Puzzle about the Rational Authority of Morality,” Philosophical Perspectives, 6 (1992):126.


Chapter One

One of the advantages in the Kantian framework is that moral judgments are accounted from moral principles. Priority of principle is taken to be emphatically a priori. We do not deny that moral deliberation is possible in the Kantian morality. We are more concerned here with morality and its demands. Kantian morality with its demands turns out to be an extreme principle in itself. The question that remains as a puzzle in the universalistic framework is: does an absolute moral principle really serve various complexities that agents encounter in making moral decisions? Kantian morality resides in the domain of true moral principles. When we take the interpersonal conflicts into account, we may not be able to relate to Kantian morality in a very direct sense. In saying that, we state that it may not be reasonable to place Kantian unconditional true moral principles in the non-ultimate domain for treating several kinds of conflicts. By moral disagreement we understand two important aspects: moral right and moral difference. In the normal sense, one can say a moral right is one that gives a moral agent the right to have a different point of view from other moral agents. From this we can say that, moral conflicts are of two kinds. As already mentioned, one is between that the personal point of view and the principle point of view. And the other is amongst the moral agents themselves. Moral right does not mean that moral difference is brought for the sake of difference. Instead, moral difference is to be treated as a moral fact. The notion of moral right may seem troublesome though it is implicit that an agent has a right to form an opinion on particular aspect of life.9 Instead of stating moral right, we can call it moral difference that would mean that every agent can equally hold a different yet right reason, beliefs and actions - equivocation. The fundamental idea of moral equality is that convergence principle is not a necessary condition. It means that there are issues and contexts where moral unanimity is not possible even when negation of irrational moral claims takes place. Moral difference highlights heterogeneity as the main principle of a complex society. This point will be defended in the current study. We will argue that though moral imagination, moral reasoning, and moral understanding are more important, it does not take away one’s right to differ with the other. The issue to be addressed is whether the differences are drastic or marginal in nature.

9 Richard B. Brandt, “The Concept of a Moral Right and its Function,” The Journal of Philosophy, 80.1(January 1983):29-45.



Besides, the common problem to both foundationalist liberals and the pluralist liberals is the differentiation between a reasonable and an unreasonable difference. For the sake of deliberative outcome amid conflicts, we admit that some mechanism of distinction should be internal to a moral framework. But this distinction tends to create an Archimedean point that acts as a common standard to measure the differences. It does not except in the cases of basic values and basic interests. The irreducibility condition explains not only that values are incommensurable but also to a greater extent incompatible. Both epistemic as well as foundational liberals make the distinction easier, i.e., an agent has valid moral claims when those claims are judged right or wrong from the sense of universal morality. The distinction is not so clear in the case of pluralism. Moral universalists argue that foundational principles have the potential to handle the pluralities, also do justice to moral diversity. Then representing moral theory as basically plural should not be impossible. There is a difficulty in such thinking. Morality is treated as an independent autonomous domain from which one sees what is right and what is wrong. The question that would arise is how we can see the social domain from an independent or a neutral perspective (sometimes like an ideal observer). For this, we have to understand the relationship between a moral system as a set of principles and individuals having various points of views. Liberal moral philosophy calls for a unitary system of autonomous morality applicable to all contexts of moral choice or moral decision. In resolving moral conflicts, some liberal philosophers emphasize, the independent body of moral knowledge inevitably drives our judgmental attitude. For instance, Barbara Herman defends that the Kantian ethics is the standard model of an impartial ethical system.10 What we would like to argue is that morality is to be made somewhat flexible to avoid the necessitated self-evident nature of foundationalism. This may help us in the deeper understanding of moral problems in the interpersonal context. The intention is that if one can capture the reasons for moral disagreement, one could see the possibilities of resolution and the manner of application of autonomous moral principles. We need to recognize the complex situations of moral choices. The approach to pluralism doesn’t, as Barbara Herman fears, accuse that Kantian moral theory omits something that any 10 Barbara Harman, “Agency, Attachment and Difference,” Ethics, 101(July 1991): 775-797.


Chapter One

other moral theory cannot afford to omit.11 We are also not arguing for a partial account of ethics, but would emphasize on the aspect that rationality and reasonableness have substantial plural meanings. Moral imagination and moral requirements expect agents to be reasonable and fair in their reasons, values and claims. It is right that the Neo-Kantian conception of reasonableness is not as formal as that of Kantian morality. What is the difference in the conceptions of liberalism’s reasonable pluralism and our notion of substantial pluralism? The former is concerned about fairness defined by the public political conception of justice and overlapping nature of the comprehensive doctrines. It is explained as a diversity of incompatible but reasonable comprehensive doctrines. Any kind of disagreement here is the disagreement among reasonable persons.12 What it excludes is important for us in proceeding further. Under the name of burdens of judgment one is supposed to avoid non-overlapping values and problem creating values. The difference that substantial pluralism maintains is that the reasonable and cooperating nature of the persons need not lead to overlapping of the comprehensive doctrines. This is what could be said about the complex interpersonal framework. Extending the argument from moral pluralism, reasonableness should rather emphasize upon the recognition of differences so that one can create spaces for disagreeing agents too. We have to look into the aspect whether the burdens of judgment is more than unnecessary13 or it is a method of avoiding conflicts thus making things too simpler, or is it epistemic abstinence?14 Life is so complex that we cannot once for all a priori fix the role of rational and partial connotations respectively. For instance, we say that a teacher should impart education amongst the children impartially. On the 11

Ibid., p. 775. Leif Wenar, “Political Liberalism: An Internal Critique,” Ethics, 106.1(October 1995): 33-62 at 35. Also see John Rawls, Political Liberalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), p. 55 13 Ibid., p. 43. Leif also raises three significant questions in this regard: One, isn’t it disappointing that human reason under free institutions divides people from each other by multiplying mutually exclusive comprehensive doctrines? Second, isn’t it particularly wretching since it becomes very likely that those on all sides of the dispute hold comprehensive doctrines that are substantially false? And third, Could one not reasonably see modern history as the diversification of error and illusion, or at least as the intensification of tragic conflicts or values? Ibid., p. 48. 14 Joseph Raz, “Facing Diversity: The Case for Epistemic Abstinence,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, 19.1(Winter 1990): 3-46. 12



other hand, these same children are permitted to have a subjective understanding of life, and many other issues, nevertheless, of some moral intense [from making a choice of way of life to choosing a social formation]. This is just a simple, among manifold complex dilemmas. One has to reflect on the aspect that whether we can put forth a manual for the rational conduct of all rational moral agents.15 We do not deny that impartiality is a preferred principle but not in every issue of life. What we would like to state is that when every individual is bestowed a moral right to form a life-project; we have to permit agent-relative considerations accordingly. What we would like to emphasize is that one need not confine moral understanding to have a indisputable answer for every moral question. Similarly, agents need not necessarily differ from each other in each and every case of deliberation. The diverse conditions of life involve several understandings of life-situations that can be called worldviews. These different worldviews indicate different beliefs that could be from a single moral theory. For this diverse understanding, autonomous reason is a better pre-requisite apart from different persons in different cultures. These formations of worldviews are guided by both common morality and common good. (Liberal) Moral philosophy ignores another dimension of interpersonal conflicts, moral disagreement. Moral disagreement on the prima facie appears as if agents’ differences are over profound issues of social life. It is not the case. Persons have disagreement over issues of daily concern, which are also governed by moral principles. The question: How are these ultimate moral principles and issues of daily life connected is not only the worry of moral universalists but also for pluralists and the cultural relativists. From this uncertainty, one has to address the question as to where rests the crucial problem of moral disagreement. A critical reflection would certainly show us two reasons: approaches to the resolution of conflicts and the very nature of understanding the interpersonal social framework. These two aspects apply to all the perspectives in moral and political philosophy. The reason is there are certain paradoxes and the current study takes into account these moral paradoxes. One, morality and rationality are certainly action-guiding, but all agents need not have the same value and belief system. 15 Nomy Arpaly, “On Acting Rationally Against One’s Own Judgment,” Ethics, 110.3 (April 2000): 488-513.


Chapter One

Universalization is not an overriding principle. Judgments are not made keeping in view the all-pervasive sense of morality. Two, general and normative principles do possess the potential to resolve the conflicting situations. Yet, general point of view can be different from the personal point of view under the guise of public and private morality. Three, common morality is very much appealing, but the autonomous nature of persons make them differ in their understanding the facts of life due to diverse conditions. Fourth, moral conflicts are to be resolved. Yet rational resolvability is not applicable to most of the conflicts due to incommensurability of values. Kantian morality also has another important critique, i.e., virtue ethics. Communitarians understand morality through the notions of common good and shared meanings of life. They are critical to the method of rational justification. Rather virtue makes us opt for shared meanings of life, as one way of looking at human life is teleological, i.e., ends are prior to the self. The consequent argument is that the individuals share not just reasons but also values. It is worth addressing that how personhood and agency of liberalism properly accounts for reciprocity, cooperation, fairness and reasonableness. The point of dispute between communitarians and liberals are the most prominent among them. What is more important to understand moral deliberation? Is it the moral development aspect of a person or the choice aspect of an already attributed rational agent? The difference between the liberals and the communitarians is not only of deontology and teleology but also on the nature of justification itself. For instance, communitarians would argue that we cannot explain everything through rational justification. The problem is to view morality as imperative.16 Critics of Kantian morality stress the point that one understands morality through character rather than through choice. There are two categories here: choice morality versus character morality and thin morality versus thick morality. Even virtue theories would emphasize on the importance of character morality. For instance, John Kekes argues that Kantian morality is problematic because it places choice as foundation for morality. Kekes’s argument is that to make right choices one should have a moral 16 Alasdair MacIntyre, “Imperatives, Reasons for Actions and Morals,” The Journal of Philosophy, 62.19(Oct 1985):513-524. See also his “Moral Arguments and Social Contexts,” The Journal of Philosophy, 8010(October 1983):590-591. Michael J. Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).



character.17 It is fine that moral character is important to make right choices. But there is no way possible that a moral-rational agent can free herself/himself from making choices. Social contract liberalism cannot be negated on the pretext of character-morality. When we talk about preferences, values, actions and claims, we need to bring choice into the moral framework. In that sense, all Kantian rational agents are selfevidently moral in nature. The critical point is that in the virtue framework of understanding the interpersonal, critics of Kantianism assume that moral character can absorb the very differences amongst individuals. But this is not the case. We cannot make it a necessary statement that shared or common good does not indulge in the convergence of value-claims. The problem is not whether character morality prevails over choice morality and vice versa. The important aspect is how we identify the grounds for achieving reciprocity, fairness, cooperation and reasonableness. Whatever communitarians claim to be important can be stated to have been central to the Kantian morality except the fuzziness about the context and community. Communitarians, in fact, do not address several serious dilemmas of interpersonal life. What we claim is that understanding social framework and interpersonal moral conflicts is not restricted to the narrative aspect of historical conditions. There are many conflicts for which we need to refer to the context but need not lay too much primacy on historicity. Critics make a deeper understanding of ‘interpersonal’. For them, we need to go beyond the rationality assumption. Beyond the rationality assumption lie shared meanings of life fully governed by the virtue of common good. They would counter the above discussion by stating that such morality is empty and impoverished. Their argument would be that one should have a very deep understanding of the aspects of good and other virtues.18 The underlying intention may be that a deeper understanding than rational understanding influences the human behavior. It is difficult to say which is better in this regard. On the other hand, thin morality attributed to moral foundationalism is more worried about the aspects of rightness and wrongness. For them, morality is the subject matter of evaluation and justification. Hence, choice is immanent to our beliefs, values, choices and preferences.19 The current study also 17

John Kekes, “On “Ought Implies Can”: Two Kinds of Morality”. The Philosophical Quarterly, 34, no. 137 (1984): 459-467. 18 Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985). 19 This point refers to traditional Kantianism and contemporary defenders of Kant.


Chapter One

concentrates on the aspect of balancing rational understanding and deeper understanding, as reason and value are vital to the resolution of various kinds of moral conflicts. Further, moral recognition of others’ (moral worth of other individuals) interests also affects our judgment of right and wrong. Both the theorists of good and right argue that individual is subsumed into the social. Rights, equality and justice are meaningful only in collective representation. For the collectivists, priority to autonomy is violating both the interests of others and that of society at large. The current study boldly claims that a moral theory can prioritize autonomy with respect to rights, equality and justice. It is even more important in the case of choice and decision. For instance, Kant was right in arguing that a rational-moral agent should make autonomous moral decision without the pressure of free-standing moral principles. The thing that is unreasonable in his idea is the universalization principle of rationality and reason. Nevertheless, autonomy does not violate the common good. Autonomy is not to be taken as purely individualistic or in the sense of mere self-interest. Autonomy is used in the context of moral difference. For that very notion of moral difference, we need autonomy to take personal decisions without violation of the sense of morality. Autonomy has got four principal characters that make it important. They are constitutive agency, normative significance, source of values and source of obligations.20 In the following chapters the foci of discussion is that a rational-moral agent is free enough to make moral choices, and choose a specific agent-relative life-project of her/his own and has the freedom to form a particular belief, value, or an opinion about something. This, we believe, is a very important aspect for understanding pluralism. Besides the choice of life-project, agent-relativity can also be attributed to valuing something that could be constituted in that particular life-project. Autonomy has equally significant place in both the foundationalist frameworks and the moral pluralistic frameworks. In other words, moral difference has an ontological basis for the very reason that autonomous individuals are bestowed with autonomous thinking. These autonomous individuals retain the virtue of diverse thinking. These individuals can It is considered that the modern moral ethical theories are schizophrenic to rightness and wrongness. 20 Henry S. Richardson, “Autonomy’s Many Normative Presuppositions,” American Philosophical Quarterly, 38.3(July 2001): 287-304.



differ from each other due to this freedom of thinking. This work is interested in this aspect of internal pluralism; whereas external pluralism is more or less taken as an obvious given condition. Internal pluralism defines plurality as multiplicity not seen in culture, society, politics etc., but in the distinctness of persons. Emphasis on the ‘distinctness of persons’ gives us a proper defense of moral diversity – the manner in which morality emerges from foundational (free-standing) principles partially and non-foundational (authority-dependent) rules totally. Nonfoundational aspects do impact our moral understanding. Due to this we come to terms with multiple rationalities. The idea of multiple rationalities explained earlier also is bound by this understanding. I do not differ with you just because you belong to different culture, group, or association. Multiple rationalities could be multiple meanings of what is moral and rational. The study raises a question: How can an autonomous individual violate the social agency? If s/he violates social agency, then he can also be morally wrong barring the rare instances where one individual has proven right from the rest of the society. The shared meanings of life still leave several questions unanswered in terms of reciprocity, fairness, cooperation and reasonableness. With respect to moral universalism, we will argue that there is a lot of difficulty in admitting that rational resolution is possible in all cases through moral imaginative reasoning and also moral persuasiveness. Shared reasons do not mean that our reasons and values are one and the same. Such extreme overlap is out of question. Yet, priority of right over the good is very relevant.21 It does not violate the good of every individual. Similarly, common good does not mean that an agent admits everything of that tradition. There are many liberal philosophers who argued that individual autonomy does not prove contrary to social good. In this sense, good may not be violated once a choice-morality and priority of right are accompanied by agent-relative life-projects. Reason can still be made to work in the context of project-dependent desires. Hence in the context of common good also, one may have to give reason and justification for why s/he differs from others. Sharedness may not contribute much in this regard. By stating that shared reasons and shared meanings are restrictive in their own sense, neither we are negating the relevance of objective reason nor are we undermining the value of interpersonal relationships. Both of them are wrong in taking for granted that their respective 21 Samuel Freeman, “Reason and Agreement in Social Contract Views,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, 19.2(Spring 1990): 122-157.


Chapter One

philosophical perspectives would resolve the conflicts completely. Strict individualism is not the source of conflict, nor does it violate the interests of others, nor is it to be made synonymous with methodological individualism. By deep individualism we mean that a person has every right to recede unto herself/himself whenever s/he desires to do so.22 It has to do with internal pluralism. If one differs from the other in reason or shared understanding, then where does the necessity arise for the need to recognize and reciprocate each other’s value-claims? How do we assess whether individuals are reasonable and fair? For moral objectivists, to be moral is to be reasonable and fair.23 The idea is that reason presupposes equality and justice an ideal to be pursued for their own sake. While arguing for moral equality, moral objectivists would argue, is not to validate or justify any value-claim in the name of equality and justice. It is rightly argued by them that every claim cannot be justified. On the other hand, there is no explanation for the unavoidable moral loss and deliberative loss involved in the idea of moral judgments. By moral loss, we mean that confining morality to certain self-evident moral principles will result in the negation of certain moral claims. Does it mean that autonomous moral principles fail to grasp the ethical behavior of individuals? It is not easy to answer such a complex question. We need to treat moral questions as mostly open-ended because morality is plural in nature. Three important questions would follow from such a claim: But why should open-endedness of moral questions affect the moral agreement at some fixed points of moral deliberation? How should we make moral decisions in the process of resolution of moral dilemmas? How do we fix the ethical requirements of human nature? These three questions are in themselves puzzling in the sense that they challenge the basic positions of pluralism. Philosophers have divided the issues of life as consistent and inconsistent to the act of judgments. It is argued that there are certain issues to which one cannot attribute truth-values. In a sense, we have taken this into account for pluralism by introducing the values of issues into domains of conflict, types of conflicts, realms of morality and degrees of resolvability. All these notions take into account the puzzling and troubling questions of equality and justice. Questions that pertain to equality, justice and morality are not as easy as the liberal moral 22

See Maeve Cooke, “A Space for One’s Own Autonomy, Privacy, Liberty,” Philosophy & Social Criticism, 26.1(1999): 23-53. 23 Peter Railton, “Some Questions About the Justification of Morality,” Philosophical Perspectives, 6(1992): 27-53.



philosophers thought it to be. By domains of conflicts, we mean that the public realm is divided into different domains of human activity. These different domains pose different types of conflicts that vary in the degrees of conflicts. This categorization is important because all conflicts are not to be treated on a similar domain. There is a simple disagreement that is easily resolvable and a conflict that may be very difficult to resolve or sometimes irresolvable. The varying nature of conflict resolution is because of the irreducible preferences and values of the rational moral agents. Domains of morality avoid the rigid unity prescribed by Kantian and Neo-Kantian morality. In treating conflicts in several domains differently, we also make morality to be domain-specific. Domain-centric morality means that moral right and moral wrong are specific to domains of deliberation and are not merely guided by unconditional moral principles. Whereas realms of morality mean that the way we treat a moral principle in domain may not be similarly treated in other domains. In this regard, we would like to make a clarification with respect to the use of the concept of a domain. Neera Badhwar has used the notion of domain in her argument of limited unity of virtue granting that a person may be wise and virtuous in some domains without being virtuous in others. She invokes such an argument in response to the unity of practical wisdom that could be associated with Aristotle. As her thesis is about the limited unity of virtues, we are concerned with the minimal unity of morality. Badhwar’s explicit statement in fact needs to be the implicit assumption and to which all of us tacitly agree. A rational agent is rational in the imperfect sense, not in totality. It too like the former would argue that morality is domain specific, that it is not to be understood as an allpervasive principle. Neera Badhwar defines a domain as an area of practical concern about some aspect of human good.24 This definition is near to our understanding of a domain. She is right in arguing that a slight separation of our normative concerns of practical wisdom is reasonable. Her idea hints at morality’s helpless dependence on ‘the face of the other’ to arrive at common moral principles. The defense of pluralism maintains only minimal universalism. In saying this we take into account the concerns of character-morality of the virtue tradition and the choice morality of the choice tradition. For instance, to 24

Neera Badhwar, “The Limited Unity of Virtue,” Nous, 30.3(1996): 306-329.


Chapter One

lead a good life one should be a good person. To do right things, one needs to be moral. In both the cases one needs to have hold of practical wisdom. Practical wisdom needs the understanding of others’ point of view. But the concern is whether moral persuasion as part of understanding others would yield the desired reasonable outcomes or not. Domains are important because we can morally wrong a person with respect to an issue or a domain, but not in the holistic sense. If there is a possibility of resolution of the incommensurable moral conflicts, then we should have certain moral standards. But taken the relevant information or moral facts, one cannot reach objectivity in all issues of conflict. David Copp argues that it is important to take seriously the idea of morality as a system of standards and to eschew the idea of that moral codes and standards are to be justified in the guise of empirical theories.25 The issue that matters is what amount of relative rightness one can take into account if one is considering social rationality from the collective point of view. How should a moral skeptic pose the question other than merely being skeptical to the relevance of every moral theory? Questions like these direct our attention to the understanding of a moral discourse. Moral Universalists may fear that the idea of moral impartiality is at stake if one argues that rational resolvability does not pertain to all issues of interpersonal concern. The fear is that morality loses its normative spirit. Till now we have been discussing that moral objectivity is not to be treated as overarching principle or unconditionally applicable to judge our preferences, actions, beliefs and claims (judging oneself and others). It is being skeptical to the rational account of morality. Does arguing for moral pluralism take the debate to the other extreme, i.e., moral relativism that objects any kind of moral objectivity and rational resolvability? In this aspect, the current study claims and further substantiates that the extremes are difficult positions in themselves. On one extreme, reason is backed by the unity of morality in the name of higher-abstraction and on the other; reason and morality are made to be relative to every other thing. Moral pluralism, on the contrary, admits neither moral unification nor moral fragmentation per se. The contemporary liberal philosophers like Nagel, Scanlon, Rawls and 25 David Copp, “Explanation and Justification in Ethics,” Ethics, 100.2(January 1990): 237-258 at 258.



Habermas have advanced the arguments to a more refined level. Like most of the Kantians, they too have argued that the preferences, values and choices are to be determined by the recognition of higher-order and lowerorder interests. One significant development in the contemporary Kantian philosophers is that they have recognized that irreducible pluralism or the fact of pluralism as an inevitable condition. Similar to moral judgmentalism, these philosophers have put forth the idea of reasonable justification, which means that reasonable agreement is the outcome of specific type of interpersonal deliberation that carries out the justification of reasons and value-claims in the deliberative framework. But the important aspects that are carried forward from the Kantian tradition are uniform morality and objective agreement. These contemporary liberal philosophers can be called Neo-Kantians or New-liberals. They have taken into account the importance of desires, preferences, beliefs and value. The central problem of the Neo-Kantians or the New-liberals is drawing the basis for reasonable justification. Justification is done through the public use of reason, thus becoming public justification.26 Interpersonal or public justification method more or less stands on one principle observation: it assumes that most of our conflicts are the tensions between personal and impersonal preferences and values. If we go further and observe, it is also a conflict between the personal point of view and the rationalized point of view. Similar to that of the traditional Kantian methodology Neo-Kantians believe in moral impartial principles that are of higher-order in nature. The term ‘higher-order’ is not without controversies. Whole history of human thought bears witness to our obsession toward placing something higher the ladder and something disparagingly lower status. These principles, for them, have the power to resolve the deeper conflicts also. Rational resolution of the conflicts is possible through impartial morality and interpersonal neutrality. In this framework, persons are reasonable if and only if they come to an objective agreement, in line with the unifying sense of morality. At the level of making preferences and values, one should make a preference that has interpersonal value. The contemporary Kantians would admit the point 26

For most of the contemporary Kantians like Rawls, Nagel, Scanlon, Habermas, Kenneth Baynes, Korsgaard etc., reason is public and is what we owe to each other to a maximum extent. The notion of public reason is derived from Kant’s practical reason. John Rawls, “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited,” The University of Chicago Law Review, 64.3(Summer 1997): 765-807. Onora O’Neill, “Political Liberalism and Public Reason: A Critical Notice of John Rawls, Political Liberalism,” The Philosophical Review, 106.3(July 1997): 411-428.


Chapter One

that moral impartiality would lead to objective reasonable agreement. Whenever there are moral conflicts, impartial and autonomous principles prevail over subjective motivational claims. The best way, for them, to avoid the serious deeper conflicts is to opt for agent-neutral preferences and values. This kind of a prescriptive sense of morality is seen in Nagel’s agent-neutrality, Scanlon’s contractualism, Rawls’s public reason and Habermas’s intersubjective communication and universal pragmatic justification. These philosophers’ ideas can be paraphrased as “whenever there is a conflict, recourse to neutral, impartial and higher-order moral principles would resolve the conflict and yield reasonable agreement.”27 In both the Kantian and the Neo-Kantian moral frameworks there is an immense emphasis on the role of a moral agent and what morality expects from each one of them. We recognize the importance of rational moral agency, but we are not comfortable with the nature of moral reasoning that ought to lead to objective agreement. There is a challenge to our apprehensions. These set of philosophers have highlighted the importance of dialog and deliberation. Interpersonal or intersubjective level creates the necessity of justification to others. An agent has to convince other for why s/he has a different value, belief or reason over a particular conflicting issue. For instance, Rawls forms the basis for normative sense of cooperation by attributing sense of good and sense of justice to each and every individual.28 In the writings of both Rawls and Habermas there is a strong sense of public realm as both of them agree to the metaphysical nature of certain issues. It links to the old problem of public and private morality that is more or less similar to the tension between the individual and the collective. The distinction of public and private is nevertheless more important even in the contemporary sense.


Thomas Nagel, “Moral Conflicts and Political Legitimacy,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, 16.3(Summer 1987): 215-240. See also “Personal Rights and Public Space,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, 24.2(Spring 1995): 83-107. Thomas Scanlon, What We Owe To Each Other (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999). Robert Merrihew Adams, “Scanlon’s Contractualism: Critical Notice of T. M. Scanlon, What We Owe to Each Other,” The Philosophical Review, 110.4(Oct 2001): 561-586. 28 John Rawls, “Basic Liberties and Their Priorities,” Tanner Lectures on Human Values. For intersubjective communication, refer Jurgen Habermas, Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990). Also see his Inclusion of the Other (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998).



Objection to both the Kantian and the Neo-Kantian frameworks is not with respect to first-order moral principles or basic values. But we state that the acceptance of these basic values, i.e., common shared interests in basic values do not necessarily avoid conflicts. Both these moral frameworks treat interpersonal moral conflicts in a comparatively simpler manner. This may not really value irreducibility, even if one admits that the actionguiding nature of morality ought to improve the state of affairs. In the context of deliberation also there are certain issues where individuals desire to have personal points of view that may not be linked to the notion of commensurability. Besides, owing to the complex nature of social conflicts; morality is not to be tied to unification. Normative moral principles may necessitate the generalized point of view that is moral in nature. Moral impartiality here takes the help of moral persuasiveness through which any kind of conflict resolution can be achieved. The idea of reasonable justification of the contemporary liberal philosophers is appreciable. The idea of ‘we owe to others reasonable reasons’ definitely has some substance. But reciprocity implicit in reason and rationality has to be supplemented with the recognition that life is so complex that even a cohesive, collective or an interpersonal framework would yield certain disagreements. Agents would be unreasonable and unfair in not admitting this helpless situation. In a complex interpersonal framework, agents may be reluctant to arrive at have common shared principles over certain issues of everyday life. Conflict resolution may not necessarily mean complete resolution or dissolution of the conflicts. It may also not mean that it always leads to agreement and necessary convergence. The book focuses on reaching at some ‘reasonable’ meaning of reasonableness, i.e., standard reasons that reasonable persons do not reject under the conditions of moral persuasion. What is fairness other than the acceptance of normative standards and general principles? Is it possible to conceive cooperation among the agents even when difference is made central to their moral comprehension? Ranking and ordering of one’s preferences and values is undoubtedly a major conditioning factor that could affect collective reasoning. This has to be granted for once and all to have a moderate conception of reasonableness. Ordering of our choices also indicate the ‘already-ordered’ moral valuations. The former is dependent on the latter. Hence the questions for our investigations are: What is most appropriate in such conditions, overlap or disagreement? How do we morally wrong others? Contractualism may have appropriate solution to certain deeper moral


Chapter One

conflicts, but it does not free itself from the problem of wronging others in the name of justification. With respect to reasonability and justification, one can be partially skeptical to the idea of wronging others as all are not perfect moral beings. The nature of interpersonal is so complex that it is not desirable to make convergence and disagreement as necessary principles. If convergence is a necessary condition as the liberal moral philosophers think, then the notion of difference will have too little possibility. On the contrary, if disagreement is a necessary condition, then also reciprocation, fairness, cooperation and reasonableness cannot persist. One can be unreasonable in seeking for uniformity and also be unfair to express disagreement over every general normative principle.29 In the context of irreducibility, rather than searching for really true principles; one should bother about the general principles that are more or less fairly valuable for as many negotiating agents as possible. Moral philosophers simply prefer uniform homogeneous moral principles for the sake of better argument. The main aspect of the contemporary liberal philosophers or the Neo-Kantians seems to be that they desire to perceive resolution of the conflicts in a procedural manner. This is a very important aspect of signifying moral deliberation and intersubjective communication on the one hand, and the principles of justice and equality on the other. The point that would be argued in the succeeding pages is that our conflicts are not between individuals and institutions. Rather, they are amongst the individuals themselves and their levels of moral understanding that forms the basis for procedural principles. One cannot avoid the substantive account of the interpersonal context. Nevertheless, deliberation and dialog have extreme importance co-opted with the notion of moral persuasiveness. We do not say that the perspectives of the contemporary liberals are altogether weak and disposable. Instead, we attempt in this essay to modify their positions by enhancing the scope of pluralism. The difficulty lies in accepting the ideas of moral consensus and discourse consensus.30 It is right that rather than intuitive understanding, dialog can bring better moral outcomes and can turn out to be reasonable and fair. To see deliberation in terms of 29 “How Communal Are Reasonable People,” Harvard Law Review, 104.8(June 1991): 1943-1948. 30 For instance Nicholas Rescher argues about the negative aspect of consensus approach in his Pluralism: Against the Demand for Consensus (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995).



consensus is to take the issues to another level of conflict. The most important aspect that Rawls had put forth and that has been one of the major tenets of earlier moral theories is that the nature of person to revise and reform what s/he believes to be right and wrong. Even the moral pluralists cannot avoid this. The value of moral and rational agency is not to be undermined even in the pluralistic framework. A pluralist’s conception of the interpersonal realm has to consider two important aspects: the necessity of core moral universal principles and the accommodation of plural principles. The current study emphasizes on the aspect of rational thinking vis-a-vis pluralism.31 Most of the times pluralism is confused with relativism. The distinction between them is a delicate one. Both pluralists and relativists have the common basic point of recognition of heterogeneity in human life. Does it mean that there is no way of fixing the distinction between pluralists and relativists? This question is one of the central questions of the current study. It will deal with the issue of what kind of objectivity can be derived from the subjective claims, in terms of claims and in terms of claims of different cultures.32 Advancing the neo-Kantian approach of owing justification on persuasion with adequate information, one can ask as to why agents cannot have mutual reconciliation without subjecting reason to uniformity. Here, the issue would be how moral agents treat others and their respective reasons and values, which substantially affects reasonable agreement and disagreement. The emphasis could be on reason without unification as preferred by a few philosophers of moral pluralism.33 On the other hand, 31

There are several perspectives and philosophers of pluralism who have made continuous emphasis on “pluralism without relativism”. See John Kekes, Against Liberalism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992). Also see his The Morality of Pluralism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996). “Morality and Impartiality,” American Philosophical Quarterly, 18(1981): 295-303. Richard Double, “Morality, Impartiality and What We Can Ask of Persons,” American Philosophical Quarterly, 36(1999): 156-163. Joseph Raz, The Morality of Freedom (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980). William A. Galston, “Value Pluralism and Liberal Political Theory,” The American Political Science Review, 93.4 (December 1999): 769-778. Also see his, “Pluralism and Social Unity,” Ethics, 99.4(July 1989): 711-726. 32 Similar studies can be found in the writings of Amartya Sen. See his “Positional Objectivity,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, 22.2(Spring 1993): 126.145. Also see his “Rights and Agency,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, 11.1(Winter 1982): 3-39. 33 Isaiah Berlin, The Crooked Timber of Humanity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990).


Chapter One

certain things are relative and certain others are negotiable with the actionguiding power of morality. This witnesses a continuous tension between general morality and the personal point of view. The point to be examined is how we could conceptualize pluralism that believes in multiple rationalities, conflict of basic values that are equally compelling in nature, and justification. We have explained in different chapters the above arguments that make up the idea of liberalism-pluralism. The central problem that we focus upon is the process of judgment and justification in the interpersonal framework. Conflict and disagreement arise due to two reasons. One, there are too many incommensurable and incompatible values among the individuals in a society. Second, persons as agents cannot create a situation where all of them are guided by universal principles. The central focus is on two ways of perceiving the conflict resolution. One, the attribution of unconditional universal moral principles considers moral difference as insignificant. Second, the Neo-Kantian liberal approach to principles of impartiality and higher-order abstraction assumes to have reasonable solutions. In chapter two, “Understanding the Interpersonal,” it is discussed that first and foremost, one should understand the very nature of interpersonal framework where individuals are involved in the realization of their respective life-projects in the substantive sense. It involves the old problem of individual autonomy versus the common good. That space for one is the violation of space of another at the same time is partially valid. In such a situation, justification of individual choices and value-claims should take note of the fact that they aim for the realization of not only the ultimate goals but also more of the ordinary preferences of life. We have dealt with the dispute between Rawls and Sandel on the idea of the personhood, coining a new term constitutive self, which possesses the characters of autonomy and social agency. The argument is that selfactualization as such cannot avoid agent-relative choices and values. If self-actualization were to be viewed as a substantive concept, then Sandel’s discovery would be incomplete if one does not free it from unifying sense of common good. In the process of discovery, one should be conscious of the plurality that one cannot forgo. Unconditional morality is incapable of grasping the irreducible nature of our lives because it gives priority to principles than persons. There is also an assumed status of these principles as ‘right in themselves’. The motive behind the construction of moral principles should value moral



differences, i.e., individuals are capable of making justifiable value claims; in a manner that satisfies the condition of minimal universalism yet remain substantively plural. Contrary to the idea of moral consensus, in chapter three, “A Critique of Moral Foundationalism,” it is argued that moral objectivity is to be restricted to frameworks, which are various in numbers within a larger interpersonal framework or realms of morality. Making this point very explicit, we have argued that Harman’s logical relativism is closer to pluralism rather than being relativism proper. We have also argued that generalization in morality too has a restricted sense keeping in view the generalization perspectives of Marcus Singer and R. M. Hare. The value of reason lies in mutually recognizing each other’s values. In this regard, one can lay faith in Gewirth’s agent-recipient relationship on the pretext that it could go beyond categorical moral imperatival in nature. For the Neo-Kantians, public justification has become the central idea. In chapter four, “Justificatory Liberalism: Impartiality and Reasonableness,” we have examined their perspectives on conflict resolution. Their emphasis on mere impartiality and neutrality for their own sake are criticized as unreasonable. Nagel understands that majority of the conflicts are conflicts between personal and impersonal values. Nagel’s concern for interpersonal value is well appreciated. In the interpersonal framework, it is difficult to say whether there are any other universal values other than first-order moral principles. Nagel’s views of ‘personalizing the impersonal’ and ‘a view from nowhere’ are not the true solutions to the incommensurable conflicts. Nevertheless, in some crucial issues the concerned rational agents ought to construct an impartial principle that refers to all of them. Scanlon, through contractualism, explains that reasonableness can be achieved when agents come up with claims that others do not reasonably reject. The most appealing idea of Scanlon is that justification is what we owe to each other. We have appreciated this idea, but have suggested that reasonableness has to be freed from the unification of morality. When moral bargain takes place among the agents with various moral systems, basic universal moral principles will not suffice solving the problem of conflict due to the complexity of the moral problems. In Scanlon’s contractualism, the basis of wronging others is not a satisfactory account. It always involves some or the other contradictions. Apart from reasonable reasons, we owe to each other autonomy of worldviews from which every one of us can see the possibility of compromise, overlapping, and agreement. Besides, cooperation and fairness that are taken for granted in


Chapter One

the contractualist framework; moral coordination and moral loss are to be further emphasized. If acceptance of a principle is a burden on an agent, then rejection of a principle is also a loss for some others. In chapter five, “Justificatory Liberalism: The Limits of Proceduralism,” we have argued that Rawls’s idea of freedom of conscience that every rational and moral agent is guided by sense of cooperation and fairness is basic to a complex interpersonal framework. But normative framework need not make the notion of public realm so simple with the division of the procedural and the comprehensive. The public realm is not driven by such principles of neutrality, as the heterogeneity is the basic feature of a democratic social order. But Rawls understands that what is reasonably agreeable and disagreeable is best left to the freestanding persons in a democratic society. The condition that Habermas claims to have improved with his discourse ethics and intersubjective communication is being optimistic for objective agreement. It is true that duologue makes the interpersonal situations better and normative. Habermas’s approach can be appreciated in this regard. But what his model has to reconsider is the consensus approach to discourse ethics. Habermas’s model can be retained by adding two important features to it: One, partial consensus or framework consensus but not in all the cases. Second, domains of deliberations are important in deriving the consensual point of view that can be related to Sen’s transpositional objectivity. In the realm of deliberations, persons may only be treated as discussants but not rivals. But these discussants are expected to hold rival opinions and values. . Public-private distinction is necessary for several reasons; the principal one being that a moral rational agent has the moral right to retreat back to herself/himself. For certain aspects such as distributive justice and egalitarianism, procedural principles can be defended. But with respect to interpersonal differences and conflicts, a nonprocedural conception of public realm is very important, because both discovery (referred as background culture and Weak publics) and moral bargain (domains of deliberation) take place in the nonprocedural public realm. Proceduralism also has a restricted sense, as we are not really concerned with legal notion of right and wrong, but moral conception of right and wrong. Hence, on the basis of the above arguments one can defend the position that an interpersonal framework constitutes both conflicts that indicate disagreement and commensurability that shows the possibility of agreement.



Moral Universalists have alleged that those theories that allow moral dilemma or argue for ‘equivalence’ are morally weak and insignificant ones. The main concern of the thesis is to defend that a social realm determined by diversity and difference is not violating either human basic interests or basic rational-moral principles. One of the arguments from Raz’s notion of pluralism is that it is plural yet not socially dependent. The point that we have made in chapter six, “Moral Pluralism,” is that any democratic society cannot be put under ideals of unification. Kekes’s idea that though reason without unification is the basic idea of pluralism, minimum sense of universal good is a necessary condition to all forms of life is maintained. However, irreducible pluralism enumerated does not incline with Kekes’s conservative pluralism. But morality is bound by both choice-morality and character morality. Kekes may be right in arguing that a person can choose right only when s/he is morally virtuous, but choice as such cannot be removed from the life-project of a person. The categorization of primary and secondary values by Kekes constitutes one of the main postulates of liberal-pluralism. Rather than questioning the very first-order principles, pluralism would be much concerned about the contesting of these in the social world. Sen’s transpositional objectivity is difficult to admit (but not unacceptable) it helps in drawing rational inferences from plural claims. This is seen in the ideas of Berlin that influenced the liberal philosophers. It is defendable because pluralism is argued with respect to the idea of limited space. It would compel us to conclude that in the process of self-realization or achieving social goals, some genuine loss of values is inevitable besides the negation of wrong ones. Pluralism of this version is defended as basic to the idea of liberalpluralism. The idea is: Life-projects of persons constitute fulfillment of basic and substantive freedoms, which have agent-relative values, projectdependent desires due to personal commitments. But these projectdependent desires ought not to have arbitrary claims and values. Life-plans are not exactly fixed a priori. The notion of personhood determines the nature of social realm. Hence, personhood has correlative characteristics of autonomy and embeddedness. It helps in the discovery of principles, which may offer better perspectives to resolve the interpersonal conflicts. As mentioned earlier, issues of interpersonal concern cannot be viewed on a single plane. If liberalism is attributed to have divided human values into spheres, then the issues are also to be dealt similarly. In this regard, domains of conflict and deliberation are very much important. The advantage is that we can fix the place of moral principles and the


Chapter One

pragmatic principles that could in turn explain judgment and justification. The social realm witnesses the conflicts between personal point of view and principle point of view consistently. What is rational for an individual is rational for a collective and vice versa need not be a necessary condition. Here, realms of morality are important in the context of plurality rather than moral and discourse consensus. This idea would be compatible to the notion of public and private morality. Liberal-pluralism also retains the judgmental value of our value-claims without losing the merit of plurality. It makes persons come up with reasonable point of view about themselves and others. Hence, reciprocity, fairness, cooperation, and toleration are the basic components of reasonableness. This perspective of liberal-pluralism does not offer any final answers, but keeps the question open-ended once again reiterating that conflict is a regular feature of any free democratic society. On one hand, we have the burdens of explanation, reason and judgment if we consider too many value-claims. On the other, two opposite reasons, values, claims and preferences do not mean that they are to be negated with simple presuppositions of uniformity of society. If several types of conflicts and agreements are taken into account, an interpersonal account will be one which is neither a complete state of harmony nor will be only in the state of conflict recognizing that agreement and disagreement are implicit in what reasonable and rational agents constitute in their substantive life-projects, we have a better perspective of conflict resolution keeping substantial pluralism as a persistent condition, where minimal objectivity is not put outside the pluralistic moral framework. In the process of moral deliberation and intersubjective communication, there will be a deliberative loss of values by the virtue of morally wrong reasons.


Every person has a natural right to a sufficient share of every distributable good whose enjoyment is a necessary condition of the person’s having a reasonable chance of living a decent and fulfilling life, subject only to the following qualification. No person has a natural right to any good, which can only be obtained by preventing someone else from having a reasonable chance of living a decent and fulfilling life. —Samuel Scheffler1

Rights are fundamental to everyone. They are also attributed to agents as inseparable moral properties. This claim is quite obvious because ‘right to life’ is intrinsic to beings as biological entities of nature and gregarious beings of society. Rights are inseparable as they are symbolic to a person’s identity. These are a priori attributes to persons in any social condition. Within the larger framework of liberal philosophy we find manifold debates on the nature and limits of right-claims and value-claims. The major challenge for rights theories is to conceive equality of rights. The main idea is how an interpersonal context is explained with respect to project-fulfillment and value assertion. We live together as a collective where everyone is involved in fulfillment of life-projects, where every one has a right to realize the goals set in the course of life. Theories of rights, equality, justice and morality are perturbed with two important questions: can individuals realize their ends without violating the rights of others? How should we resolve interpersonal (moral) conflicts? The argument here focuses on the justification of a particular type of agent-relative right-claims and value claims. Many theorists of rights are concerned about self-actualization with specific preference to egalitarian considerations. It comes from the fundamental value of right to a decent 1

Samuel Scheffler, “Natural Rights, Equality, and the Minimal State,” J. Paul, ed., Reading Nozick (Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield, 1981), p. 153.


Chapter Two

standard of living. This issue is one of the important aspects of interpersonal conflicts. A person’s life-plan is most of the times viewed as frustrated by the rights of others. The reason is that there is no visible limit to a person’s maximization of interests and where the space of the others begins. It is also because liberty and equality have fundamental differences. We have different goals, different interests, where the means to satisfy them could compete and conflict. It is important to note certain set of rights may go well with a person’s self-respect and individuality and certain others may not. This idea is the basis for understanding rights with respect to mutual reciprocity. Egalitarianism should also consider inalienability or inviolability as one of the driving forces for equal rights. It begs the question: does conflict among persons indicate that their choices are irrational or morally wrong ones? Searching for an answer to this question would be one of the main concerns of the current study. All this is one side of the coin only because the substantive notion of a lifeproject involves more than the realization of a basic liberties or freedoms. It also requires our grasp of the connection between individuals and the larger society in which they live. Contrarily, liberal foundationalism emphasizes neutrality in our preferences, values, reasons or actions. The central issue for them has been reason for valuing and choosing one instead of another. Most of the debates in moral political philosophy are centered on the conflicts between reasons, values, and choices. Conflicts between these three are always overlapping in nature, which means that conflict in one is related to the other. A conflict of reason can have a relation with the agent’s inclination to some value or valuing something in a certain way. Non-utilitarians and non-consequentialists explain that conflict is due to the ambiguous choice of one’s goals and preferences. These choices, for them, have interpersonal judgmental value according to their best outcomes. Liberal theorists explain that the conflict is due to the inconsistency of an agent’s choice of right goals. According to them, our choice of ends should have justificatory value not according to the standard utilitarian-consequential perspectives, but by autonomous rational-moral principles. They prefer agent-neutral preferences and values. They are to be justified from the rational and moral point of view. Let us try to understand justification more precisely. When we say that our choices ought to pass the test of rational justification, we mean that either they can seek justification from free-standing moral principles or from collective moralities. The test is that ‘a person x is expected to make

The Individual-Collective Dilemma


choices agreeable to y’; any person in place of x will make a choice likewise, given similar conditions to her. It means that these ends should possess universal and impartial values. To have justificatory value of our choices, they should be initiated from the rational ordering of preferences. The prima facie assumption is that choices derived from right-reasons will resolve the interpersonal conflicts. They also assume that the tension between maximization and trade-offs get resolved with impartial preferences. Liberals would defend that an abstract conception of rights is necessary here. But we need to examine the conception of independent freedoms. In order to do so, we need to have clear answer to the question: how does the idea of right choices connect ultimate ends with personal life-plan? Challenging the idea of independent conception of freedom and rational choice, social right theorists argue that the conflicts of rights and values remain unresolved. Conflict is basic to the human condition. Despite imposition of categorical moral laws, human beings are bound to develop the sense of threat from others. The argument of social rights theorists is that the understanding of rights is contextual as well as collective. Rights and moral values exist only because the society exists, otherwise, these are empty. For instance, all right-based individualist theories are treated as morally impoverished. They are critical to the liberal notion of autonomy, rational agency and rational justification. Any emphasis on these three aspects is a violation of what is socially valuable. For them, liberal individualism cannot resolve the dilemmas of interpersonal context. Differences in forms of life and values are settled only by the shared conceptions of good and shared meanings of life. Underlying presupposition is: what is rational for a collective is rational for an individual and vice versa. Theorists of collective rights are critical to both independent conception of good and individual notion of good. Communitarians argue that rights are meaningful only through the ideas of common good and embedded self. For them, it is very important to understand common good. They intend to state that the primacy of good only can explicate substantive account of interpersonal relationships. Rights depend on an a priori understanding of the social good. The major criticism is against the priority of right advocated by the liberal philosophers. They argue that the priority of right have two main consequences. One, it conceives that the self is prior to the choice of the ends. Second, the liberal autonomous self violates the presence of other guided by self-interest. It relates to the conflict between autonomous agency and social agency.


Chapter Two

It is argued here that the liberal philosophy’s approach to agent-neutrality to resolve interpersonal conflicts is inadequate. Liberal philosophers draw justifiability from impartial universal principles that form the basis for interpersonal justification of right-claims. In the current chapter, we would like to defend a specific form of agent-relativity and autonomy. We keep in mind that the idea of good too should be taken into consideration as far as agent-relativity is concerned. It is also argued that interpersonal negotiations need a proper understanding of mutual reconciliation of values of each other’s life-project. The important aspect is to understand project-fulfillment with respect to realms of rights and irreducible preferences. It makes us reflect over the conceptualization of rational plan of life, ordering of preferences and nature of choices. Communitarians seem to overlook crucial problems that explain interpersonal conflicts. We are interested to know how shared sense of good responds to the necessity created by judgmentalism and justification. It does not explain the conflict of moral principles, disagreements over many issues, and the idea of justification of one’s preferences and values. Conflict of value-claims exists despite the collective notion of rights, shared conception of good and priority given to the common good. These interpersonal conflicts are very complex in nature. It is complex because neither independent notions nor contextual notions alone derive moral values. Right and wrong are not determined from simplistic assumptions. It is also not judged from either autonomy or embeddedness viewed distinctively. Though the communitarian argument for social rights delineates the deeper relationship between individual and social, it will equally remain empty if it does not capture the complexities involved in drawing defensible explanations for linking rights, equality and justice. On the other hand, liberalism is alleged to have a simplistic understanding of equality and justice. The complexity of interpersonal relationships depends on the complex nature of equality and justice. Mere primacy of embedded self is not adequate. Communitarian virtue-ethics approach too leaves certain crucial questions unexamined. It is not to be taken for granted that pluralism and diversity is embedded in this framework. The differences in preferences, choices, capabilities, and moral points of view that exist hitherto do not get dissolved with emotive considerations as well. The recognition of your actual identity by me does not substantially ensure social minimum as the beginning point of equality and

The Individual-Collective Dilemma


justice. Context neutrality and context relativity are interconnected and complementary. The communitarian framework cannot negate the principle of rational justification from the domain of interpersonal deliberation. Most important of all, the idea of personhood is very important because we cannot say that an irrational and immoral person would make right choices. A self is constituted with binary roles: as autonomous agent and situated subject. These two characteristics are not separable from each other. The idea of discovery needs both these characteristics. This makes a theory of rights reasonable. In the theories of equality and justice, related to moral principles, valueclaims strengthen the relevance of right-claims. Equality of right-claims takes into consideration the significance of independent conception of rights. The important issue here is the interpersonal criteria of judgments that pertain to the mitigation of conflicts in rights-fulfillment, projectpursuits, choices and substantive freedoms. The focal point of this chapter is to critically analyze the nature of interpersonal context. The central question is: ‘how do we resolve several conflicts and differences in the justification of our preferences and values?’ The interpersonal conflict compels one to deal with substantive issues of collective life. In the communitarian framework, it is presupposed to have interpersonal relationships. Some interpretations of communitarianism state that the it satisfies two-fold criteria of context and pluralism. To presuppose that recognition of the social agency does not mean that project-fulfillment is taken for granted. Nor co-operation and reconciliation is taken for granted.

The Idea of Agency The problem of interpersonal comparison lies at the level of formation of a life-project for every person. This life-project not only constitutes desires, interests, preferences and choices, but also values that agents hold with respect to the complex nature of life. Every agent has some set of values that guides her/his life-project. Simultaneously, every agent is bestowed with an equal right to fulfill this life-project. In other words, s/he has a claim on it. The question that arises is how this claim has interpersonal value. How do agents satisfy the justifiability condition of several issues on which they differ? Prior to the explanation of nature of judgmentalism and justification, it is necessary to understand the very idea of interpersonal with respect to how differences arise in the interpersonal understanding of project-fulfillment. We need to have a basic understanding of how multi-agent framework functions. In this section, we


Chapter Two

discuss how liberal theories of rights ground one’s formation of a lifeproject in the independent domain. Certain rights are inalienable and defensible under any condition of society.2 There should be no dispute over this aspect. Persons should assume that there are certain rights, which they possess as persons and social institutions should see to it that these are fulfilled under any circumstances. The principle of inalienability applies here. Rights are understood in that sense where every individual is not to interfere with the rights of others. The inalienable rights have the force of equal right-claims. As persons with interests and plans of life, every one has the right to appeal to her/his need-satisfaction. The applicability of natural rights to all has some objective considerations.3 Every person attempts to achieve a certain standard of living, certain social status, relations with others and right to autonomy, for the very reason that they are living beings and equally important as any other.4 It is derived from the assumption, “No one’s life matters more than others.”5 This assumption is basic to the interpersonal comparison of rights. We are not going into the details of desert, special treatment for different persons, positive discrimination etc., as we assume that this plain assumption will take care of such adverse situations. Equality of right-claims is concerned about the realization of life-project. A right is meaningful as long as it is directed towards goal satisfaction. It explains that the rights are abstracted from our interests and desires. Well-being and utility maximization are also involved in goal satisfaction. Every individual agent’s rights are as important as others in the society. It is also equally important to know how 2

In his article, ‘Natural Rights,” Ramsey Macdonald’s initial question was, “why should people have supposed, or continue to suppose that, in obscure fashion, individuals have natural rights or rights as human beings independently of the laws and [transcendent to] paramount of any existing society?” See “Natural Rights,” in Jeremy Waldron, ed., Theories of Rights (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984), p .23. Alan Gewirth’s notion of Principle of Generic Consistency in his Human Rights: Essays on Justification and Applications (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1982). Alan Gewirth, “Are There Any Absolute Rights,” in Theories of Rights, ed. Jeremy Waldron, p .94. 3 Anthony Flew, “Could There Be Any Universal Natural Rights?” The Journal of Libertarian Studies, IV.3-4(1982): 278-290. 4 Isaiah Berlin, Four Essays on Liberty (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984). Alan Gewirth, “Are All Rights Positive?,” Philosophy & Public Affairs, 30.3(2002): 321-333. 5 Thomas Nagel, Equality and Partiality (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990).

The Individual-Collective Dilemma


collective notion of rights satisfies the principle of ‘rights for all’. We cannot leave the option very open where act-utilitarian, rule-utilitarian, rule-consequential, and act-consequential procedures compete for a better model of offering rights-maximization. A fairness model with ‘social minimum’ for all can be the beginning point of ‘equality of rights’.6 Right and its relation to goal-satisfaction have an interesting debate. Our life-projects constitute our wants, desires, interests, preferences and choices. It would also constitute values, moral preferences, faculties of reasoning and rationality, emotions etc., which determine the nature of our choices. We characterize agents as purposive agents who are not just concerned about ultimate goals that are justified by ultimate rational-moral principles.7 Agents are also related to each other as social beings8, and this relation of project-pursuers results in mutual acceptance of their respective ways of life. This enables us to have an idea of conflicts and their resolvability criteria. Conflict arises in the project-fulfillment where everyone is with the same purposes of interest-maximization and valueformation. To understand this, we need to take into account basic liberties and substantive freedoms. Rights are followed by duties; duty to morality and duty to mutual respect. According to Joseph Raz, “X has a right if and only if one can have rights, and other things being equal, as aspect of X’s well being is a sufficient reason for holding some other persons under a duty.”9 It is commonsensical to say that a person has a right means another person has 6

We can refer to interpretation of John Harsanyi where he tries to prove the Rawlsian as not so optimum. It is true a case when our concern is overall maximization while ignoring the aspect of each person. See John Harsanyi, Essays on Ethics, Social Behavior and Scientific Explanation (Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Co, 1976). For social minimum see Rawls, A Theory of Justice and Norman Daniels, ed., Reading Rawls: Critical Studies on Rawls’s A Theory of Justice (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1975). 7 This understanding is an extension of Loren Lomasky’s definition of a life project. According to Lomasky, a life-project possesses an end that persists throughout large stretches of an individual’s life and continues to elicit the actions that establish a pattern coherent in virtue of the ends subserved. See his Persons, Rights and Community (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000). Also see Christopher Morris, “Loren Lomasky’s Derivation of Basic Rights,” Reason Papers, 14(Spring 1989): 86-47. 8 What all concerns society concerns individuals. 9 See his The Morality of Freedom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), p. 166.


Chapter Two

an obligation to respect the rights of the former.10 Obligation exists because of egalitarian approach to rights-fulfillment and cooperation that exists in society. So, project-pursuers are supposed to be guided by the principle of mutual reciprocity. Critics argue that natural rights approach does not value mutual responsibilities. Duties lay moral binding on the agents that could prevent them from violating each other’s rights. Rights become moral rights in this context. The general meaning seems to be that there are some things to which all men have certain rights in all circumstances. They have certain other rights in only special conditions, owing to some kind of argument, and to their membership of an association.11 This point is similar to that of the Rawlsian conception of basic liberties. What constitutes our freedoms; subjective value-claims or independent value-claims? This question has been a prominent one for most of the liberal philosophers for a long time. The idea is that freedoms are to be treated as constitutive of autonomous value, where some of them possess ultimate value.12 An understanding of freedoms and their exercise is needed to comprehend each other’s limitation of maximization. Philip Pettit mentions three modes of understanding freedom: non-limitation, non-interference, and non-domination. For non-limitation, he states that social freedom is a function of how many choices a person is left by her overall condition, human or natural. Non-interference means priority of human abstraction, which argues that freedom is a function of how much choice someone is more or less left by other individuals and groups. And lastly, non-domination means that freedom is a function of how far the person can live and choose beyond the arbitrary power of others.13 If interest-maximization is defended at the individual level, then it has to be elaborated at the collective level. Not only rights have to adopt a two-fold categorization of basic liberties and substantive freedoms, they also have to take note of the value of need -satisfaction. Conflict leads to the argument for equality. Equality of rights has its importance from which the irreplaceability and irreducibility of one right 10

Richard Flathman, The Practice of Rights (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), p. 78. The relationship between rights and duties are variedly explained by interest-based, duty-based and rights-based moral theories. 11 E. F. Caritt, Morals And Politics: Theories of its Relations from Hobbes and Spinoza to Marx and Boasnquet (London: Clarendon Press, 1935), pp. 186-187. 12 Ian Carter, “Independent Value of Freedom,” 105.4(Jul 1995): 819-845. 13 Philip Pettit, “Agency Freedom and Option Freedom,” Journal of Theoretical Politics, 15. 4: 387-403.

The Individual-Collective Dilemma


by another follows. Mackie argues: “why should it not be a fundamental moral principle that the well-being of one person cannot be simply replaced by that of another?”14 Generally, one may think that a normative conception of well-being would offer similar freedoms for all. But it is not the case that a normative conception of well-being ought to go contrary to agent-relative considerations of good. It is true that the value of one’s rights, to a certain extent, is not dependent on the rights of another. It is dependent to the extent that they are part of general rights that everyone can realize. The difference lies in the attribution of substantial freedoms constituted with deeper convictions. But in the case of general social rights, well-being of one person is equally important to the well being of another.15 Equality of rights provides the ground for realizing life-plans of all individuals. This is possible only when we conceive genuine conditions of pluralism. Pluralism would direct our attention to the diverse nature of human interests, preferences and values. It also refers to difference in the capabilities to pursue the goals. It explains why agents differ in the understanding of value of each particular thing. A lack of understanding of diverse values leads to conflicts. Since many of the conflicting values (or we can say valuations) are important to living a good life, it becomes crucial as to how such conflicts can be resolved. The novelty of pluralism is that it would view conflicts in a much broader framework than the liberal foundationalism.16 The foundational framework would prefer that 14

See “Are There Any Rights-Based Moral Theories?,” in Theories of Rights, p. 173. 15 This prioritization is done on the basis of general good or general applicability. It does not depend on the principle of utilitarian good but can come near to the Rawlsian notion of good. This poses a challenge to the utilitarian quantitative principle of greater good for a lesser good. For example, security to the life of a person is not to be neglected just due to the reason that it will benefit the lives of others. This kind of a question provides us no final answer. The reason is that we have admitted that our rights conflict at some point or the other. We need to define this conflict of rights? Conflict of rights is concerned about both irreplaceability and equal applicability. Mackie’s’ question seeks to find an autonomous claim for one’s own rights. Consequence and relevance have to be taken as possessing a correlation. For example, Ewin assumes, “if liberty was thought to be valuable only because of its consequences, one could see why one person could give up his life for another’s liberty...”. See R. E. Ewin, Liberty, Community and Justice, (London: Rowman and Littlefield, 1987), p. 158. 16 See John Kekes, Against Liberalism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977), p. 160.


Chapter Two

agents’ actions and value-claims should emerge from a strict ranking or prioritization guided by universal rationality. A life project, for the liberals, is guided by the principle of right choice. According to this principle, one has to put forth reasonable justification for why s/he made such choices, or hold such value-claims. Such justificatory prerequisite is the beginning point of interpersonal conflict. Equal rights and interpersonal justification, many a times, are at odds with each other. The dispute is also seen the claims of proponents of agent-neutrality on the one hand, and agent-relativity on the other. Vlastos claims that a person does not possess equal right in relation to another person in all respects. His argument is “Men are born and remain equal in some rights, but are either born or do not remain equal in great many others.” The difference can be attributed to both the goal-fulfillment capacity and comprehensive capability. If human beings are equal only in some rights, then they need not have to possess these rights on the grounds of ability, merit or worth. One has to observe what the statement of Vlastos can mean. This overall unequal position of persons compels one to think about the conduct of human affairs. Within the categorization of basic liberties and substantive freedoms, there are rights that every person possesses. It also indicates whether a society is just and egalitarian. Every person possesses a life-plan unique and equally worth fulfilling. Besides, the numbers of issues constitute a life-plan. Vlastos’s argument may be meaningful but the idea of equal rights is driven by the principle of ‘equal moral worth’ too. Neera K. Badhwar rightly asks the basis of equality, or inequality.17 The argument for equal moral worth lies in the inviolability of an agent-relative claim in contrast to the agent-neutral value as argued earlier. Certainly the right to have a good life does not depend on talents, reasoning and intellect. Yet our choices, value-systems and beliefs can differ in certain cases, given the fact that they are common in some other. Loren Lomasky may be right in arguing that we forgo our identities, though we tend to be influenced by certain rational ends, ideas, or ways of life. Self-directedness is certainly the principal determinant factor here. There cannot be any strict standard set of individuation of certain ends like all will not rationally adopt the same form of life advocated by this or that idea. One might say, “I understand society this way because I subscribe to this idea.” The reason is that we do not embark upon committing to only one a priori fixed plan of life. 17

Neera K. Badhwar, “Moral Worth and the Worth of Rights,” p. 91

The Individual-Collective Dilemma


Equality refers to the notion of limited space. Both Rawls and Berlin discuss this point. It refers to the abstract limit for both interestmaximization and multiplicity of values. Principle of irreplaceability depends on experience and learning. Our ends reflect incommensurability but not absolute incompatibility. In this sense our ends are not absolutely unique in themselves; otherwise there would be no sense of right or wrong choice in any sense. If our ends are characterized only as ultimate values or if we are ought to choose only defined ultimate ends, then interpersonal comparison is not conceivable. Hence, all interpersonal values will be totally irresolvable. Value of a chosen life-project depends upon an agent’s knowledge of the diverse world. For instance, a person chooses a form of life over others for several reasons. The reason is that there cannot be one ultimate principle that all would, by definition choose for a particular end. Fair judgments are not guaranteed on all issues in all circumstances. The principle of equal moral worth conveys that ‘potency of worth’ lies in every claim prior to value-judgments. Our goals and desires are not so simple to be limited to basic needsatisfaction but also get extended to the substantive freedoms. Substantive freedoms refer to issues other than just fulfillment of goals, i.e., in Rawlsian terms basic liberties. Though these rights seek to signify the rights of each person, persons encounter each other in the process of collective life. For this, a rational agent should be prudent enough to balance rational maximization levels of her/his own and collective morality. Gauthier talks about restrictive maximization that means in a disposition to comply with mutually disadvantageous conventions, without calculating whether it might be rational to defect as long as one is sure that others will cooperate.18 Critics would question, referring to the interpersonal conflicts, the validity of independent freedoms and independent moral principles. Ian Carter mentions the objections of Dworkin and Kymlicka to the independent valuation of freedom.19 Kymlicka argues that the value of any particular 18

Will Kymlicka, Contemporary Political Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 132. 19 The independent value of freedom or the abstract notion of freedom is treated as single commodity from which all other liberties are justified. For example Kymlicka’s objection is, “we don’t answer determining which liberties contain more or less of a single commodity called ‘freedom’...For the reason is it is important to be free in a particular situation is not the amount of freedom in particular, but the importance of the various interests it serves...The


Chapter Two

set of freedoms should be assessed by reference to the interests it serves. Every claim for freedom would serve some or the other interests. The ambiguity is whether we should make a qualitative interpretation of the claims made. Even if we make, it is not final regarding the basis of interpretation, i.e., individual or collective interest. Carter refers to this position with the dispute between freedom as an intrinsic value and freedom as an instrumental value. He defines independent value of freedom “as freedom having value independently of the value we attach to the particular things it leaves us free to do”.20 Raz attributes intrinsic worth to those who prioritize moral force. In other words, they are not to be violated in any person. Violating these rights means disrespecting the person itself. It is possible if rights to be possessed are same for all, and there are strict moral rules to abide by them. The reality is that we are placed with diverse commitments.21 We should not overlook that freedoms possess both intrinsic and instrumental values. Assigning independent value seems trading-off of these irreducible choices that serve our interests. Critics hold that the means-ends relation is set according to the human interests. Stevenson’s argument is that most of our values are both means and ends, in the sense that they carry both intrinsic value and extrinsic worth.22 This position seems to be more apt for the current purpose. Social contract theory or Contractarianism gives primacy to the instrumental nature of these rights. As purposive beings we do our best to choose those options that best serve our interests. This may seem utilitarian and consequentialist in spirit. But it does not in true spirit associate itself with standard utilitarian or rational-choice perspectives. Rather, it would demand the self-actualization in a balanced manner, i.e., using the notion of rational self-interest. On the other hand, contractualism prescribes agents to choose those values that are impersonal. To have an idea of freedom as such and less or greater amount of it does not work in political argument. Ian Cater, “The Independent Value of Freedom,” Ethics 105 (July 1995): 819-845. Also refer to Will Kymlicka, Contemporary Political Philosophy. 20 Ian Cater, “The Independent Value of Freedom,” p. 825. 21 There is an apprehension here. Let us suppose that our respective life plans are intrinsically worthful. If this is the case, then all of them are somewhat similar to Kantian ‘Kingdom of Ends’. This intrinsic worth draws the moral force for mutual respect. The argument is partially weak in the sense that we are compelled to assume that persons are equally rational and moral agents. When we argue about interests, and rights, a partial adoption of Hobbes’s principle of ‘power, glory and passion’ is inevitable. This assumption only can draw a strong argument as why individuals’ interest-maximization levels differ. 22 See his Ethics and Language (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1944).

The Individual-Collective Dilemma


impersonal value is to have interpersonal value and moral value. The interpersonal is understood as impersonal here. The challenging task is to explain how human agents make proper choices and make interpersonally acceptable value-claims. Gewirth, Rawls, and many other liberal philosophers give an argument of ordering of preferences in times of conflict. Gewirth argues that our rights are also influenced by an exclusive category of human reason or an exclusive category of purposive or instrumental reason. It is what Carter prefers to call the constitutive value, the combination of both intrinsic and instrumental value. Liberal moral philosophers argue that our goals and purposes are constituents of our intuitions and communal life. Reason guides us in the ranking of these several rights and values. Reason, rightclaims and self-consciousness are interrelated to each other, where no human being will consent to any external impositions on her/his values and preferences.

Agency and Conflict Right-claims and value-claims conflict with one another as agents disagree over what is rationally and morally right and wrong from every one’s point of view and the rational point of view. Conflicts may also arise because of the limited space in the social world.23 It is true that no society can accommodate every right or validate every claim of an agent. There is always a conception of limited space where persons can appropriate and assert their values. Each and every claim of agents may not have equal moral strength to get adequate justification. But, this is not sufficient to justify that everyone cannot be provided with the right to make and defend a value-claim. J. L. Mackie has a point here: Rather than maximizing preference satisfaction amongst all those agents, we might show our 23

The point is borrowed from Berlin and Rawls who talk about the presence of limited space. Their reference is to the limitedness of the substantive doctrines with respect to reasonable pluralism. Berlin’s argument is, “Some among the Great Goods can live together. That is a conceptual truth. We are doomed to choose and every choice may entail an irreparable loss.” See his “Two Concepts of Liberty” in Four Essays on Liberty (New York: Oxford University Press, 1969) and “The Pursuit of Ideas” in The Crooked Timber of Humanity (New York: Knopf, 1991). Rawls’ argument is, “No society can include within itself all forms of life...there is no social world that does not exclude some ways of life that realize in special ways certain fundamental values.” See John Rawls, Political Liberalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), p. 197.


Chapter Two

concern for others by guaranteeing a fair share in life, i.e., guarantee each person the adequate level of resources and liberties.24 They are to be guaranteed because these rights are inalienable to everyone. Not only fundamental rights are inviolable but also substantive freedoms. Agency, for the moral philosophers, is defined as the capacity of an individual to rationally choose among the wide range of goals so that they do not conflict internally or interpersonally. We do take into consideration the difference between individual and collective projects. A radical notion of agency is needed here. Liberals and communitarians in their own way have attempted to make individual preference and collective preference as one and the same. Besides, the agent is assumed to possess the capacity to resolve the inconsistency in rational-moral preferences. Agency determines whether persons are capable of moral choices and reasonable agreement. Persons, as responsible rational agents make right choices, make right claims and perform rightful actions. Agency can avoid conflict with the emphasis on right reasons according to liberal moral philosophy. This is an important characterization because persons are treated as selfdirected subjects and autonomous beings. Liberal philosophers believe that their notion of rational-moral agency satisfies the reciprocity condition. Claims are admissible when defended from the principle point of view. If all the interacting agents know that their claims have impersonal value, then they can acknowledge all differences among them. By impersonal value one means that agents make claims using neutral and unconditional principles. Impersonal values are naturally interpersonal since they are objective. Interpersonal value is that where one’s choice naturally invites the cooperation of other agents. Due to this reason, liberals confine preferences and values to higher-order interests that have independent value. This possesses a reciprocal recognition that forms the basis for justification. Hence, persons should perform the role of agency at two levels: formation of life-projects and fulfillment of these life-projects. Agent-neutrality propounded by the Kantians seems to be a condition imposed for the sake of achieving objectivity in our preferences. As far as the interpersonal context is concerned, both right-claims and values-claims have reciprocal value. An agent should have an idea as to what and how others would reciprocate. Let us admit that reciprocity 24

See Will Kymlicka, Contemporary Political Philosophy, p. 57.

The Individual-Collective Dilemma


stands on the principle that one has the capacity to undertake the obligation of others’ rights. When we introduce diverse forms of life, it stands even harder to place the principle of reciprocity. Let us, suppose that right reasons are basic to right choices. On the contrary, if good is equally important, then reasons are not just enough for resolution of conflicts. Richard Flathman argues that interests can be regarded as more potent resources of motivation than abstract reason, but less destructive and divisive than passions.25 Relevant to this, Isaiah Berlin asks whether or not the extent of a person’s freedom depends on her desires. His question is: Is the amount of freedom an agent possesses determined solely by his objective circumstances or is it also partly a function of his subjective tastes and preferences?26 According to this argument, each person has the primary responsibility to rescue the ends that are her/his own, or if s/he is able to do so, then no one else can properly be obliged to do so in her/his place. Some kind of compellingness ought to be there even to defend agent-relativity. In this argument we can find reasonable account of agent relativity. This is a question that nonetheless has not been adequately answered. On the one hand, interests and desires are significant in seeking freedom, where a general notion of rights only can form the basis for this. Conceptually, a general notion of rights has wider criteria of application. On the other hand, if my sense of freedom is constitutive of my desires, then either all persons have similar principle or the social norms should have been grounded in plural principles. As far as the issues of rights are concerned, we cannot conceive a total conflict free situation. First of the two complexities mentioned above draws our attention to agency and well being, both in the individual as well as collective sense. The issue is to what extent a theory of rights can guarantee rights for all. For example, Rawls’s A Theory of Justice & Political Liberalism explicitly defend the primacy of basic liberties or primary goods.27 Rational agency is also pertained to prioritization of our desires, interests and preferences. One of the ways of prioritization is explained by dividing our lives into higher-order and lower-order interests. Prioritization is not 25

See his “Liberalism and the Human Good of Freedom,” in liberals on liberalism, Alfonso J Damico, ed. (London: Rowman & Littlefield 1986) pp. 67-94 at 80. 26 Isaiah Berlin, Four Essays on Liberty and Richard J. Arneson, “Freedom and Desire,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 15.3(September 1985): 425-448. 27 Also see John Rawls, “Basic Liberties and Their Priority,” Tanner Lectures on Human Values (University of Michigan, 1981), pp. 22, 23 and “Social Unity and Primary Goods” in Amartya sen and Bernard Williams, eds., Utilitarianism and Beyond (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).


Chapter Two

guided by self-interest and the instrumental good. There are three theories that explain the relationship between an individual and the collective on the one hand and among individuals on the other. These are duty based, rights-based, and interest-based moral theories. The first explains that duty is prior to rights and rights in some sense are derived from duties. Such a theory criticizes the other two theories as morally impoverished that give priority to interest-maximization of an individual. Objections to the interest-based notion of rights are that they are contingent upon the character of certain interests and certain strategies for satisfying them. This point can be related to what Christian Bay calls for priority of focal aims not ultimate values.28 This is an interesting and very relevant position. As purposive beings, we are driven by the instincts to satisfy our goals and desires. But, what is needed from us as rational agents is to prioritize our focal aims for interpersonal justification of each other’s lifeprojects. Freedom and autonomy are inalienable but not unlimited for any rational moral agent. They are only ultimate in the sense that they are equally significant to all. Emphasis on ordered choices would certainly call for an agent-relative conception of life-projects. Not only freedom in the choice of life-projects is important, but also making an effort to understand why an agent has given certain value to a particular end or a preference is also important. Christian Bay argues that no society can grant full freedom to all individuals or indeed full freedoms to one individual.29 No individual can violate rights and values without some reasonable reason. The abstractness that lies in this position is the Archimedean point for the maximization of freedom of all agents. In the case of public goods, if we set some limit for appropriation, say wealth, one can attain distributive justice and equality. This point can be linked with what Waldron refers to the direct correlation of rights and resources. Basic liberties are the outcome of certain ordering of our desires needed for self-actualization. But prioritization is not to be confined to the basic level only. It is to be treated as a continuous process. The complexity is how we should limit the right-claims pertaining to public goods or the collective good at large. In the case of moral conflicts, one can say that morality can be bargained through moral deliberation where agents are expected to compromise their extreme value-positions to come to an 28

Christian Bay, The Structure of Freedom (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1958), p. 11. 29 Christian Bay, The Structure of Freedom, p. 15.

The Individual-Collective Dilemma


agreement. This presupposes moral agency. Rights and agency should have such a relationship where the greatest advantage is to be provided to the greatest disadvantaged. Regarding the substantive issues such as autonomy, values, practices, moral principles etc., inviolability principle implies for every individual. Basic freedoms, not in the Rawlsian sense, need not require any ordering, they are unconditionally inviolable. In the interpersonal context, agents may not agree over many issues due to their irreducible value-claims. The idea of trade-off in the case of goalfulfillment, and reason and reconciliation in the case of value judgment are important aspects of interpersonal relationship. Trade-off in the former case and moral agreement in the latter are more complex issues, as there is no standard measure to prescribe what is to be traded and how much is to be sacrificed from what an agent claims. This is the reason why we claim that our ends and means necessarily conflict with each other.30 An agent or a person possesses a particular rational plan of life, which is often different from others. A dilemma often arises here. On one hand, we argue that prioritization of preferences and values are desirable by an ordering of preferences and of values from every agent. On the other hand, it is very much evident that there is no fixed plan of life that is rational to one and all. It weakens the Rawlsian argument as some critics point out that individual’s interests are not actual desires.31 This may directly challenge the Rawlsian conception of rational plan of life. A life-plan can be rational to one, but the problem arises when we see it as a general guideline for a collective. Mere basic liberties do not constitute our life-plan. Individual and collective rationalities clash in this regard. The approach of Rawls invokes an interesting question, “Is egalitarianism considered as a moral ideal?” It seems so, but only through antecedently chosen principles of justice. This point seems to have taken care of the tussle between the maximization principle on one hand, and trade-off on the other. Rawls is right to the extent that egalitarianism is not 30

It is argued that our desires are susceptible to change owing to the change in our belief with new information. These change should not be inconsistent and illogical as long as we are equipped with rational faculties. John Christman, “Liberalism and Individual Positive Freedom,” Ethics, 101(Jan 1991): 343-359. The argument for reciprocity can be stated like this, “If you and I have opposed preferences, then we find ourselves in a conflict situation. My recognition of you as someone to whom whose own goals matter to me, as a fellow deserving of consideration.” 31 Samuel Freeman, ‘Utilitarianism, Deontology and Priority of the Right,” Philosophy & Public Affairs, 21.4(Autumn 1994): 313-349 at 332.


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constitutive of the principle of maximization at the personal and at the collective level. Rather a procedure of distribution is defined by the principle of egalitarianism. He supposes that interpersonal agreement can be sought over such an arrangement. Yet this kind of an explanation does not totally fix the issue of goal-fulfillment as a single-agent (individualist sense) and multi-agent problem (collective sense). For collective right theorists, rights are social derivatives; they view rights-based moral principles as mere individualistic and impoverished. Critics assume that rights-based moral theories do not take into account the significance of other agents. But we claim that not all individualist theories are impoverished and neglect the interests of others. This can be said of the contemporary liberal theories of rights, equality and justice. This is one of the crucial arguments of interpersonal value of goalfulfillment. Duty-based moral theories presuppose the reciprocity condition. For example, Raz defines a collective good as inherent public good, which is not excluded and not contingent.32 There are two important aspects here; compatibility and commensurability of a range of options with respect to plans of life, goals and preferences, and persons to be treated as free and equal. Every individual has some preferred liberty among several basic liberties. In the language of many pluralists, situations create dilemma of choices where basic values of different individuals could conflict. Simultaneously, Raz attaches a specific value to this preferred liberty whose acceptability can be known in the process of deliberation with others. In the process of negotiations, there will be clash of egocentric considerations. Rawls’s argument is that the principles of justice themselves specify the boundaries that each person’s system of ends have and they must respect system of ends of others.33 Such assumption could be relied upon as it defines the basis of an interpersonal framework. Basic characteristics apply at two levels. One, it involves the acceptance of manifold systems of ends. At the second level, it draws from the recognized principles of cooperation. The task is to conceive a reasonable relationship between trade-off and maximization of freedoms. Maximization of freedom, in the utilitarian sense, sanctions the principle of violation of one person or a few persons’ right for the sake of many. Richard Arneson rightly puts that the procedure to measure the area within which the person’s opportunities for 32 33

Joseph Raz, “Right-Based Moralities,” p. 188. Lomasky. Persons, rights and Community, p. 12.

The Individual-Collective Dilemma


actions are not constrained by the interference of other agents.34 The distinctness of persons is very much important to any framework of deliberation for rights as well as for morality. In the case of Rawls, in both A Theory of Justice and Political Liberalism, the interpersonal is explained with various assumptions taken for granted. One of the crucial ones is that the principles of justice automatically manifest the sense of fairness and cooperation among the agents. They are neutral in this sense. But Rawls has no specific argument for the violation of rights. Once these rights are sanctioned in the original position and established by the public procedures, they are guaranteed to every individual. For him, all rights are not to do with basic liberties. Though the rights are collective in this way, their fulfillment is bound by individual satisfaction. For example, Jon Elster identifies that the extent of a person’s freedom is the extent to which a person is free to satisfy her/his autonomous wants.35 If a person has a moral claim to equality of right, it also follows that s/he has an equal duty attached to it, the duty that others too are bound by similar or some duties. The argument has its own merit provided all the biased presumptions are taken away. Let us explain the interpersonal context itself. An agent is aware of the ends and means of the recipient, and the way they are conflicting in nature. This knowledge of an agent ensures that s/he understands the recipient’s value-system and beliefs. This is a relevant point. Realization of goals and values/belief system are two different domains but not disconnected. Liberties are drawn from our plan of life and the conception of good life. The set of rights reflect not just our immediate interests and desires, but also our ideals. We have an antecedent idea of what a good life is, and accordingly we direct our endeavors to achieve it. We give first preference to those rights that are basic to our existence. But this is not to equate basic rights with that of life project-fulfillment. It consists of two important factors: The manner in which agents comprehend several issues that constitute life and the understanding of interpersonal relationships that adds strength to the moral character of an individual. These two issues reflect on the value of social agency. Collective life calls for a specific 34

Richard J. Arneson, “Freedom and Desire,” p. 426. Richard J. Arneson, “Freedom and Desire,” p. 433. Also see Jon Elster, “Sour Grapes” in Utilitarianism and Beyond, eds. Amartya Sen and Bernard Williams (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), pp. 227-8. 35


Chapter Two

understanding of autonomy. Here, agents ought to consider that negotiation with other agents should ground in reasonable bargain. Rawls, like most of the liberals, gives primacy to equal moral and rational status. The former makes persons condition their desires and interests according to the chosen principles of justice. In practice, it is too difficult to assume that individuals are morally and rationally similar beings; but can only fix the criteria of minimum rationality to be a pre-requisite. If that is presumed, all our choices are determined a priori thus blurring the distinction between freedom and coercion. Choices are determined a priori in the sense that the principles of justice strictly condition our choices. But this is not similar to arguing that ends are prior to the self. Rawlsian framework assumes that issues related to egalitarianism are resolved through his model of justice as fairness. Besides, in the framework of political liberalism too reasonable citizens come to a consensus over what is procedural and what is comprehensive. The interpersonal comparison of preferences and values is important to understand the complexity of social framework. Interpersonal comparison refers to the multi-agent framework where persons pursue their goals, involve in interpersonal relationships and form respective beliefs. Certain principles emerge out of it that guide the agents. Mainly, in this domain we construct rules, principles and procedures that would work as guiding force for all the persons. Interpersonal situation draws our attention to right principles, general normative principles, and reasonable conditions. Interpersonal comparison, for most of the liberal philosophers, is a context where these principles are abstracted from one agent to multi-agents. This multi-agent principles form the basis for arguing agent-neutrality. Liberal philosophers link agent-neutrality to the justificatory value of one’s choice of moral principles. For most of them, right choices that are agent neutral would automatically resolve the conflict of preferences and values. Further, such comparison calls for generally applicable principles. For liberal theorists, there are universal rational principles that guide rational agents. What is rational for an individual is rational for a collective and vice versa is the disputed issue in this regard. If we consider that these are perfectly placed, then it would be against the thesis of irreducible preferences and values. The idea of a good life is the constitutive aspect of every life-project and hence plurality is inevitable. Interpersonal comparison is made on the basis of four main aspects: One, comparison is inevitable as the project pursuers are certainly faced with the conditions of

The Individual-Collective Dilemma


well-off, better-off and worse-off in terms of quality of life. Second, interpersonal comparison brings the notion of individual-collective relationship into picture. Third, issues of interpersonal concern seek justificatory reasons for our preferences, choices, actions and values. The expectation is that these are not to be reasonably rejected by one another. And fourth, persons are interdependent in fulfilling their life-projects. Seeking standard principles of interpersonal comparison is an attempt that requires balance between ultimate universal principles and plural principles. Interpersonal comparison cannot avoid the consideration of diverse rational preferences of the agents in the process of derivation of general normative principles. While taking such aspects into its purview, the interpersonal framework should also have a serious reflection on what to consider as a conflict and how to address these conflicting questions. Such consideration is important because aspects that constitute a good life remain open ended. Sometimes, individual good may differ from the collective good in some respects like the exercise of autonomy where individuals are free to have value attributions according to their faculties of reason. Philosophers such as Scanlon and Nagel defend a moral conception of our choices36, which should be impartial or impersonal. All our preferences and values would possess justificatory value. The basic idea is when we make equality and justice as ideals for their own sake like morality; they have to be grounded in the moral understanding of these notions. In other words, if choices were morally impartial, for the impartial liberals, then there would not be serious conflicts between agents since these choices prove to be morally and rationally reasonable ones. Here, the preference is for an agent-neutral choice that all reasonable agents would agree as reasonable. Arguing for preferential autonomy, Harsanyi opts for true preferences rather than manifest preferences in a person’s observed behavior.37 In 36

Jon Elster and John E. Roemer, eds., Interpersonal Comparisons of Well-Being (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), pp. 17-44 at 23. T. M. Scanlon, “The Status of Well-Being,” Tanner Lectures on Human Values, (Delivered at the University of Michigan, Oct 25, 1996): 93-143. Also see Thomas Nagel, Equality and Partiality (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990). 37 John C. Harsanyi, “Morality and the Theory of Rational Behavior,” A. K. Sen and Bernard Williams, eds., Utilitarianism and Beyond (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), pp. 39-62.


Chapter Two

arguing that way, he prefers to abide by the notion of preferential autonomy of an agent. It is more or less like the project dependent reasons of an agent that need not be arbitrarily subjective. The observed behavior, based on this conception, may be seen in the influential choices. But the life-project undoubtedly constitutes desires, preferences, and interests that are acquired even out of interpersonal relations. This may not explain the conflict of ordering, which Rawls had drawn in his A Theory of Justice. In the hypothetical model of Rawls, primary goods that are objectively chosen by the agents in the original position are an outcome of a rational method of ordering. If we go much farther from this assumption, i.e., if we conceive the concrete choices of persons, justification has to be given to each other for why one has preferred or chosen a particular end in place of another. Collective life engages persons in the assessment of the quality of life that one chooses to lead or is compelled to lead. There are several questions regarding how do we analyze or make value judgment of the lives we lead. It is also unclear about how do we resolve our irreducible value judgments of the issues that trouble us persistently. We cannot ignore one’s interest can frustrate another’s at a certain level. This position disturbs both the theorists of rights and equality on the hand, and moral philosophers on the other. Some philosophers argue that the above condition is due to ‘causal interconnection’, where one’s actions and values affect the condition of others. According to this view, everything a person does carry implications on the lives of other human beings.38 Hence, justice and equality are analyzed through the judgments of our moral-rational choices, decisions and actions. This is explicitly noticeable in all the forms of liberal philosophy. The problem lies at the center of improving one’s states of affairs with goal-realization. Scanlon states that the ultimate principles of morality are that of respecting one another’s value as capable of rational self-governance in pursuit of a meaningful life. Similarly, Nagel refers to the interpersonal and impersonal value that our choices should hold. For these liberal philosophers, justifiability is grounded in agent-neutrality only.

Agent-Neutrality versus Agent-Relativity The above discussions lead to a very crucial point with respect to formation of a life-project. Some defend agent-relativity with respect to 38 Keith Graham, Piratical Reasoning in a Social World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

The Individual-Collective Dilemma


the idea of good. On the other hand, agent-neutrality avoids reasonable rejection. But, interpersonal life constitutes, apart from desires, interpersonal relationships, values and beliefs. Conflict and disagreement is more in this domain, where we do not actually find many objective principles operative that are rational to all persons. In the above two sections, it is discussed that liberal theories treat interpersonal conflicts as rationally resolvable if agents’ choices are impartial in nature. Liberal theorists have to worry about equality in the right sense of the word. There are two significant accounts with respect to the equal interests and equal concern. First, to have equal concern, the theorists of agentneutrality would argue that agents’ choices should have impersonal value. It is derived from the coherence principle that agents ought to choose impartial rules after all-things-considered seriously. Secondly, agents’ claims should be justifiable to others. Here, the arguments also include how an agent should choose to maximize satisfaction, like how an agent can choose the best state-of-affairs. The purpose here is to analyze the justificatory value attached to preferences and values. We presuppose here the relevance of moral deliberation/persuasion and intersubjective justification. They define the interpersonal context. Both the frameworks refer to judgmentalism and justification that validate an agent’s actionclaim or value-claim. On the contrary, agent-relativity not only claims for desire-satisfaction but also argues for an agent’s right to justify her/his value-claims. For instance, Amartya Sen understands agent-relativity in the sense that a thing is right need not be the case for everyone.39 The purpose of this thesis is to see whether we can draw a notion such as agent-relative valueclaim. For instance, project-dependent preferences on the one hand and personal point of view on the other, can be maintained without arbitrary subjectivity. Agent-relativity can be referred to both basic liberties and substantive freedoms. By making such a reference, we mean to ask whether an agent justifies another agent’s claims only if they have an equal value. Agent-relativity puts forth an argument: Agents reconcile that their life-projects are irreducible and values they attribute too are irreducible. If this is the fundamental principle of collective life, then agents can have a core recognition rule; the rule that subjectivity is not in totality overshadowed with respect to the justification of claims. 39 Amartya Sen, “Rights and Agency,” Philosophy & Public Affairs, 11.1(Winter 1982): 3-39.


Chapter Two

For liberal philosophers, agent-neutrality is preferred for its own sake. But this does not provide adequate basis for interpersonal agreement. For instance, A. I. Melden argues that the right of a person to go about his own affairs in the pursuit of his own interests, that cannot be waived, relinquished, transferred or forfeited.40 Theorists of agent-neutrality would make a counter claim here. They would argue that there should be some criterion of acceptability of what one believes to be right and wrong. The assumption of these theorists is that acceptability condition is more if an agent’s claim is in accordance with the principle point of view. Agent-relativity signifies that there are certain aspects over which agents disagree over commonly shared reasons. Disagreement is an indication of the existence of plurality of value judgments. Agent-neutrality supposes that there exists no disagreement, but agent-relativity is uneasy about those factors. The importance of neither agent-neutrality nor agent-relativity can be undermined. They are not inspired by the idea that all our values are neutral nor are they completely relative. In both the cases, they do not attain overriding status. The reason is when two agents negotiate; they exchange different points of views not necessarily impartial ones. The following things are taken for granted in understanding an interpersonal framework: One, agents disagree over several issues of interpersonal concern. There are many conflicts that are not rationally resolvable due to the presence of adversarial claims. Second, these adversarial claims indicate that there are certain quandaries that explain that conflict resolution is not objectively determined. Third, interpersonal conflicts ought to be viewed with respect to realms or spheres of human activity. The value of realms-argument is that it enables us to see different things differently. However, fragmentation of reason itself does not mean that in certain realms wrongs are stated as rights. The idea is that judgments and reasoning do happen, but only by being cautious of the difference in our approaches. By stating this, we are reviving the point that Walzer has attributed to liberalism, i.e., that liberalism has developed the art of separation of human life into various independent spheres.41 Fourth, spheres or realms properly indicate irreducibility in the intersubjective domain. They indicate why agents disagree, why persons have multiple points of view. And fifth, in arguing for agent relativity and irreducibility, 40

A. I. Melden, Rights and Persons (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), p. 167. 41 Michael Walzer, “Liberalism and the Art of Separation,” Political Theory, 12.3(August 1984): 315-330.

The Individual-Collective Dilemma


we substantiate that judgmentalism and justifications need to be understood from the pluralistic point of view. Consensus is the demanding principle whenever adversarial claims are arbitrated. It is the case even if agents are not driven by the idea of standard consequentialism. The limitation of impartiality principle is that it is guided by the principles that all reasonable-rational agents agree. This is a difficult claim because equality of claims emphasizes that there is a possibility that agents’ different claims possess validity-status in some or the other sense. Yet it is not oblivion to the observation that there are wrong claims too that lose their justificatory value in any possible world. The point that is consistently argued in the thesis is that mutual reconciliation should stand on this principle. Arguments for agent-relativity direct one’s attention to the importance of personal point of view. Sen’s argument in response to the Nagel’s can be cited here. Sen talks about positional interpretation and positional objectivity and Nagel prefers objectification of the values we hold. According to Sen, things we can observe depend on our position vis-a-vis the objects of observation. How do we decide to act is related to our beliefs. Positional dependent observations, beliefs and actions are central to our knowledge and practical reason.42 Hence, what one can observe depends upon the object of observation and the inference drawn on it depends upon the position of the observer. This is what he calls as positional objectivity. His understanding is that different people can conduct their respective observations from similar positions and make the same observations. The idea is to view objectivity in positional terms. The positional objective inference comes from somewhere, rather than a view from nowhere as Nagel argues. Sen assumes that scientific reasoning can be applied to ethical reasoning. For instance, he talks of a coherence relationship between all the positional claims or views to form a transpositional inference. In order that one could know about the size of the Sun and the Earth that have different positional observations along with their different positions, one takes the help of the knowledge of other aspects besides this positional observation. Similarly, for him, ethical 42

See his “Positional Objectivity,” Philosophy & Public Affairs, 22.2(Spring 1993): 126-145 at 127. Also see “Rights and Agency”:33-37. (evaluator-relative) See A. K. Sen, “Positional Objectivity,” p. 127. Thomas Nagel, The View From Nowhere (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), p. 5. Also see his, “The Limits of Objectivity,” Tanner Lectures on Human Values (Delivered at Brasenose College, Oxford University, May 4, 11, 18 1979), pp. 98-100.


Chapter Two

reasoning would also benefit from the transpositional possibility of subjective observations. We are not going into debate of consequentialist ethics or utilitarian deontology. But we take positional objectivity as an attractive concept that explains what we decide is based on what we believe and what we observe. Interpersonal moral-ethical conflicts can be observed using this concept. Our argument is not really concerned about consequence-based morality, which would argue that morality instructs each agent to maximize some objective functions defined over a state of affairs. It is all the more interesting to see how evaluator-relative value-judgments affect interpersonal justification of preferences and choices. Taking account of the situation where different persons have different agent-relative lifeprojects, evaluator neutrality and transpositional inference apply only in certain cases. To treat ethical reasoning synonymous with scientific reasoning would not be completely appropriate. Sen’s idea certainly has an advantage because all positional observations are not right, in the sense that they cannot be even treated as positional objective claims. Different observational inferences are taken into account, for instance, along with the knowledge of optics and dynamics, to know the size of the Sun and the Earth. It is self-evident that certain claims get negated. The crucial concern is in what way do these claims are identified and get negated in the process of transpositional observation and inference. In Sen’s example itself, it is not clear how wrong positional claims that women are physically inferior to men in certain professions get nullified. It has to be carefully examined unless and until one is fully satisfied with the available premises. The necessity of an insider and outsider view in ethical reasoning is seen in most of the liberal theories of moral foundationalism. In the issues related to cultural relativism or ethical relativism, we can make such discussion of transpositional objectivity, positional objectivity and the necessity of an outsider view. These are the cases where different positional claims of groups are in contest with each other. In such situations, we have to defend Sen’s position that experiences and observations in other societies too are important to arrive at a transpositional inference. That is criticism from outside is made possible. For instance, in the case of human rights we assume that certain state of affairs is fundamental to the human condition. Nevertheless, positional parameters are important in finer specifications to examine the positional

The Individual-Collective Dilemma


objectivity of particular beliefs. In one or the other sense, Sen’s notion of positional and transpositional assessment seems to take an account of universalization that is different from that of the moral universalistic framework. Sen argues that the comparison of diverse opinions and distinct conclusions cannot be avoided with a sense of unity of morality or at a general level uniformity of a social framework. The challenge is to save individual autonomy and diversity of individuals, and yet find a possibility of transpositional objective judgments. The nature of interpersonal conflicts would then confront both positional and transpositional objectivity. We admit that in issues of social conflict too positional objective claims can be made. These objective claims can be equally compelling in nature for rationalization and justification. For instance, if growth of a nation is seen only in the growth of armed forces is one objective claim; then there be another equal claim that survives industry contributes more to development. Within a framework and between frameworks this principle is prone to complications. In these situations, we need a reassessment of the idea of positional and the possibility of objective claims. Sen’s positional objectivity acknowledges the distinction between subjectivity and positional objectivity. In liberal theories, it seems as if objectivity is presupposed keeping in view the human element and human error. Issues of interpersonal conflicts are of three kinds: easily resolvable, difficult yet resolvable, and irresolvable. The latter two constitute irreducible preferences of goals, value-claims and beliefs. We are concerned with a plan of life that is continuous, not a priori rational one, where the project pursuers are related to each other in some or the other way, in the fulfillment of projects or in the mutual justification of their preference and choice. Sen too like Nagel attempts to form a relationship between agent-relativity and agent-neutrality, with an emphasis on the connection between positional and transpositional. The difference in his account is that he does not talk about transpositional objectivity in the sense of morality a view from nowhere. Unlike the case of scientific reasoning, ethical reasoning and transpositionality would call for pragmatic ethical answers to the conflicting claims. Amid many differences that constitute the interpersonal context, a pragmatic solution, nevertheless ethical, may lay down a basis for arguing that a general agreement or a neutral conception is necessary. The above distinction of issues would help one to know the complications involved in


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the resolution of conflicts. These issues have to be treated as issues of different domains. It means that conflicts have to be viewed as domainspecific. Each domain has a specific form of deliberative pattern with relevant information of that domain. The transpositionality argument of Sen also needs to be taken in this stride. All the issues need not possess the cutting-through notion of consensus or transpositionality. The dispute between agent-relativity and agent-neutrality is always found. One of the most intriguing aspects of this dispute is “why each agent acts on her/his own point of view instead of some other?" Like Sen, moral philosophers of the Kantian tradition too prefer to have an involved or the insider view and uninvolved or ideal observer’s view of any ethical aspect of human life. This account is prima facie appealing. As far as the collective life is concerned, what we choose as a goal and what we value in life should not begin with us and end with us. Moral, ethical and rational do not depend on one person’s understanding. As we are interconnected, our claims, preferences, beliefs and values should have interpersonal appeal. Nagel, Scanlon and other theorists of right and good are correct in arguing for this. Let us assume that the inside-outside view gives us proper understanding in both internal critical outlook and transpositional inference of cultural relativism. What it argues is that right choices and value preferences need to have an independent value. Only then we can avoid any kind of conflicts and disagreements. This approach can resolve certain dilemmas, like what is troubling me from my moral-rational point of view, which need not be the same as one from an outsider’s points of view. But one’s values, preferences, choices, beliefs and claims are not driven by absolute neutrality. This should be the basis of understanding the nature of collective life. There is a necessity of a link between values and reasons. We need a perspective that connects interpersonal relationships with the personal projects that everyone pursues. The above arguments show that in several instances, both in the single-agent and multi-agent dilemmas and conflicts, transpositionality is not easy to achieve. It has to draw a thorough procedure of moral and social constructivism. Independent conception of freedom, right, morality, choices, values and beliefs have to take two main aspects into consideration. They are relationship-dependence and projectdependence reasons of agents. There is a specific argument for agentrelativity, that preference to one’s own project is not a reason-violating conduct.

The Individual-Collective Dilemma


Scheffler argues that project-dependence and relationship-dependence does not mean that we consider them in non-instrumental manner. For instance, independent conception for most of the Kantian liberals is treating persons equally, i.e., for instance, one should help others in an impartial sense. Scheffler too has a point to make. To help my relations is not to violate the equal worth of those who are not related to me. He is also very right in arguing that my help to a known person or to any person does not increase her/his worth over the rest. We cannot say that this person is being partial in the negative sense. This is very much a relevant argument. For Scheffler, the distinction between personal and impersonal values is misleading if taken too seriously. But what if two agents believe in relation-dependent value and relation-independent value respectively? But what if the help to my friend that I had rendered ruined the fortune of some other person, who is aspiring to be, say, a serious researcher? Such moral questions are never free from dilemmas when we take up specific cases for analysis. Hence, different issues pose different problems to our understanding of personal and impersonal value. Scheffler opines that agent-relative as a notion is more acceptable than the notion of personal. For him, agent-relativity is not subjective and arbitrary. This notion has to be internalized in all forms of deliberation in order that these deliberations have a reasonable bargain for such value-claims. Similarly, project dependent reasons are acceptable as long as they follow the principle that one’s life is not valuable more than anyone else’s. If I were inclined to such an understanding I would definitely think that there are other persons in society whose personal projects are as valuable as mine. A pluralistic understanding requires this minimum knowledge. This position is fine as long as we are concerned with equality of fulfillment of basic life-projects. For, this one need not compromise with individual autonomy. On the other hand, the substantial domain of human life adds immense problems to the collective life. We have to resolve not only conflict of preferences and choices, but also that of the conflict in judgments of choices made from the preferences, beliefs and values. Rather, they are dependent on different set of reasons, in the sense that one set of reasons can be defeated by another set of reasons. We take this as the basis for understanding irreducible pluralism. Right choices are found in reasons that are multiple, each possessing the strength to outplay the other.


Chapter Two

Social Agency and the Interpersonal Collective rights theorists take a contrary view to those of theorists of autonomy and agent-neutrality. For these set of thinkers, problem of rights satisfaction arises due to excessive importance given to the individual autonomy and rational justification. The claim is that as rights are meaningful only in a collective, a substantive understanding of the social only can provide better solutions to the impending problems. Agency is to be treated more as a collective concept. The idea is that there is no escape from the shared meanings of life, common good, and community. Neither freedoms have independent value nor does morality have an autonomous status. Most of the contemporary rights theorists define human rights in the collective sense. Even all the critics of natural right theories and independent freedoms define human rights as social rights but not individual rights. The focus has shifted from individual to the collective in the language of rights. Waldron asks, “If the language of rights is individualistic, is anything gained in talking about individual communities, rather than individual men and women, as bearer of rights?”43 To presuppose that individuals are bearers of rights is valid because individuals remain central to any theory of rights, equality and justice. Critics of independent notion of freedoms repose their confidence in the collective conception of rights. Besides social rights theories and communitarians too have similar views. Communitarians argue that liberals lack the potential to form interpersonal relationships. They argue that the independent freedoms cannot derive substantial interpersonal principles as the bases of social obligations. Social rights theorists that persons possess rights that cannot be context neutral and are not intrinsic values-in-themselves. These rights exist by the very fact that society exists. The proponents of social rights would argue that a person would 43

Jeremy Waldron, Liberal Rights: Collected papers:1981-1991 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 340-1. Michael Freeden argues that it is the society which is the bearer of rights in the current context. See Michael Freeden, “Human Rights and Welfare: A Communitarian view,” Ethics 100(April 1990): 489-502. Alan Gewirth opines that human rights are of profound importance, central to all moral considerations. They are rights of every human being to the necessary conditions of human actions Human Rights: Essays on Justification And Application (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), p. 3.

The Individual-Collective Dilemma


have self-realization only in the life of a community. It exposes the dispute between individual good and social good. We will come to the point of comparison of individual and social good later. What we need to examine is whether collective notion of the interpersonal can explain the reasons for inequalities and injustices in the society.44 The idea that all rights are social rights conveys that we ought to value social agency. For instance, Richard Flathman presents Hobhouse’s argument that human development is tantamount to the development of a nexus of social relationships. The community and its relationships grew unconsciously, the natural social world development of human beings, culminated in the expression of a common interest and common sentiment, in which the development of each is conditional to the development of others.45 Individual development is interdependent on the development of others. This can be called causal connection between the individuals and their associative relationship. There are two objections here. The first objection would be that the independent criterion of rights does not value social agency, i.e., what we call the social sentiment and the common good. And the second objection is that liberalism advocates disembodied and disembedded conception of right and good as neutral and impartial. It may sound reasonable as far as classical liberalism is concerned. It is doubtful whether these objections similarly imply on late twentieth century liberal philosophy and onwards. The first objection has two counter-objections: Liberal foundationalism perceives that an individual life should be self-determined and selfdirected. We genuinely value society and treat it as a means to realize our ends. We cannot avoid either of these two conditions. The collectivist notion opposes the view that an individual’s life is autonomously situated. Their response to this would be that a person’s goal-satisfaction cannot be conceived without the presence of the other. Person’s goal-satisfaction is always mediated by the presence of the other. It is a general hypothesis of rights theories that one should not interfere in the affairs of the others, which is not a definitive conception. There will be an overlap of each other’s domain because goal-satisfaction of one will interfere with others at some point or other. The claim that goal-satisfaction should be 44 A Gutmann, “Communitarian Critics of Liberalism,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, 14.3(Summer 1985): 308-322. Joseph Raz, The Morality of Freedom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982). R.E. Ewin, Liberalism, Community and Justice. 45 Richard Flathman, “Liberalism and the Human Good,”


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accompanied by the principle of non-interference is a noble principle with merit if there is a perfectly acceptable standard way of measuring freedoms is available. Autonomy-based liberalism also values social agency. Contemporary liberalism does not hold that our lives are totally autonomous, and unconnected to each other. At least such conclusions are not to be inferred from them. On the other hand, interpersonal relationships are not to be understood in this way. Act-of-balancing of welfare liberals is an evidence for this. When we see the distinction drawn from the inviolability thesis of methodological/ontological individualism and the individualism of the Rawlsian kind, we cannot say that liberal philosophy, at large, has really violated the element of the social. Even the ideas of sense of justice as fairness and mutual co-operation value the social element. Critics can argue that characterizing individuals as both autonomous and social subjects is not mere instrumental in nature. It is necessary for a proper understanding of the relationship between means and ends.46 The characteristics of means-ends relationship in this case is that of a shared conception, where interdependency inevitably creates a condition of means-ends relationship among individuals. Similarly, communitarians argue that means-ends relationship is part of a social life, where the common good determine all our goals. In their case, it is a teleological determination of what our ends would be. Even if we accept the meansends relationship, there should be some measure of interpersonal morality. Interdependency of individuals does not suffice strongly the position that this means-ends relationship has no limitation. We should reflect on our means that determine our ends. In this context, we have assigned every person the roles of an autonomous subject and a social subject on the one hand, and on the other, intrinsic and extrinsic values that we attach to our claims. We have to understand both the value of individual life and collective life. In both the instances, individual would remain as central to our analysis. Social rights theorists have another point to make. The value of a social 46

According to the instrumental reason and beneficial argument, the basic idea of a ends-means relationship is that an action is committed or a choice is preferred because it is a means to something else. It is as an end-in-itself, which may imply a thing valued other than as a means to something else. For further understanding of ends-means relationship, see, Richard Norman, Reasons and Actions: A Critique of Utilitarian Rationality (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1971), 84-108.

The Individual-Collective Dilemma


context is seen in the liberal principle of justification itself. Elizabeth Anderson refers to the shared standards of justification. Justification is needed for the ends we choose because there are other agents who recognize what I would like to realize in life.47 But this idea of need for collective justification is as good as arguing that what is collectively rational is rational for an individual. It may be treated as essential because what I choose as rational end to me is not fulfilled independently. So, it is not to be conceived as independent rational end. For the fulfillment of my life-project I need the cooperation of other agents. This life-project is not, for them, rationally situated. Nozick has a point to make contrary to what is said above. He questions the inevitability of co-operative agency, for the reason that a rational agent makes decisions independent of others’ intervention.48 However, to respond to Nozick, individual autonomy need not be viewed as antagonistic to social agency. The very notion of interpersonal makes cooperation a normative principle. The issue that matters here is how we place autonomy vis a vis social agency. These two positions, nevertheless, do not resolve the contention between autonomy and situatedness. Cooperation of the other agents is mentioned here. It is different from that of the agent-neutrality defined by Nagel. As per Nagel’s conception, we gain cooperation from other agents only when we propose impersonal claims. But we want to propose that collective good offers a different understanding of the interpersonal cooperation. It is consciously agreed cooperative effort that consolidates the collective good, where the distinctness and autonomy of persons has an equal value. Coming back to the argument of Nozick, social rights theorists should convincingly answer two important questions of Nozick. What reasons do I have to ensure that every reasonable person can endorse my personal project? What reasons do I have to justify my values to others? These questions counter the central idea of Anderson that our attitudes are constituted by social norms of appropriateness. Both the social rights theorists and the theorists of independent freedoms should recognize that it is fallacious to assume that they have resolved the tension between individual and the social. I endorse other’s life-project because I recognize that a certain set of rights is good for him/her. Mutual justification of values should be grounded in the rationale that life-projects should have 47

V.Tiberian, Deliberation About the good: Justifying What We Value, Studies in Ethics, Robert Nozick, ed., (A Garland Series, 2000), pp. 54, 55, and 60. 48 Ibid.


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minimum sense of mutual reconciliation and minimum sense of universal good. It explains the reciprocal value that agents hold. Further, social rights theorists claim that intrinsic values do not reconcile the values of social life, as they opine that everything is not constituted within an individual. A complete internalist argument deeply undermines sociality and common good. Pushed to the extreme, it may sound methodologically individualistic. A self is not the product of shared meanings of life. For them, there are only wholes having organic relationships. Mario Bunge presents ten kinds of individualist theses and offers alternatives to them. He presents Ontological, Epistemological, Methodological, Semantic, Axiological, Praxiological, Ethical, Historical and Political Individualism. The gist of all these forms of individualism is that the society is a function of individuals, individual is the only knower, the study of anything in the last instance is that of an individual, and finally there are more individual values where parts are more valuable than the whole. Contrary to this, Bunge presents the Ontological Holism of the Aristotelian and Hegelian tradition and the Epistemological Holism. They lay the primacy of the whole, for example, whole body of knowledge, consisting of three things: knowledge as pristine, intuitive and beyond reason; society as the knower, and cultural relativism.49 Epistemological, methodological and semantic individualism are not refutable; even the position of epistemological holism cannot be refuted. It doesn’t mean that either of them is right in their extreme position. For an individual, her/his life should reflect her own endeavors; on the other hand, as s/he is also involved in the interactive processes, her/his actions contribute to the social good/virtue. But it is not apt to argue that selfdirectedness is either an individual endeavor or totally generated through social interactions. We would rather go with Flathman to argue that selfdirectedness is individualistic and individualizing but is not fairly determined as atomistic and atomizing.50 Self-directedness denotes the value of individual freedom in exercising choices and indulging in free actions, but not life as a whole is exclusively personal and disconnected from others.


Mario Bunge, “Ten Modes of Individualism” Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 30. 3(Sept 2000): 384-406. 50 Richard Flathman, The Practice of Rights (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), p. 184.

The Individual-Collective Dilemma


Critics are skeptical about autonomous self-directedness and its capability of absorbing the diverse nature of life. It can if we attribute to an individual the values of autonomy and social agency simultaneously. Liberalism has the potential to acknowledge the incompatibility of different forms of life provided it has commitment to moral pluralism. Agent-neutral values are achieved, according to Nagel, with a transition from agent-relative to agent-neutral ends. It refers to the personalization of the impersonal. One of the simplest answers would be that we form those rational ends that possess universal-neutral characteristics. Nagel’s position is that each of us begins with a set of concerns, desires, and interests of our own, and each of us can recognize that the same is true of others.51 In arguing this way, one can see that universality and commonality are overlapping on one another. The difference between the two is that universality represents the meaning of context-independence, disembodiment, and impersonality, and the commonality represents possessiveness and embeddedness.52 For Nagel, the best insight that appears from the impersonal standpoint is that everyone’s life matters.53 This point is persistently seen in all forms of liberalism since the classical thought. They opine that the embracing of higher-order principles has the potential to serve all human concerns. This can be treated as the bias of liberalism. For Sandel, the beginning point ought to be a theory of community with shared interests rather than independent freedoms.54 It can only become the basis of understanding the interpersonal and how persons are placed against one another while sharing common interests. Shared interests, as such, still remain as an abstract concept. Hence, we can say that our life is differentiated into different spheres where we share our resources, incomes, wealth, beliefs, values etc. Communitarianism has a positive proposition with a wrong assumption because of which we are treated as only embedded subjects not also as autonomous entities. 51 Thomas Nagel. Equality and Opportunity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 10. 52 It is worthwhile to note Sandel’s concern here. He states, “liberalism is wrong because its neutrality is impossible, and that neutrality is impossible because try as we might we can never wholly reject the effects of our conditioning. See Michael J. Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), p. 11. 53 Thomas Nagel, Equality and Opportunity, p. 12. 54 Michael J. Sandel, “Liberalism and the Unencumbered Self,” Political Theory, 12.1(February 1984): 81-96.


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To suppose that we are embedded subjects is to believe that we share many of the practices of society that constitute certain tradition and culture. The complex nature of the conflict of our ends redirects all our questions to the epistemological justifications. Similar is the case with impersonalization. Nagel expresses a deeper concern for our genuine quandary between personal and impersonal values.55 He argues that the personal is within the impersonal. It is far simpler to state that we need to take genuine disputes seriously. Nevertheless, the deciding factor of genuine and nominal conflicts is open-ended. This links our position on the personalization of the personal, that our moral claims should have impersonal and interpersonal value. But in the case of communitarians, there may be no scope of drastic differences because the purpose is determined a priori social good. There may not be even drastic differences due to the deeper understanding of the shared meanings of life (we have to keep in mind that ‘common good’ is itself debated at large). In reality, such harmonious social situation may be rare to find. If the communitarians value means-ends relationships, then they have to even acknowledge that the same means-ends relationship involve clash of means of realizing the ends. Even the shared meanings of life may not converge all the time and over all issues of interpersonal concern. Rational justification may not be a sufficient device to evaluate individuals’ preferences and values. Yet, there is a certain measure for qualifying our ends as right and wrong in the moral and non-moral sense. As rational beings, we do possess reasoning capabilities within ourselves to achieve our ends. Our lives are self-directed and our ends are genuinely ours. This may not give complete picture, but yet it is very much valid. Autonomy counts as one of the characteristics of human existence. Every human being is a rational being, but the rational faculties differ in manifold ways. Apart from this, we can attribute self-interest, emotional and other features to human behavior. Rational faculties acquired through association also render us sufficient insight to revise and reform our values. In this whole process, we cannot place a brute principle of impartiality. One of the reasons why ends and means conflict with each other is due to the possessive nature of individualism. Another reason could be that they have difference of opinion over many standard issues.

55 Alan Thomas, “Nagel’s Paradox of Equality and Partiality,” Res Publica, 9.3(2003): 257-284.

The Individual-Collective Dilemma


We need to conceptualize the interpersonal framework in such a way that it reflects neither absolute individualism nor total shared common good. Rather, it is a balance of individual interests and collective interests. Rawls’s idea of social union is a combination of individualistic and collectivist values. It is driven by the principle of reciprocity, where individuals are left free to pursue social or communitarian goals as well as private ends. Rawls gives more weight to the individual as accountable to her/his actions. It ignores the differences between capacities. The unreasonableness in their argument is that they inherit the liberal presupposition that all individuals are equally rational. If individuals are characterized with different faculties of reasoning, then the role of these public institutions is the external motivation. Every aspect of a human being, especially a social being, is not necessarily internal. For example, even when we consider the Rawlsian cooperation concept, where it is taken for granted that all rational beings will cooperate; a person may learn from others the benefit as well as value of cooperation.56 Understanding of a life-plan with respect to purposive beings can be made in three different ways. First, Nozick’s way of explaining the ability of a person to form a picture of one’s life, and to act in terms of some overall conception of life one wishes to live.57 Second, the rational life where persons are possessed with a sense of justice and fairness towards each other as explained by Rawls followed by Nagel, Scanlon and others. And thirdly, the communitarian way as MacIntyre, Sandel, and Taylor substantiate that right and good are the constituents of social virtue having common interest. Connecting primary goods and life-plans, Kymlicka argues that this relationship indicates two distinct ideas: (a) our way of life should reflect our autonomous choice, and so the resources available to us must be flexible, and (b) we are responsible for the cost of our choices, and hence there must be some standard which teaches us what is available to see in accordance with our attachments. He extends the argument saying that Rawls’s conception forms relationship between individual and her/his ends.58 It is reflected in Rawls’s idea. Discussing about the conception of 56

Refer John Rawls, “Basic Liberties And Their Priority” Tanner Lectures on Human Values (The University of Michigan, April 10, 1981), pp. 1-87. 57 E. M. Adams, “The Ground for Human Rights,” American Philosophical Quarterly, 19.2(April 1982):192. Also see Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia (New York: Basil Blackwell, 1974). 58 Will Kymlicka, “Liberal Individualism and Liberal Neutrality,” Ethics, 99 (July


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good, Rawls states that as free citizens, individuals are not tied to any particular conception of good. What implies from this is that an individual can have a particular conception of good internal to her/him only. It seems that Rawlsian ‘good’ has a subjective element to it. Kymlicka concludes that this conception of good can detach oneself from her/his ends, not admitting to any good that is communally defined.59 The argument between autonomy and embeddedness creates a paradox here: the freestanding notion of good is problematic and the embedded ‘shared meanings’ is also problematic. Rawlsian liberalism does not violate common good. Gerald Doppelt provides a defensive argument for Rawls. Commenting on Sandel’s criticism of Rawls, he argues, “It fails to notice the possibility that the very development and exercise of the human capacity can itself be taken as a positive value whose realization makes the ideal of personhood possible in Rawls.”60 If our life-plans have to follow a conception of good, personal and common, there has to be a comprehensible relationship established between freedom and embeddedness. Rawls establishes the terms of social co-operation where every individual is to pursue his/her own conception of good and would also be conscious of the social good with the sense of justice and sense of good manifested in each person. The confusion is that we are morally obliged to co-operate with each other and at the same time have our own independent plan of life. Doppelt indicates that the priority is given to the plurality of goods. The point that Sandel and other communitarians need to substantiate is whether their conception of social good mostly culture bound, by its definition, imbibes the necessary principles of plurality. For Rawls, objectivity lies in the reasonable position that individuals take over their affairs. He defines reasonableness as a capacity to propose and act in accordance with fair terms of cooperation. He defines rationality as a capacity to define and act in accordance with a set of priorities governed by an overall conception of the good. Reasonable persons are generally good in a social world in which they are free and equal that can compete with others on terms all can accept. Reciprocity should hold within that world so that each benefits along with the others. It should be understood differently from mutual advantage though this is not insignificant. One can 1989): 893-905. 59 “Liberal Individualism and Liberal Neutrality,” p. 892. 60 “Is Rawls’ Kantian Liberalism Coherent and Defensible?,” Ethics 99(1999): 815-851 at 820-1.

The Individual-Collective Dilemma


act on rational grounds over matters relating to personal and interpersonal domains. The current concerns are: one, the prescription of a standard procedure for prioritization and second, the way incommensurability of values and moral principles that determine rights is resolved. Communitarians should reconcile the value of autonomy as the liberals are obligated to value the collective or the social aspect at large. Autonomy and moral responsibility are not totally distinctive aspects. If individual is represented as a social subject, s/he also is an autonomous being. These two always have to go together. This is what we call the constitutive aspect of person-hood. In contrast to the liberal self, embedded self and libertarian inviolable self, this constitutive self is composed of the characteristics of autonomy, responsibility, reasonableness and social agency. Autonomy also plays a predominant role in self-realization. The aspect that concerns us is the autonomy of one’s sphere and interconnectedness wit the sphere of other. Nozick maintains an equal recognition of true autonomy of each person. One argument is that the range of autonomy is not measurable by the actions one commits to, without reference to the principles underlying one’s actions. This may redirect us to the foundational principles. Contrary to the liberals, communitarians stand by the teleological principle of human existence. Charles Taylor refers to it as the case of ontological issues, which seems to deal with the profound issues of human existence. Here we will not go into the details of the narrative aspects of human life within a social context. For him, there is a difference when we make choices as individual agents and as collective agents. This principle is directly against the Kantian notion of autonomy. For choice and fulfillment, they argue, historicity and human attachments are predominant determinants. Peter Lindsay summarizes the arguments of Taylor and Sandel, “The essence of the communitarian critique is, then, that liberalism envisions human life as devoid of that element (attachments) that provides individuals with the means to a fulfilled life. Moreover, because liberals see only part of the person, they aspire only to a sort of fulfillment that this partial person might attain.”61 However, in the guise of bias toward human sentiments, attachments and relationships, they too neglect the conflict implicit in project-realization or self-actualization.


See “The Disembodied Self in Political Theory: The Communitarians, McPherson and Marx,” Philosophy & Social Criticism, 28.2(2002): 191-211 at 196.


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Argument stated above indicates that the conception of personhood is very much necessary. Viewing a self in complexity is a plausible one, but how do we view our life in the existential-ontological sense? There are different spheres of human activity. For a person whose identity is, for instance, economically weak, a metaphysical profound conception of the self falls behind the self-conceived as a possessive individual. Liberals view persons as rational beings, while the communitarians view them as sentient beings. But do these rational and sentient characteristics totally distinct from each other. We argue that they are not disconnected but exist in the form of priority. David Copp was right in arguing that a person’s identity has to be viewed differently at different stages of life. He argues that not every fact about a person is part of her/his identity. The interesting point in his article is that apart from the metaphysical conception of a person that remains over time, it is also important as to how s/he is viewed at different stages that make up a single life.62 This is a very significant attribution, but persons are expected to maintain minimum sense of rationality consistently. These two characteristics are within the constitutive self. The difference in liberalism and communitarianism is seen in their respective ways of deriving self from the constituted social relations and interconnections. The latter accuse the liberal notion of the self as thin, rationally disembodied ego. For instance, Kantian moral philosophy is said to have nostalgia for right and wrong. Communitarians and other critics of liberalism argue that the liberals have restricted everything to mere rational justification. It may be right that liberal moral philosophy is more worried about right reasons yet certain aspects of liberal philosophy are nevertheless substantial. For example, autonomy, reciprocity, freedom, fairness, cooperation, reasonableness and toleration can be stated as some of them. Mutual reciprocity is an interpersonal recognition of the significance of realization of particular goals. Now the issue is which of these notions grasps the essence of a reflective self. Kantians would definitely attribute it to the rational self, while the latter to the situated self. Agency has an important role to play in the interpersonal context. In the language of social contract, it denotes two roles: personal and representative roles. This conception can pose a deep challenge to communitarians. The communitarians challenge the very egoistic position 62

David Copp, “Social Unity and the Identity of Persons,” Journal of Political Philosophy, 10.4(2002): 365-391.

The Individual-Collective Dilemma


of the liberal self from a different perspective. For a moment let us suppose that agency is the outcome of social relations/processes. By prioritizing attachments, sentiments, identity and situatedness, communitarians have to ensure that persons may or may not act out of self-interest. It works at various levels; say familial, group, associational, lingual, communal etc. It is not sure that my relation with others resolves the problem of limited social space with respect to interests and values.63 Commonality does not always establish a compatible relationship between individual judgments and collective deliberation. Sandel’s position is that the deontological liberal (that which gives priority of right over good) constructions of Rawls primarily explain the Kantian conception of personhood and the priority of right over the good. The criticism goes like this, “Rawls’ theory of justice epitomizes deontological liberalism which seeks to derive and justify the political principles of justice without according any conception of value, the proper ends of individual or social life.”64 It is not exactly the case. Rawls takes into account the value of distinctness of the individuals and social good. This is very much reflected in his idea of basic structure as subject. Nevertheless, Rawls attributes two moral powers to persons: one, capacity for a conception of good and another, capacity for fair terms of social cooperation. These two characteristics cannot be sustained in a person without valuing both autonomy and social agency. The universality present in Rawls’s conception is the rule of reciprocity applicable to all. But this reciprocity is weak as it is an assumed conception of reciprocity. An individual has the necessary moral power to comprehend that s/he respects the rights of other individuals as long as they do not violate her/his domain. Contrary to Sandel’s view, Doppelt defends the Rawlsian position by arguing that Rawls’s Kantian conception of person does base the moral identity of persons and social justice upon a conception of good and certain values of ends.


This skeptical position remains despite the communitarians assure quality of constitutive social relations. MacIntyre argues, “the fact that the self has to find its moral identity in and through its membership in communities such as those of the family, the neighborhood, the city and the tribe does not entail that the self has to accept the moral limitations of the particularity of those forms of community. See After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984). Peter Lindsay, “The Disembodied Self in Political Theory,” p. 198. 64 Gerald Doppelt, “Rawls’ Kantian Liberalism Coherent and Defensible,” p. 817. Also see Sandel’s Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, p. 27.


Chapter Two

Rawls’s idea of reasonability and objectivity is considered as deontological in nature. The two principles of justice becomes morally binding on the individuals who are representative autonomous agents to the original position. What is doubtful is whether the original position, where several life-plans are negotiated for recognition, takes account of the fact that there are contingent factors involved to what one holds as beliefs and moral principles What does the deontological principle explain? Deontological moral systems are characterized primarily by a focus upon adherence to independent moral rules or duties. In Rawls’ ‘Justice as Fairness’, a deontological relationship is established between the selection of two principles of justice by the persons with a moral power of reciprocity, the terms of social cooperation, and the basic structure of society. There are moral obligations inherent in these where each ought to reconcile the other. This way every party to the original position has the minimum necessary knowledge that the other also adheres to the similar principle. There is a reason for this assumption. Rawls attempts to carve out a solution to the issue of conflict of liberties by somewhat making the preferences of all to be similar though constituted with different worldviews. Thus, for him, universality or objectivity is achieved. As a pursuer of good one has to have the ability to revise the conceptions of good life.65 This is very much a significant attribution to agency. Fairness, reasonableness and cooperation need the tendency of a person to revise and reform her/his own beliefs and values. To recognize each other’s values and beliefs as potential equivalents, the nature of the person should be such that s/he is subject to change if necessary in the process of interacting with other individuals. This involves both the sharing and differing aspect of one’s interpersonal life. Suppose that an agent understands a social order to strictly hierarchical in nature. In the process of interpersonal interaction, s/he may change the belief that an interpersonal framework need to be fair and reasonably egalitarian. Defenders of Rawls would argue that the idea of overlapping consensus not only searches for the possibility of the overlap of our moral dispositions, but also provide persons with the power to reconcile each other. Another important aspect of this overlapping consensus is that Rawls stresses on the construction of objective agreement. The mere mention of reasonable pluralism indicates that universalism is not a natural 65

Samuel Freeman, John Rawls: Collected Papers (New Delhi, OUP, 1999). See chapters: “The Idea of Overlapping Consensus,” “Kantian Constructivism in Moral Theory” and “Basic Liberties and Their Priority.”

The Individual-Collective Dilemma


outcome. The mutual reconciliation, for the liberals is through rational agency, and for the communitarians through the agency of culture. Henry E. Allison mentions the understanding of rational agency: it presupposes that one is capable of projecting ends, acting on the self-imposed general principles and in light of objectively valid rational norms.66 For Sandel and other communitarians, the alternative for the universal is that of the situational. Sandel argues that the ends are formed by discovery of principles resulting out of a collective’s experiences. The priority is given to the specific identity of an individual. Discovery is more important than choice in the formation of one’s preferences and values. The notion of discovery has its own significance. It makes us comprehend certain difficulties of interpersonal life. What we agree and disagree, what is permissible and not permissible, and what is reasonable and not reasonable can be seen in the mutual coexistence. This may or may not be possible through rational thinking or through rational justification alone. The primacy, for Sandel, should be given to the capacity for volition, not to the capacity for cognition.67 Then, why we cannot stress the point that ‘plurality of Goods’ results from the long drawn experiences of human beings of having lived in a civil society. Now, we need to explain the difference between choice and discovery here? Choice is explained as the agents’ bargain for fulfilling their respective life-projects with a sense of rational self-interest. For this, the distinction of individuals is an essential condition. We can make individuals responsible for their choices and actions, and preference of values. If there are certain resultant imbalances, then they themselves are accountable to the way they exercise their rights and obligations. On the other hand, even if we do not dispute that human beings are located in a cultural context, we are ignoring a vital characteristic of human nature that explicates the reason for the conflict of rights. David Schmidtz puts forth an interesting point. He states that what is interpersonal is independently embedded in the social institutions, and 66 Henry E. Allison, Idealism and Freedom: Essay’s on Kant’s Theoretical and Practical Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996). 67 See Sandel’s Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, pp. 63-65, 147-54, 172-83. Also refer Doppelt, “Is Rawls’ Kantian Liberalism Coherent and Defensible?,” p. 817. Also David Schmidtz argues that we discover what is interpersonal and we create what is personal. See his Rational Choice and Moral Agency (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), p. 198.


Chapter Two

what is personal is not similarly independent.68 One cannot deny this point. As far as the interpersonal morality is concerned, we ought to formulate as well as believe in general rules and principles. This is near to the Rawlsian dualist framework of what is reasonably just for institutions are different from what is reasonably just for an individual. But how do we link the personal and interpersonal here? Can we achieve such a perfect balance where all rational-moral agents make equal necessary and respective compromises for an interpersonal rule? This is only possible through the idealization of the self. It can only happen if we conceive interpersonal as a domain where the agreed rules are different from agents, in particular, believe to be right from the personal point of view. Moreover, it also needs a distinction of public and private morality. Rawls’s notions do not fully assume the independence of a person from his/her desires and purposes. Instead they are very cognizant of individuals as purposive beings, not completely independent from the social attributions. The reference of society is different in Rawls and Sandel. In the case of Rawls, moral persons, a well-ordered society, and just basic structures are antecedently conceived. Accordingly, the choices of individuals are governed by rational principles. Communitarians only convince us that how every individual is assured with basic liberties and deeper convictions by an embodied conception of the self. It will be a mere preemption that only interpersonal morality will guide individuals to condition their conflicting subjective interests and world views. If there is a necessity for conditioning of our rights, then it has to follow a procedure for prioritization of our desires, purposes and interests. The ranking of values and ends is a necessary obligation for every individual. Doppelt defends Rawls making by attempting to draw similar meanings for choice and discovery. He argues that what we learn can provide a rational basis for what we choose. But still the defense of Doppelt is limited to the hypothetical original position and learning that inspires individuals to choose what is motivating for them. The issue remains open-ended whether original position can be conceived at any given point of social conflict. He further presents two interesting arguments: Rawls’s Kantian conception of person forms the base of moral identity of persons and social justice upon a conception of the good and certain values as ends. These ends or values are shared, and thus these common ends define a strong sense of community in Rawls’ notion of just well-ordered society. 68

David Schmidtz, p. 199.

The Individual-Collective Dilemma


This argument will defeat the contractarian argument itself. According to the social contract approach, persons in the state of nature, come to agreement for a social union in order to secure their unbounded liberty. The necessity of a society does not or would not have had occurred if everyone were equally placed in terms of rational capacities, physical capacities and moral capacities. Social union is characterized to be the natural institution into which individuals are constituents and where a right-claim can be made. Kymlicka draws our attention to the position that “My life goes only better if I’m leading it from the inside, according to my beliefs about values.69 If individuals and the social have direct relationship, then everything that an individual claims for ought to be from within. But the individual and the social is mediated by several significant factors. For instance, the social and political life goes beyond the virtues of social justice to embrace a moral identification with common goods, a shared conception of value and community. But this position is a mere reductionist to certain extent. Besides, to assume that these autonomous values are neutral is too a mistake. A change in the liberal perspective is very much essential despite the shift from individual rights to collective rights. Ronald Beiner’s contention is that there can be a better moral self-understanding of liberalism if the focus is shifted from Kantian discourse of rights and individual autonomy to an Aristotelian discourse of virtue and character formation. One may ask: Do individuals, in the case of Rawls, lack any scope of character formation? This would be a hasty conclusion. Unlike communitarians, virtue theorists and proponents of character morality, liberal philosophers take into consideration only the mature and rational members of the society. In the case of Rawls, persons possessing the moral powers a priori possess the capacity of mutual reciprocity. Autonomy of this kind does not elude the character formation. One may say that the idea of moral development is absent in the framework of liberal philosophy. Reference to the Aristotelian language, for Beiner, conflates individual and collective claims.70 His argument is that individuals inherit a world where a large repository of good exits a priori. He argues that we inherit values from one generation to the other generation. This passing of values is appreciable only if it constitutes the agency and capacity of individuals for 69

Will Kymlicka, “Liberalism and Communitarianism,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 18.2(June 1988): 181-203 at 183. 70 See his What’s the Matter with Liberalism? (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992).


Chapter Two

revision in the light of new circumstances and stock of experiences. Reference to Aristotle would be futile without this assumption. According to the Aristotelian position in Nicomachean Ethics virtue does not represent any singular meaning, but various approaches to life. Virtue does not explain the reasons for disagreement. Even if we do not fail to reconcile that we disagree on certain aspects of life, social life is conceivable. The importance is the negotiation of a better state of affairs. This question can be addressed to Rawls as well. In the case of Rawls, observing the shift from A Theory of Justice to Political Liberalism, that the shared life is defined by public conception of reason clearly differentiates the issues over which we express our agreement and disagreement. Do these two standpoints convey that we never mutually reconcile the value of each one’s deeper desires and convictions? The positive interpretation would be that the constant association of individuals will make them realize that every one of them has a distinctive identity of the self. That our life is just for the sake of cultivation of virtues for attaining a moral community is somewhat an unreasonable claim. Even if individuals ought to nurture excellence for a moral community, we have to admit that human creativity is both an individual and collective asset. Contrastingly, MacIntyre would defend Beiner’s position by reclaiming that a good life is understood as a whole in a society. The communitarian fear is that the modern liberalism has separated the self from its roles, which are in fact determinedly teleologically determined in a defined life. In one sense, it may mean that our ends are antecedently defined for which roles are antecedently fixed the roles that are consonant to human telos. Communitarians argue that it represents multiple ways of life, but the purpose is defined at an abstract level of a moral community.71 Maintaining distinctness of individuals within a social union is very much necessary, as we have attributed double role to individuals, i.e., an autonomous subject and a situated subject. They possess the will to freedom of agency. Independent conception of good may treat persons as autonomous; autonomy is refereed to plurality of worldviews. Autonomy need not denote total disentanglement between individuals, but it conveys that individuals have distinctive worldviews, and that they have right to 71

For a self separated from its roles in the Sartrian mode lose that arena of social relationships in which the Aristotelean virtues function if they functionat all. See MacIntyre’s After Virtue, p. 205.

The Individual-Collective Dilemma


recede into their respective worldviews without violation of each other’s external worldviews.72 This helps in reconciling the distinctness of worldviews, i.e., an individual may hold totally different values from commonly manifested norms. In this context, it is apt to mention the integration approach of Ronald Dworkin. The integration approach is a moderate position. Individuals can carry their efforts in their own well-being, but can have a moral concern for the community too. This position seems to be a very tricky one. Dworkin seems to forward a little different position from Rawlsian objectivity understood as unity of agency. The unity of agency, for him, posits it to be identical with the agent’s concern for his/her own wellbeing. Concern for others, in this case, is an act of coincidence or expansion of one’s altruistic concerns. This position is tricky because social well-being as such is at the volition of persons; they may or may not have those altruistic concerns. On the contrary, the integration approach in a way argues about collective implication of an individual’s action. The fundamental reference is the community, not the individual.73

Agency and Disagreement In general, arguing for autonomy is posited to have no concern for others; ‘rights of mine signify as claims made against the interests of others’. If I am expected to be the part of a social milieu, then I examine the extent to which I reflect myself in the plethora of interpersonal relationships. It all depends on a person’s notion of a collective or community. It is unreasonable to assume that the social union itself will make individuals have a concern for each other. On the contrary, for the liberals, every individual will set the limit for her/his goal-satisfaction with adherence to the universal rational principles, fulfilling the role of a rational agent.74 72

Maeve Cooke, “A Space of One’s Own: Autonomy, Privacy, Liberty,” Philosophy & Social Criticism, 26.1(1999); 23-53. 73 The argument from integration does not suppose that the good citizens will be concerned for the well-being of fellow citizens. it argues that he must be concerned for her own well being, and that, just in virtue of their concern, he must take an interest in the moral life of community of which he is a member, thus differentiating the integrated from the altruistic citizens. See Ronald Dworkin, “Liberal Community,” California Law Review, 77.2(May 1989): 479-504. 74 Here it is apt to quote Alan Gewirth: “all the human rights, those of well-being as well as those of freedom, have as their aim that each person have rational autonomy in the sense of being a self-controlling, self-developing agent who can


Chapter Two

Choices preempt individuals as rational and autonomous agents trying to balance between ‘self expected utility’75 and satisfaction of the collective interests. The difference lies in how an individual comprehends a community. Colin Bird mentions two possible categorical distinctions of a community. The first distinction is aggregative-associative relationship: According to aggregative conception, an individual may perceive a community as an aggregate of independent individuals contributing in the arithmetic sense. According to the associative conception, community is treated as an association of individuals structured by certain key relationships among its individual members’ irreducible relationships. The second distinction is between symmetrical-asymmetrical values: Symmetrical assumptions explain the normative foundation of a collective similarly applicable for an individual. In the case of asymmetrical assumptions, the relation between social agency and individual is like that between principles of library organization and principles of language composition.76 In this case, there is no perfect compatibility between the individual interest and the collective interest. The distinctions stated above explain the asymmetry or incompatibility present in our desires, interests and preferences. With reference to irreducible preferences, it seems to qualify our desires as dependent desires. The means of fulfilling them is bound by what kind of desires others have. Besides, a collective is defined by the condition that one is responsible for other’s share. It may be the case, but when we accept the principle of causal connectionism, one’s view of the other affects interpersonal relationships. These relationships are grounded in their respective beliefs. Further, these beliefs form the basis for moral judgment. The concept of self-pursuit and life-project is very much present here. The recognition of the other occurs even when we retain persons as distinct entities. This explanation is very unrealistic in some sense. Social interactions are even negotiated between the self-interested individuals and the spaces that ought to be given to others. There is always a conceptual relate to other persons on a bias of mutual respect and cooperation.” See Alan Gewirth, Human Rights: Essays on Justification and Application (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), pp. 2-3. 75 Refer John Arthur & William H. Shaw, eds. Justice and Economic Distribution (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1978). 76 Colin Bird, The Myth of Liberal Individualism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 86-92.

The Individual-Collective Dilemma


disjunction between individual and community, but both are linked by explicitly agreed rules of domains of competence. Acceptance of collective rules indicates the balance between the interests of autonomy and social ends. Non-libertarian individualism has given a sympathetic view to this kind of accommodation of collectivism. According to it, the society is not entirely constituted by associative relationship; rather it is substantially asymmetrical in nature. The associative relationships are based on personal preferences only. Inviolability does not provide any strong defense against the opinion that every individual is self-sufficient. Dworkin condemns the point that individuals are self-sufficient unto themselves. In many issues community is essential.77 The otherness has also got its significant role in the realization of one’s life-project. Autonomous individuals can create a condition for reconciling the equality of freedom of the other persons. The initial point can be like what Sidgwick argues the good of one is no more important than the other.78 If my well-being is dependent on my negotiations at various levels, it becomes my moral obligation to respect the same for others. The inviolability of rights should take note that a liberal agent qua agent is subject to the similar restrictions of collective life. These restrictions are fabricate an atomistic conception of collectivism in which relations of authority and respect within and between individuals are determined by the distinct human faculties. It enumerates the enforcement objection that individuals owe substantial responsibilities towards each other but these duties are not being categorized as enforceable in nature. Ethical considerations and mutual reciprocity complements the autonomous status of the self. The claim for rights is meaningful when contested with real social situations and disputes between claims themselves. It is not simply what one owes to oneself but in relation to the others where all contending parties are involved.79 The argument that all agents are subjected to similar restrictions is an old argument. The issue here is how these agents treat several disagreements among themselves vis-a-vis these several constraints on rules. 77

Ronald Dworkin, “Liberal Community,” California Law Review, 77(1989): 479504. 78 Henry Sidgwick, The Method of Ethics (New York: Dover, 1907), 382. Also see Richard Double, “Morality, Impartiality And What We Can Ask For Persons,” American Philosophical Quarterly, 36. 2 (April 1999): 156-163. 79 R. E. Ewin, Liberalism, Community and Justice, chapter-2.


Chapter Two

The communitarians view is that the impartial approach of liberalism would never imbibe shared values among individuals. Rather than naming them as shared values only, we can also attribute them as accommodated values. Such recognition is conscious of the fact that agents are involved in bargain besides discovery of new interpersonal normative principles. We have admitted that each individual forms a different world view combining her/his rational, moral, practical and emotional considerations. This makes her/his life-plan/project in a way distinct from others. These life-plans and the goal-satisfaction of every individual can conflict with the other. One of the predominant reasons is that we attribute certain values positive as well as negative to these life-plans. Basic liberties and substantive freedoms form a world view which can be represented as (a) a singular process or may be divided into superficial and deep rooted forms and (b) having a holistic conception of human life or may have an abstract distinction of public and private lives. The second point is universalizability that cannot be totally excluded from the socio-political discourse. The universalizability of rational and moral principles offers the possibility of a transcendental rational world-view, nevertheless not absolute in nature, but binds us with deontological characterization of rational and moral principles. Claims to universality is pertinent to the interpersonal framework despite there is no single answer to from where these rational principles emerge. Though it claims, there is no necessary rule that equality of right is ensured this way. We reconcile that each of our world views to be distinct from one another. But the process of universalization and the process of social life establishment of common values create the complications. Individual should reconcile that s/he should not undermine the social, and at the same time, society should give value to individuals apart from signifying the social good. We certainly have individual goals and common goals. Some are led by the inner passions and others are by the external influences through interpersonal relationships. Conflict can be viewed from a broader framework of resolution where we reconcile that persons are not equally capable in their goal-satisfaction. There exists a possibility that we realize we are unequal, our life projects are divergent and world views distinct, and yet shared meanings of life are possible. Conflict and Disagreement appears and reappears in the tension between individual and social on several issues of common concern. Most of these turn out to be interpersonal moral dilemmas and conflicts. Independent conception of freedom and agency calls for a rational account of morality.

The Individual-Collective Dilemma


They give emphasis to choice-morality, glorifying moral right and wrong in order to decide the judgmental value of agents’ value-claims and rightclaims. If conflicts occur, they are rationally resolvable through universal morality. Situational account talks about relativism and pluralism. Most of the theorists in these schools of thought talk about character-morality with a reference to moral character and social environment. Pluralists, besides relativists, indicate the presence of deeper and incommensurable conflicts that cannot be resolved through a universal standard morality. The following chapter will look into the aspect of the arguments of moral universalism and moral pluralism.


He, who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side; if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion. —John Stuart Mill

As discussed in the previous chapter, liberal moral philosophers explain that the conflict of preferences and values are indicated by the ambiguity in right choices. These set of philosophers assume that if agents possess morally and rationally justifiable preferences and values, then the conflict is more or less resolved. They have argued that the choice and preference of every agent need to be agent-neutral in order to pass through the test of objective justification. To follow appropriate rational-moral principles naturally resolves moral conflict or moral dilemma in question. This stand is central to moral Universalists according to whom a principle applies to all its instances in an identical manner. Universal morality provides justificatory reasons that all agents ideally agree under ideal situations of moral decision. Moral conflicts are resolved in this manner. Moral conflicts constitute one big dilemma, i.e., the problem of human freedom on the one hand, and the demands of moral objectivity on the other. In many issues of human life, the given situations denote the conflict between the subjective and the objective reasons. The problem is that moral principles are treated to be binding even though moral agents do not acknowledge them as genuinely right principles.1 It is also important to observe under what conditions moral objectivity, i.e., moral principles applicable to all are possible. It will be argued here that though moral

1 Huntington Terrell, “Moral Objectivity and Moral Freedom,” Ethics, 75.2 (January 1965): 117-127.

A Critique of Moral Foundationalism


universalists and objectivists firmly believe that moral objectivity can be derived from the imperfect conditions; moral objectivity cannot prevail over moral pluralism pejoratively.2 Under the cloud of such understanding morality operates on judgmental criteria only when agents put forth morally compelling reasons. The picture given to us by the universalists is that reasons have justificatory force that naturally makes a claim universally valid and justifiable to others. This claim seems to be far-fetched. In the interpersonal context, where multiple agents justify their differing preferences, beliefs and valueclaims, are unlikely to be driven by the objective criteria leading to moral consensus. The main reason for this is that several issues are tied to various values and beliefs in the interpersonal domain. They are many a time incommensurable in nature. Moral conflicts denote both moral disagreements among agents. In many cases, asking for commensurable rational principle may attract more adversaries than proponents. This multi-agent framework is an obvious habitation for diverse moral thinking and diverse forms of life. This is not an outright claim. There is a possibility that one can abstract single-agent dilemmas to interpersonal dilemmas. In such a possibility, it is natural that several agents come up with multiple value-claims having justificatory criteria and where every individual has claim the equal potential to become universal criteria. This is the position prior to moral deliberation. Once the deliberation takes place, it is assumed that unreasonable reasons are eliminated and an uncontroversial criterion is adopted. Logically speaking, there can be two views of morality: First, being subjective is treated as what is not interpersonally and morally justifiable. Second being objectively moral is to opt for what is rationally right and justifiable. One believes that the intractable differences and disagreements are due to lack of information on the part of the agents and the other believes that disagreements owe to the lack of consensus among the agents.3 Agents often face the tension between the choice of personal deeper convictions and objective right reasons. Moral foundationalists opine that being moral is desirable for ‘its own’ sake. That is to say that priority of morality supervenes all other aspects of preferences and values 2 See Nomy Arpaly, “On Acting against One’s Best Judgment,” Ethics, 110.3(April 2000): 488-513. 3 Russ Shafer-Landau, “Ethical Disagreement, Ethical Objectivism and Moral Indeterminacy,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 54.2(1994): 331344 at 331.


Chapter Three

Foundationalists assign intrinsic values to inescapability of morality, moral compulsion, moral imagination, and independence from arbitrary subjectivity.4 These notions are assumed to help us in rationally resolving our conflicts in times of dilemma and indecision. The Kantian framework considers a domain where morality is independent of social and psychological considerations. The rightness and wrongness of our actions are judged from this rational account of moral principles. In this theory, choices ought to be potentially universalizable, i.e., the reasons advanced are acceptable to all rational beings. Being moral is to follow these rationally defined universal rules and these automatically maximize moral values. Some of the critical interpreters of Kant put his idea as: Kantian morality offers a master value, reason, and principle to which all others are accountable. Such unifying sense of rational morality talks about all pervasive sense of morality. All agents with moral imagination coupled with the universalizable claims are able to fathom morally valid claims. The foundationalist framework assumes that there would not be any inconsistency in judging actions due to well-defined formal rational moral principles. Though our disagreements could be the result of personal conviction, the idea behind Kantian view is that all our interpersonal conflicts are rationally resolvable. In other words, if actions were motivated morally, if agents possess sufficient moral imagination and act upon possible generalizations, then answers to complex questions would be objective in nature. It further assumes that any claim beyond this framework would naturally be outside the domain or competence of morality. Thus, the foundationalist framework is averse to the idea of the possibility of multiple meanings of morality, rationality, rightness, and wrongness. In contrast to the moral universalism, we have two views of nonfoundationalism: moral pluralism and moral relativism. Philosophers often treat these two views as similar and interconnected. Non-foundationalists are occasional anti-foundationalists. They think that moral pluralism naturally leads to moral relativism. We shall have an occasion to discuss this. The current analysis connects these perspectives associated with the idea of multiple rationalities. The arguments to be examined in this chapter defend that moral pluralism does not necessarily lead to moral relativism 4

Peter Railton, “Some Questions About the Justification of Morality,” Philosophical Perspectives, 6(1992): 27-53 at 31, 41.

A Critique of Moral Foundationalism


though the former takes note of a descriptive account of relativism. Besides, we emphasize that pluralism shows sufficient reasons for moral disagreement and different points of view as implicit in all forms of moral deliberation. The study considers plurality and conflicts over rights and wrongs as essential features of modern societies. We insist that this approach would not lead to what critics fear as antithetical to morality. To be conscious of consistency in moral reasoning is one thing, and framing morality for the sake of theory is another. Conflict and moral disagreement can occur not only due to arbitrary subjective claims, but also due to the inadequacy of universal principles. No single moral theory is adequate enough to explain morality in totality. Conflict of value-claims and moral judgments indicate the existence of tension between universal principles and plural principles. In the universal framework, right for one must be right for another person in similar circumstances. This is unlikely to be the case always when different claims are made on a single issue from multiple views. The pluralistic framework highlights the principle of moral variance that moral point of view need not confine itself to monistic position. Critics of moral universalism generally argue that the universal framework overlooks the variance principle. In other words, it stands on the invariance principle that universal moral principles invariably apply to all the agents. The underlying idea is that the very notion of rational agency ensures objective agreement. On the contrary, we would like to state that to allow individual differences and autonomy is to make room for genuine disagreement over many issues. On the other hand, we will argue here that moral principles are applicable and function under the spirit of partial variance. A critical analysis of moral foundationalism is needed here to show that the relationship between claims and judgments are not by rule grounded in the principles of higher-abstraction, unconditional morality and supreme good. The interpersonal conflicts are not to be oversimplified with all the more simplistic answers. Resolution would not be based on a universal principle because all our disagreements cannot be treated on a similar plain. These conflicts can be categorized into realms of conflicts and degrees of conflicts, where resolvability applies differently in different domains. Degrees of conflicts indicate that some are easily resolvable, some are difficult yet can be resolved, and some others may be irresolvable at all. All these three types of conflicts are recognized in irreducible pluralism. The central point of this notion is that there are issues, domains and deliberative frameworks that are such that they cannot


Chapter Three

be reduced to any one unified view without curtailing the autonomy of individuals holding different views. Unity of views cannot be achieved without either abstraction or reductionism. Here, we are confronted with two significant frameworks: the moral foundationalist framework and the pluralist framework. What we agree with the Kantian foundationalist framework is that the notions of rational agency, kingdom of ends, moral worth, and universalizability have significant place in competing moral systems since they would constitute a meaningful life. But they are not absolute and all pervasive in the sense that all of them have a place in different moral systems. An agent’s lifeplan that satisfies the above conditions is not judged by the unconditional morality and supreme good. Both unconditional morality and Summum Bonum are problematic not because individuals do not want to be moral or follow moral principles, but because of the way they get manifested in terms of common morality and common good. As argued in chapters two, innumerable goals and issues are linked to agents’ manifold beliefs that constitute a life-plan. To have an a priori judgment over such beliefs is unreasonable. Many new issues spring up in the process of collective life. The negative aspect of the unconditional morality is that it tends to be narrow in the process of rational construction of right values and reasons. Keeping this in mind, we argue for multiple principles as the bases for our beliefs and actions. Moral pluralism would mean that conflicts are not merely resolved through overriding or unconditional moral principles. Our behavior is not to be guided by only a priori assumptions and mere intuitive knowledge. This point is significant because there is some perceivable gap between the prescriptive nature of morality and its practical application. In a contextual framework, we try to argue that context in which a person lives is certainly significant in the sense that morality cannot be independent of one’s desires and preferences. It means rational agents are also prospective purposive agents. Though contextualism in this sense is no complete answer to the obscurity of interpersonal moral standards, it provides the insight for understanding the complexity of actual collective life. Further, it is important to show the relation between universalization and rationalization where right or wrong for one need not be right or wrong for all. Hence, universality too is a limited criterion. Moral universalists do not sufficiently acknowledge the complexity of collective life. They have a limited understanding of mutual co-existence

A Critique of Moral Foundationalism


and reciprocity between persons. For them, this mutual co-existence is to be guided by uniform moral principles. We propose minimal universalism as an alternative to this view where the principle, which is general, would be operative only within a domain and are not all-domain pervasive. It means that the primacy of foundational sense of objectivity cannot apply across the domains in the interpersonal framework. It also means that the application of moral reason and ethical consistency are bound to the domains of interpersonal conflicts. Minimal universalism also argues that judgments are not simple at a certain level of understanding interpersonal life. It seeks a renewed understanding of judgmentalism, i.e., whether an agent acted morally or not is not to be judged by the single conception of rational good, but by the plurality of rational goods. Moral agents need to keep this in mind while involving themselves in moral deliberation. It makes the liberal conception of autonomous morality and rationality more meaningful. The idea is that agents differ over what is right and what is wrong, what is moral and what is rational etc., over several issues. Judgmentalism of this kind strengthens the view that the interpersonal domain appreciates the values of individual differences. Our notion of pluralism based on the understanding that different points of view are not because of belongingness to different types of communities, groups, cultures etc., but because of differences in the capacities of different persons to think differently. Here, there is a clash between two supposed counter claims: One, different rational agents have diverse thinking and second, though they are driven by diversity yet they ought to have rationally objective claims. To defend a pluralist account of morality we need to highlight the notion of realms of morality. It helps one to comprehend how morality is defined from the perspective of judgmentalism. When we say that morality is plural, we do not negate the possibility of arriving at the conclusion as to what is right or wrong in an interpersonal context. Realms of morality would mean that morality is domain-specific. Nevertheless, it does not mean that certain realms sanction immoral actions. Irrespective of several differences these different forms of life have minimum sense of universal right and good.

The Arguments of Moral Foundationalism According to moral universalism, morality is defined a priori. It consists of principles that are to be followed for their own sake. What is a good


Chapter Three

form of life, what are the right choices, how should one live, what is socially rational etc., are determined by those a priori universal principles. Morality in the universalistic framework is called rational account of morality. It would imply that being a social agent, there are certain moral principles that s/he is bound to follow. The preferences, beliefs and actions should have reasons justifiable from these universal principles. Further, these preferences, beliefs and actions should have impersonal and interpersonal value. These reasons and principles are autonomous in nature, independent from any particular conceptions of right and wrong. A complex social life requires a multi-dimensional understanding of issues involved in it. These different dimensions are valuable for different reasons. They also come in conflict with each other for justification provided agents have diverse views. It is natural to find conflicting values because different persons have different understanding of life. This understanding is associated with complex set of experiences that form certain beliefs and values. Agents’ value-claims are based on these beliefs and values. These value-claims may differ or overlap with one another. But they are not necessarily universal in the sense that one’s value-claims on certain issues in certain domain are not necessarily the values of others on those issues in those domains. Conflict of value-claims makes the judgmental process complicated. Moral philosophers who claim that moral dilemmas should be completely rationally resolved assume that the moral theory should be able to provide reasonable rules, principles, and norms. One aspect of these moral theories can be plausibly taken, that we ought to differentiate between genuine moral conflicts and nominal moral conflicts. It is very apt to present Kurt Baier’s observation here.5 Let us relate this claim to his example. The inability of the moral theory to provide a solution to the interpersonal conflict of ‘acquiring the possession’ refers back to his position. Based on the principle of universal ethical egoism, each of the two agents wants to possess the land. Is it possible? As it is not possible, for Kurt Baier, it gives rise to interpersonal conflict thus proving it as inadequate. But no moral theory is to be abandoned so simply. In this sense, no single moral system provides a way out for a proper conception of social harmony in an adequate sense. It can be conceived only when internal harmony adds up to social harmony under the principle of universalization. But it does not; 5

”Ethical Egoism and Interpersonal Incompatibility,” Philosophical Studies, 24(1977): 357-368 at 364. Also see Terrence McConnell, “Interpersonal Moral Conflicts,” Nous, 20.1(March 1986): 76.

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the example provided by Baier only shows the dilemma between two agents. Such complexity can be imagined where multiple agents are involved in appropriation. In contrast to universalism, we may note that moral conflicts could be different for multi-agents in the interpersonal framework.6 In the social framework, the issues could be such that value conflicts could be at the level of individual versus the collective, or could be at the social level itself among different groups. A moral rule for a single-agent may come in conflict with the collective in the interpersonal context. There are manifold issues where agents objectively agree what is right or wrong for one is right or wrong for anyone that a single-agent moral rule applies similarly to all. For instance, it is morally wrong of an individual to ill-treat another person. This applies to one and all in an identical way due to the demand of ethical consistency. It is also rationally justified to extend such objective moral rule to all applicable cases. However, there are instances where reasons for certain beliefs are not objective. These beliefs are based on the understanding of those particular issues of concern. For instance, inspired by the writings of Marx, an individual may believe that there should be classless society. It does not follow logically from that all persons ought to have faith in a classless society, unless dictated upon them. In the former case, if one disagrees to generalize and extend the rule to cover all persons, then the person can be accused of violation of moral principles. But in the second case, such an accusation cannot be made; every agent has autonomy to hold different views of social structure. To seek answers in the Kantian way would be to admit moral judgments in the categorical sense. In the Kantian world, morality is independent of desires that have direct relationship between moral judgments and moral motivation. There are certain moral principles that agents have to follow as categorical imperatives. Not to follow them is unconditionally wrong. Such beliefs will not have justificatory value. It is wrong to ill-treat others in the name of caste, religion, and class; it is morally right to keep promises, be honest, and respect one’s parents in all circumstances. The point made is that there are certain aspects of human conduct that could be rationally judged with a standard measuring rod. But there is certain other aspect of human conduct where this rational judgment is an inappropriate principle. 6 See Bernard Williams, Moral Luck: Philosophical Papers, 1973-1980 (London: Cambridge University Press, 1981).


Chapter Three

Kantians prefer to maintain that a rational account of morality is necessary for various reasons. One substantial reason is that every person is bestowed with the capacity to give valid reasons for her/his beliefs and actions. S/he should be able to show the interpersonal value of claims made. Rational agents possess this capacity. They are guided by practical reason and supreme moral principles. Morality, in this sense, demands certain rational behavior from individuals, whose choices are supposed to have objective value. The purpose of rational agency is to reach objectivity from the given differences of the agents.7 Here, agency has a specific role of satisfying the demands of morality and rationality.8 These demands lay obligations on moral agents to abide by independent moral standards of rightness and wrongness. Kantians assume that reciprocity, fairness, and equal consideration of all interests are implicit in this rational account of morality. A problem arises here. Kant recognizes persons as autonomous agents9, yet binds them to an a priori universal morality. The argument can be related to the fundamental assumption of social contract liberalism. Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau prefer individual autonomy yet purport certain restrictions on the freedom of individuals. Three of them explain this in a different way. Kant’s idea can be understood in the similar sense. We are autonomous does not sanction that no rule can judge our actions as permissive or not. The analysis should be two ways, from autonomy to moral rules and vice versa. This supposition does not need to make any distinction between individual and collective rationality. However, we need to make a distinction between individual rationality and collective rationality. Let us consider the example of what we call individual good and collective good. The virtue of common good does not necessarily overlap with individual good if we recognize individual autonomy. Based on this observation, one can say that there is a substantial area of human affairs where individual and collective rationality are always at odds. The notion of rationality is quite general in Kant and Kantians. Moreover, since rationality is a general term having different shades of meaning, there 7 David O. Brink, “A Puzzle About the Rational Authority of Morality,” Philosophical Perspectives, 9(1992): 1-26. 8 David O. Brink, “Reasonable Morality,” Ethics, 104.3(April 1994):593-619 (Review Essay). Gerald F. Gaus, “The Demands of Impartiality and the Evolution of Morality”. 9 Nelson T. Potter & Mark Timmons, Morality And Universality: Essays in Ethical Universalizability (Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1985).

A Critique of Moral Foundationalism


would be different justifications even for rationally approved cases in the same context. This is why shared reasons do not necessarily mean that every rational person would make similar choice, live similar form of life, or have interpersonal or objective understanding of different issues of life. There are certain levels at which individual rationality and the collective rationality diverges from each other. In issues such as preference-satisfaction, choice of better goods, interpretation of ideas, etc., individual and collective rationality would generally differ. Due to this reason, what is rational for an individual is rational for a collective and vice-versa is not a necessary truth. Pluralism does not view rationality this way. Rationality is not an absolutely objective concept. It means that by virtue of autonomy of reason itself, persons are able to view things in various ways that are to be considered as right ways. What is needed is the respect for each other’s notions of right reasons. To the extent reason can guide our actions, one can speak of rationality as the normative principle in the context of decision-making and conflict resolution. In this normative framework too one need not claim that one single answer will serve all interests, all situations and all questions. At the interpersonal level, we cannot take these norms to be strictly unconditional in nature. Since the moral values could be different in different domains, they are also not all pervasive. For the reconciliation of equality of value-claims, we argue that besides moral obligations, rational self-interest does not generally go against morality. In the interpersonal context an autonomous free will with its rational capacities co-exists with other free wills.10 The rules of co-existence lay down universal normative reasons that all agents should follow since the complexity of the social context are irreducible to a simple formula. Kantians would naturally ask us why persons cannot follow fixed moral rules for mutual co-existence. For example, Korsgaard would question that in what way persons are antagonistic to normative rules. For her, the rational self-reflective nature of agents itself is sufficient to admit normative reasons for actions.11 She seems to argue that these reasons ought to be followed irrespective of the contexts. Thus universalizability is tied to the principle of ethical consistency. Ethical consistency in the Kantian perspective lies in the logical features than the mere psychological 10 See Richard E. Flathman, The Philosophy and Politics of Freedom (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1987), p. 118. 11 Christine M. Korsgaard, The Sources of Normativity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996). Also see Rachel Cohen, “The Roots of Reason,” The philosophical Review, 109.1(January 200): 63-85 at 65.


Chapter Three

ones. The opposition is not to reason, but to the universality of reasons that determine the rightness of what we choose and value. Our point is that there should be plurality of ‘right and wrong’, i.e., reason has to be freed from the unification aspect. The disagreement with Korsgaard is regarding the unconditional nature of moral principles. It is quite acceptable to define ethical consistency as, “If an act is right or wrong for one agent in a certain circumstance, then it is right for any agent in the similar circumstance”.12 However, to commit to this is not to commit to the universalistic framework, as it is not deterministic. We insist that the ethical context most often is not as simple as this theory assumes it to be. As mentioned earlier, there can be different domains linked to an issue of ethical conflict. For instance, consider a few domains such as, the domain of education, health, profession, economic and political. One might think that economic way of looking at injustice in all these domains could be all pervasive. However, a fraction of reflection would give us the idea that justice in the realm of education and health cannot be measured with monetary values. For instance, how much is the value of a life or the value of knowledge cannot be judged in terms of (mere) monetary criterion. Nathan Rotenstreich makes an interesting exposition of Kantian position. He considers that the dignity of the man given as a prior principle. Even the concept of reciprocity follows in some sense from the dignity of man.13 Further, social, cultural and moral institutions are created on the basis of the dignity of human beings where they have mutually defined and undefined obligations. Even the universalization of the maxims, rationally arriving at universal moral principles etc. are the requirements springing from the concern for others. The Neo-Kantians have argued that the universal or the higher-order principles assimilate the plural values.14 For Kantians, duty to others is mediated by the duty to the universal moral laws and vice-versa. Rotenstreich states that Kantian universal principles presuppose humanity. It means that Kant had a panoptic view about the rational and moral construction of a social order. 12 In the case of Kant, ethical consistency is force of categorical imperative; those actions whose maxims cannot be valid consistently as universal laws of nature are unacceptable. Nelson T. Potter & Mark Timmons, Morality And Universality: Essays in Ethical Universalizability, xiii & xv. 13 Reflection And Action (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1985), p. 178. 14 Simone Chambers. Reasonable Democracy: Jurgen Habermas and the Politics of Discourse (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996), 159.

A Critique of Moral Foundationalism


The term desirable has several meanings, among which moral desirability may be considered prominent one since we are deliberating on moral conflicts. One might say that to conceive a rational community is to level conflict as either non-consequential or disregard it as unworthy to endure with. It is true that unworthy goals are not desirable, but the desirability criterion is not always guided by unconditional moral good in every instance. Unconditional moral principles are not relevant in judging agents because it does not allow different moral rights into its purview. If we are, then there are fewer options left for self-defining subjects as creative beings. Then, the reasonable reason of Scanlon too may not operate in an effective manner to know the reasons for differences in moral point of view. Interpersonal domain is not constructed with only unconditional principles of rational-morality. Such rational method may not be able to suffice the whole process of moral deliberation. For instance, Rawls’s well-ordered society will be a weak notion if it is guided by mere two principles of justice.15 It works because these principles of justice are associated with the basic structure of society. Korsgaard and Onora O’Neill come to the rescue of Kant by defending the notion of unconditional morality and supreme good. Every rational will, according to Korsgaard should will unconditionally such that they are not disruptive to happiness. Korsgaard’s defense of Kant comes from the notion of constructivism. Her position is that there is no reason why normative rules, when constructed, are not applicable to all.16 O’Neill’s point is that of moral worth that proves right to internal rather than external actions.17 These two arguments would convey that those ends that pass the test of universalization and moral worth do not conflict with one another. It means that every rational agent’s life-plan is constitutive of ends that are unconditional, ultimate, possess intrinsic moral worth etc.


The two principles of justice are basic liberties for all under any circumstance and greatest advantage to the greatest disadvantaged. 16 Christine M. Korsgaard, Creating the Kingdom of Ends (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 119-122. For the latter argument, refer Christine M. Korsgaard, “Realism and Constructivism in the Twentieth Century Moral Philosophy,” Philosophy in America at the Turn of the Century (Harvard: Philosophy Documentation Center, 2003): 99-122. Onora O’Neil, The Constructions of Reasons (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995). 17 Nelson T. Potter & Mark Timmons, Morality and Universality: Essays in Ethical Universalizability, xxiv-xxv.


Chapter Three

Reason and morality are certainly inescapable for every agent. In the foundational framework, reciprocal recognition of reasons forms the basis for objective morality. The important point to be noted here is: reciprocity influences agents’ value judgments where personal point of view is at times in dispute with impersonal or rational value. Kantians argue that the impersonal point of view only can bring justification to the agents’ preferences and values. The resolution that could be found in this framework is the reconciliation of authority of morality. It has an implicit understanding that in accepting the rational authority of morality, one recognizes the presence of others’ interests, and in turn it benefits herself/himself. In Kant, reciprocity and persons as ends-in-themselves go together. Korsgaard attempts to strengthen Kant’s position by emphasizing the reflective nature, i.e., making reason normative. She calls this as reflective endorsement. Reciprocity is the normative recognition of respect for persons. It also speaks of autonomy of reason, i.e., reason internal to every rational agent. Korsgaard seems to assume that reflective endorsement combines both the self and the other. It seems similar to moral imagination, the connection of I and We. This may not work all the time. The reason is I cannot reconcile or comprehend the world of other(s) with a mere speculation of how their world would be unless I am given adequate information about the world view of others. In the case of Kantian morality, reciprocity is implicit agents’ adherence to moral principles. Such recognition would sometimes be adequate to preempt the possibility of multiple rationalities. The Kantian conceptions of practical reason and morality keep alive the tension between the ideal world and the empirical world.18 Rational agents are capable of moral reasoning and moral imagination. But certain issues need interpersonal (multi-agent) deliberation, where the 18

See The Sources of Normativity and also Kenneth Baynes, “The Transcendental Turn: Habermas’s Kantian Pragmatism” in Fred Rush ed., Cambridge Companion to Critical Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp.193-218 at 207. Similar argument can be traced in Scanlon’s Contractualism. Critical reflection about reasons for action is a process of characterizing more exactly the reason putatively grasped in a state of this kind, and exploring its implications for other, related situations and cases. See R. Jay Wallace, “Scanlon’s Contractualism,” Ethics, 112(April 2002): 429-470 at 432. Also See Thomas Scanlon, What We Owe To Each Other (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001).

A Critique of Moral Foundationalism


rules are discovered through collective reasoning. In this sense, individual reason and collective reason have reciprocal relationship. Individuals have to reciprocate values in the sense that they should recognize that the collective is not driven by uniform morality. Rather, there should be a recognition rule that accounts for differences among agents in the context of unanticipated situations. Korsgaard’s position is admissible to the extent that an agent can comprehend the moral universe with rational agency. But this comprehension is not complete, in that moral agents may not be able to grasp the details, but only have a speculated view pertaining to only one domain. This can be inferred from the writings of Kantians themselves. Rawls follows the method of avoidance of conflict by bringing in the concept of procedural justice and burdens of reasons. His notion explains burdens of judgment, i.e., recognition of different comprehensive values that are mutually contradictory in nature. By linking agents’ claims to realms of moral deliberation, we maintain that agents’ claims can be sought plural justification in different domains. This process would explain the significance of disagreement within a diverse social framework. The moral disagreement is not just due to agents’ irrational claims, but also due to what Stevenson and Brentano qualify as disagreement in belief and attitude.19 Also the presence of agents’ irreducible moral standpoints should be taken into consideration. The exercise of freedom is explained with respect to rightful actions by Kantians. These actions are based on general concept of right independent of good of agents. It means that it is not only important about what kinds of actions are performed but also what are the actions worthy of being performed that have intrinsic value. But this need not be the case. The knowledge of the Kantian rational agent may not be so broad enough that an agent would reconcile that the other agent has a drastically different understanding of the world. Whether it is possible for a principle or not can also be contested. The agency in the Kantian framework cannot take the burdens of explanation of diverse points of view. For example, my beliefs and actions may prove quite contrary to another person’s value, yet are not immoral. In many instances, agents are expected to make a clear distinction between domains of competence of individuals and collective. This needs a certain significance that has to be attached to the freedom itself. In other words, an action of a person affects the domains of others.20 19

Thomas L. Carson,Status of Morality (Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1984). Charles L. Stevenson, Ethics and Language (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1944). 20 Jeremy Waldron, Human Rights: Collected Papers, 1981-1991(Cambridge:


Chapter Three

It is possible, as we have argued elsewhere about the causal connection among agents; an action committed by one agent would affect other agents as well. The notion of personhood is important not only in understanding the interpersonal but also in the resolution of moral conflicts. Korsgaard states that we must assume ourselves as reflective beings, who must act as source of reason. Let us examine rational self and the constitutive self in contrast with one another. Rational self is the self that chooses only universally or generally valuable things and avoids all kinds of ambiguity. The claim of the moral objectivists is that unless we admit the independent and rational nature of moral rules, an agent cannot be assumed to have respect for other agents. A reflective self thus yields to the demands of morality. On the other hand, a constitutive self takes note that the notion of reflective self has limited applicability. The constitutive self has two principal characteristics- individual autonomy and social agency. It indicates that there are different and differing reasons for our claims and actions, which have equal potential to be right and wrong. It does not negate the requisiteness of rational character. The agent realizes these from the notions of domains of conflict. But, it also has to be viewed from the dimension of realms of morality. If we can distinguish between a deeper difference and an ordinary difference, the former is viewed from a substantial moral principle and latter is judged from the pragmatic point of view. With these characteristics, an agent would balance individual autonomy and collective consciousness. In his second Critique, Kant states, “our intelligible existence gives us a higher vocation. This vocation is to help make the world a rational place, by contributing to the production of the highest Good.” This is related to the Korsgaard’s position that “in order to see my life as worth living and my action as worth undertaking under any description whatever... I must value my reflective nature.”21 It is irrational to argue against the principle of highest good and the reflective nature of human beings.22 We can Cambridge University Press, 1993), p. 116. 21 Quoted in Christine M. Korsgaard, Creating the Kingdoms of Ends, p. 169. Rachel Cohen, “The Roots of Reasons”p. 76 and also Christine M. Korsgaard, “Morality as Freedom,” in Yirmayahu Yovel, ed., Practical Philosophy Reconsidered: Papers Presented at the Seventh Jerusalem Philosophical Encounter, Dec 1996 (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1989), 23-48. 22 A. P. Brogan, “Objective Pluralism in the Theory of Value,” International Journal of Ethics, 41.3(April 1031): 287-295 at 290.

A Critique of Moral Foundationalism


respond to Kant in two ways: First, there is no single highest good. Summum Bonum is not relevant here to the notion of good we are concerned with.23 Rather, we hold that there are many higher goods from which individual makes autonomous choices. Second, the highest good is not to be determined by a generic understanding of Supreme Good. The reflective nature of human beings should enable the rational agents to respect and reconcile the diversity of human condition. By stating this, we note that the status of morality falls in between generic sense of morality and absolute relativism. Let us come to the point of universalization in the foundational framework. According to Marcus Singer’s Generalization Principle (GP): Since the consequence of everyone’s doing the same act would be undesirable, no one has the right to act that way without a proper justification. In other words, “what is right for one person must be right for any similar person in similar circumstances”.24 For him, moral judgments are governed by the generalization principle. The justification for an action can be given by considering the consequences of the contemplated action. Therefore, justification in terms of consequences though is respectable, but not applicable in all the cases. Singer’s generalization principle is definitely is as powerful as Kantian in the sense that whichever principle that can be shown to be categorical imperatives, can also be shown to be utilitarian. Kantian principle is incapable of discriminating and hence, if something is right for all, it ought to be so even for a utilitarian. However, Singer’s principle can be taken to be more powerful than Kantian in one way. If the consequence is good even if all do not follow it, still it could be justified on consequentialist account.


Pluralists like Raz, Galston, Bernard Williams, Hampshire, Kekes, Berlin, Rescher etc. have made this point very clear in their writings. They argue that the idea of good is not determined by the notion of supreme good. For example, Stuart Hampshire states that good is not determined by something unconditional or supreme. Rather, it is constituted by conflict of several virtues that are of equal importance. See his Morality and Conflict (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1983). p...... 24 See his “Universalization and the General Principle,” pp. 47-74. Also see Generalization in Ethics (New York: Alfred & Knopf, 1961). For Hare’s argument, see Freedom and Reason (Oxford: Oxford university Press, 1963), p. 21. When it is wrong for one person to do x, then it is wrong for anyone to do x in similar circumstance. Gewirth explains the argument of Marcus Singer in his paper, “The Generalization Principle,” The Philosophical Review, 73(1964): 229242 at 235


Chapter Three

The implication of ‘similar cases should be viewed similarly’ is that language is rule governed and the rationality too has to be rule governed. This being so, any judgment pronounced on one thing based on a principle, ought to be pronounced on another thing, which has exactly the same features. This is due to the demand for consistency. However, if the individuals are different, or if the circumstances are different or if the principles that are used to judge the circumstances are different, then there is no obligation to judge any two of them in identical manner. Alan Gewirth explains that the GP is different from this question as the generalization is concerned about the idea of moral rightness. The idea of “similar person” is not applicable in the case of Singer. Rather, it seems that Singer, like other moral universalists, might have assumed that all rational beings are similar and equal. They may be equal only as being moral agents, but their capacities and their positioning with respect to one another are different. Therefore, it may be futile to think of one yardstick across the domains to measure different individuals as mentioned earlier. Emphasis on ‘similar person’ would also explain the notion of rolereversibility. It means that it is wrong for one to treat others as merely means to realize her/his goals. If I were you, I would make the same judgment in a similar situation. Anyone in my shoes would make such judgments. If this were so, then the judgment should not be based on the agent’s desires and interests. Both Hare and Singer would be asking us to judge from the rational point of view, independent from our desires or personal points of view. The reason behind this demand is because we need an interpersonal validity of our claims, we need to make impartial judgments. In the above example, not to make others as means to our ends overrides the inclination of fulfilling one’s desires. But, can we avoid personal point of view over what is moral? Universalizability may not be a disputable idea in the case of ethical conflicts. Yet, one cannot avoid disagreement sometimes with the criteria and subsequent process of universalization. In the case of interpersonal moral conflicts, we are presented with a number of substantive issues. I and everyone in my place would agree to the point that one has to choose a right way of life agreeable to all. If we put forth a subsidiary argument that a rightful life is seen in different forms, then the claim may not fulfill the criterion that all agents would have the knowledge of all/the right way(s) of life.

A Critique of Moral Foundationalism


Critics rightly argue that the universalization principle can only give you the role-shift test to achieve treating similar things similarly or to do justice to all that are similar. This principle can handle only homogeneous cases and simpler issues. Only in such circumstances, hypothetical cases are treated as the actual cases in the foundational framework. In many of the cases, the universalization formula is not potential enough to distinguish the cases in which role-reversibility test fails to apply.25 We do not formulate moral laws without presupposing some kind of exceptions. Not only universality works with exceptions, it goes beyond the consideration of persons as mere persons. We would go along Gewirth’s claim26 that GP is relevant in those cases where there are strict procedures or rule-application. But the domains of morality and the complex nature of moral issues limit the applicability of this principle. Another aspect is that Singer would have been interested in questioning the very nature of right. If a right is an a priori supposition, then it would not take new information into consideration. We cannot rule out a priori the relevance of new information throwing light on the moral issue. In such cases of moral judgments, moral agents may judge each other wrongly since they lose sight of the facts that may be relevant. Often each moral issue creates a different condition of moral deliberation. Suppose that there are a certain number of agents within a domain of deliberation. If all the agents were expected to make a judgment at a time, then how would this GP work? How does one set the relevant similarities and differences? Human purpose is one important aspect in Singer’s thesis. It would mean that what is right may be determined by a purpose. Purposes differ from individual to collective. These purposes may be cohesive or might come in conflict with another. If it is the case that they are in conflict with one another, then we cannot justify all the purposes. Gewirth develops the idea of categorical obligation, based on the Principle of Categorical Consistency (PCC). According to this principle, an agent should apply to others all those categorical moral rules that s/he applies to her/himself. This reciprocal relationship should be in accordance to the notion of generic rights.27 In his case too, if some act is right for 25

Harry S. Silverstein, “Universalizability and Treating Persons as Persons,” The Journal of Philosophy, 71.3(1974): 57-71 at 64. 26 Alan Gewirth, “The Generalization Principle,” The Philosophical Review, 71.2(April 1964): 229-242. 27 Apply to your recipient the same categorical rules of action that you apply to yourself...that all moral agents must, on the pain of contradiction, accept that every


Chapter Three

one, then it is right for every other person in similar circumstance. Concept of general right conceives agent-recipient relationship. This relationship is further substantiated by two categorical principles: voluntary participation, and freedom and well-being. These two principles convey that morality should not be enforced upon agents. This idea of PCC can be related to his idea of principle of generic consistency, where he argues that each agent should reciprocally recognize other agents having similar set of human rights. The requirements of the generalization principle are categorically obligatory. In compliance with them it is mandatory for the conduct of every person regardless of whether they want to accept them or not. Singer supports Gewirth’s remark that moral requirement cannot be overridden by a non-moral requirement.28 It can be asked here whether categorical consistency assures that the agent-recipient relationship also conceives reciprocal cooperation. Gewirth’s argument should turn this way: If an agent supposes that another agent should accept her/his claims, then, by the virtue of PCC, s/he should accept the claims of the former. Gewirth’s voluntary and purposive principles can be considered to have a general application. It has to reconcile with the fact that an agent’s certain moral standpoints are disagreeable to another. This principle should be self-imposed. This will help PCC from turning out to be a very rigid principle. In this sense, it can become a categorical general rule to be followed by both the agents and the recipients. It needs to be noted that the true sense of reciprocity is absent in Gewirth’s principle. If moral rules are categorical that no agent can fail to conform, Gewirth’s argument, as Gregory Lycon rightly argues, becomes merely analytic.29 But if there is no coercion, then one can assert easily plural values. A non-categorical conception of PCC would certainly result in the prevention of an agent’s arbitrary unilateral decisions. By non-categorical Prospective Purposive Agent (PPA) should act in accord with the generic rights of the recipients of his actions.. See his Human Rights: Essays in Justification and Application (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982). 28 See Marcus Singer, “Universalization and the General Principle,” pp. 47-74. Alan Gewirth, Reason and Morality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978). Also see his “Categorical Consistency in Ethics,” Philosophical Quarterly, 17.69(Oct 1967): 289-299. Also mentioned in Self-fulfillment (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998). 29 W. Gregory Lycon, “Hare, Singer and Gewirth on Universalizability,” The Philosophical Quarterly, 19.75(April 1990): 135-144.

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conception, we mean to state that the categories of rightness and wrongness among agents should avoid a priori categorization. This is pertinent to moral deliberation because Gewirth’s reference to first-order moral principles is too general to tackle moral conflicts. The point we make here is that the a priori first-order moral principles only lay down the basic idea of both equality and justice. But the issues of moral conflicts are so complex that these general principles alone cannot handle the conflicting situations. If PCC is related to the discussion of the recognition of differences, agent-recipient relationship becomes stronger. To argue for moral equality, we need to conceive a plural condition of deliberation. The supreme moral principle in Gewirth’s case tries to establish a sense of reciprocity that is very limited. Social relationships go far ahead than mere recognition of generic notion of life-plan30. The question that Gewirth needs to answer is that how PCC understands the reciprocal comprehension of substantive issues. Two important points can be stated here: One, the basis of justification of claims should be grounded in general principles. Second, moral commitment is questioned by the non-neutral interpersonal principles.31 Waldron elaborately discusses the first point. We can take up the same question for arguing moral equality. We understand moral equality as multiple principles possessing the potential to be justifiable claims. Moral equality further pronounces that one has a moral right to do something. It does not mean that an agent is permitted to make a claim that is not a permissible one. Permissibility can extend beyond what is morally required. Mackie’s point is that only morally permissible actions are the subject matter of moral rights.32 This will narrow down the scope of our preferences and choices. One can ask as to how broad be the scope of morality in this context. Unless the rightness of choices is taken out of the unconditional moral domain, Mackie’s point won’t be treated as feasible. Whatever one claims is expected to have general or generalizable value. Waldron’s degree of generality is concerned about only particular rights that have general applicability. He distinguishes his principle of generality 30

Generic can be taken as the set of say, basic rights. For the first point, see Jeremy Waldron, “A Right to Do Wrong,” Ethics, 92.1(Oct 1981): 21-39 [Special issue on rights]. For the second point, see Richard Wayner, “Rights, Rationality and the Preemption of Reasons,” Chicago Kent-Law Review, 79.109(2004): 1091-1109. 32 Waldron rightly states that the limitation of rights to morally rightful actions would impoverish the content of the theory of rights. See “A Right to Do Wrong,” p. 36. 31


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from Hare’s principle of universality. His conception of ‘set of rights being represented as rights-statements’ aids agents where universal principles fail. We can mention our life-plan example here. Unless agents are clear about what is to be mutually reciprocated, independent rightsclaims or priority of right will not be able to serve the real purpose of equality. Moral judgments would be comparatively less ambiguous with this approach. Waldron’s method needs to explain how an individual claim can become a general claim. Also it needs to be explained as to how we derive hierarchy of rights-claims. If we are not able to go beyond mere abstraction, we might be rendering liberalism’s ‘rational-ordering’ as the only valid one. The demand is that whatever one claims to be valuable should have some general value. On the prima facie it seems appropriate. But in the moral deliberative aspect, one agent has to take extra efforts to convince others of the value of her/his claim and vice-versa. Don Loeb very well argues that different people are committed to moral principles in varying degrees. It is right and does not make the claim whimsical. Taking this into account we can say those different moral agents’ claims may have varying degrees of generality. Loeb is further right in arguing that rejecting the demands for generality would not mean rejecting any role at all for general moral principles. The need is that as Loeb too argues, we should balance both general moral convictions and personal commitments.33 One has to be aware of the scope and need of general principles. Waldron’s idea will have wider recognition, as they seem to have deeper relevance to that of Gewirth’s idea of principle of generic consistency.34 It is important to confirm this because we have argued that the interpersonal conflicts are so complex that generality does not percolate to all the domains of deliberation. We need to make space for the wider recognition of diversity and difference. Nicholas Rescher makes an appropriate observation that foundational moral rules are in fact capable of providing answers to the only simple questions.35 He rightly argues that generalization principle does not stand on the all-governing maxims. He says that morality should embrace potential discordant moral consideration. 33

Don Loeb, “Generality and Moral Justification,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 56.1(March 1996): 79-96 at 93-96. 34 Alan Gewirth, Human Rights: Essays on Justification and Applications. 35 Nicholas Rescher, “Reasoned Justification in Moral Judgments,” The Journal of Philosophy, 55.6(March 13, 1986): 248-255.

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Rescher’s argument has considerable strength. While discussing about moral judgments, he refers to reasonableness in ethics, which presupposes rationality and reasonableness of the interlocutors. We may observe that in a moral deliberative framework, the way agents act as interlocutors treat each other, as discussants, adversaries, rivals etc., is as important as agents’ consent to a shared principle. He is right in arguing that morality is not axiomatic or deductive, but has to be discussed in layers of justification. His idea also opposes moral consensus, which is the basis of moral foundationalism.36 This can be related to our idea of realms of morality or morality being applied differently to different domains. From the above discussion, it is clear that universalization has a specific applicability in the ethical conflicts. It will face serious problems of applicability where issues are substantial in the sense that agents have distinct point of views. For instance, basic liberties of Rawls could be derived from original position where the procedure of universalization perfectly works. What is considered, as a basic liberty for one individual is also the basic liberty for all, then only we can talk about an objective social minimum? On the other hand, substantive freedoms are treated by Rawls himself as comprehensive, and conflict resolution of these freedoms is dependent on the persons’ reasonable agreements. Single-agent and multi-agent frameworks are different in the sense that the possibility of difference among agents has an equal force as that of overlapping views. The above arguments would also indicate that a multi-agent framework is not guided by mere self-evident rational-moral principle, but also by those agreed rules through various modes of deliberation. Gilbert Harman views this as a shift from special foundation of morality to general foundations, where agreed principles outnumber self-evident principles.37 These modes of deliberation are guided by the recognized rules and values of interpersonal concern. These recognized values are reciprocity, fairness, and cooperation. We have to explain that pluralism has specific relation to universal, normative and general rules. These values too possess the force of encompassing all the domains within the private and the public life. Nevertheless, Kantians would ask us why a moral agent cannot use the objective sense of reasons in all contexts. This question is not to be overlooked by a mere mention of plurality as one of the essential 36

Nicholas Rescher, Against the Demand for Consensus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995). 37 Gilbert Harman, “Three Trends in Moral and Political Philosophy,” [Typed Draft].


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conditions. We need to put more efforts to claim that in different domains of collective life, one cannot imagine or expect the mere presence of only those moral principles that all ideally agree to be applicable in all conditions. However, to advance such arguments we need to state how significant the context of moral choice is. The context of moral choice would enable us to establish a proper relationship between the universal and the particular in a social framework.

Context and Moral Judgment The tension between universalism and particularism in morality invokes two important questions: one, why a context cannot be guided by a universal principle? And second, why we cannot achieve rational moral agreement and objectively judge even if we live with diverse preferences and values? These questions would be answered in this section. Further, we would argue for the priority of irreducible pluralism. By contexts, we are not discussing an agent’s dilemma to choose this or that from a rational point of view. As discussed in the above section, we are only trying to state that the foundational sense of objective morality and rationality cannot be the ground for dealing with dilemmas of the collective or the interpersonal framework. The term context is to be understood in this sense. Our claim is that reference to context of moral decision deepens the scope of too general universal principles. We can understand the nature of interpersonal moral conflicts if we have given sufficient importance to contexts of moral choice and decision. Contexts ensure the relevance of universal moral principles. When every agent deliberates with other agent, s/he has a certain understanding of a moral system and the context of deliberation. Therefore, a deliberative framework witnesses the contestation of several moral systems in a diverse society. The situations sometimes are so indecisive that no framework would allow an objective moral rule following. In such domains, conflicts fall in the category of iresolvability. Then, how does the moral deliberation and resolution of conflict take place? Of course, moral deliberation on difficult and hard cases needs to take place with no hope of perfect consensus. The notion of moral equality also presupposes moral pluralism. It means that there are diverse moral values, relational and pluralistic, yet are not whimsical in nature. We intend to claim persistently that what is right or

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wrong with respect to agents’ preferences, choices, and values are determined by multiple rational preferences.38 We confront here two claims: First, as a rational being, what I include into my life-plan should fulfill the principle of moral worth, with a rationalist account of ethics and impartiality. And secondly, moral-ethical behavior has no escape from biased judgments.39 Both these claims refer to an ability of a moral agent and the demands of morality. Numerous debates have gone into these aspects. Moral philosophers differ in their arguments by saying that, on the one hand, agents ought to be impartial in all situations and on the other hand, it is not immoral if one makes biased preferences. These claims direct our argument to the scope and the limits of morality. We claim that an agent should neither be impartial totally nor should s/he be totally partial towards various aspects of life. To be objective and impartial totally would be to have no motivation to act, and unmotivated action cannot be considered worthy of ethical considerations. And further, if anyone is only partial and biased, the person is likely to be morally blind. Therefore, we commit to the stand that an agent should have interest in what s/he should do and at the same time should not be totally lead by personal considerations only. Our earlier categorization of issues into domains will help to understand the complexity of the situation. In addition to this problem of partiality and impartiality, the same criterion of what is justice in one domain does not remain the criterion to measure what is just and unjust in another domain. It is unrealistic to assume that one can resolve this riddle completely. Susan Wolf is right in arguing that imagining complete resolvable situation is to assume moral agents as moral saints.40 38

Isaiah Berlin, Four Essays on Liberty (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984). Joseph Raz, The Morality of Freedom (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986). A. P. Brogan, “Objective Pluralism in the Theory of Value” William Galston, “Defending Liberalism,” The American Political Science Review, 76.3(1982):621629. John Kekes, The Morality of Pluralism (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1993.). Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985). Susan Wolf “Two Levels of Pluralism,” Ethics, 102(1992):785-798. 39 For this, refer Philip Clayton & Steven Knopp, “Ethics And Rationality,” American Philosophical Quarterly, 30.2(April 1993): 151-161. Kai Nielsen, “Why Should I be Moral? Revisited,” American Philosophical Quarterly, 21.1(January 1984): 81-91. Richard Double, “Morality, Impartiality And What We Can Ask For Persons,” American Philosophical Quarterly,36.2(April 1999): 156-163. 40 Susan Wolf, “Moral Saints,” The Journal of Philosophy, 79.8(August 1982): 419-439. Shelly Kagan, “Precis of the The Limits of Morality,” Philosophy and


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A pluralistic approach takes account of three principal factors: First, more than one principle is equally rational in the sense that moral choice can be based on any of these principles. Secondly, under all conditions interpersonal deliberation is inevitable with persistent emphasis on optimal outcomes. Thirdly, it has to see to it that the conflict between principle point of view and the personal point of view does not further complicate the situation. It ensures minimum rule following, in the sense that minimum sense of objectivity and normativity is the basis of all deliberations. We understand that the notion of deliberative context is not one where agents make uncompromising fanatic claims and are too egoistic to reform their beliefs. Rather, a deliberative context is one where everyone is reasonable moral agent and is willing to reciprocate, be fair to others, and cooperate in deliberations and resolve to the extent possible by invoking new pragmatic workable principles. With this, we can assert that even with multiple rationalities one can achieve minimum sense of objectivity. This conception takes into account that multiple rationalities talk about plurality of goods in the substantial sense but not in the extreme sense that any choice of an individual is treated as good or for that matter right.41 Even though one argues that there is no escape from the hierarchy of goods, a person who has chosen lesser good does not make him a lesser moral being. Rational justification, liberals argue for, should care of this aspect in the interpersonal justification. The point of multiple rationalities is that justificatory value of a particular good has its multiple dimensions. These sources could be, as elsewhere argued, are not in reality only socially dependent. For this, Thomas Hurka’s moderate pluralism also does not account for the adequate plurality implicit in our preferences and values.42 It is apt to ask whether this kind of moral evaluation trivializes the very importance of morality. It does not, as long as it reduces the number of individuals equal to the number of perspectives to manageable ones. That is to say, one cannot argue for unmanageable number of perspectives in a deliberative situation at the same time we cannot a priori decide that conflicts is illusory. This is surely a paradoxical situation nevertheless Phenomenological Research, 51.4(December 1991): 897-901. Ruth Barcan Marcus, “Moral Dilemmas and Consistency,” The Journal of Philosophy, 77.3(March 1980): 121-136. 41 This point is stated in response to Thomas Hurka’s point that there need to be only moderate pluralism rather than extreme pluralism. See his “Monism, Rationalism and Rational Regret,” Ethics, 106.3(April 1996): 555-575. 42 Ibid., pp. 570-574.

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worth retaining. The significance of the context of moral choice does not mean that every context would generate a new rule for resolution. It means that there is a possibility of a context that is not hitherto covered by known moral universal principle. All context pervading moral principles have no potentiality to accommodate difference of values. The scope of a reasonable moral rule need not be all-domain-pervasive either. One might maintain, as the universalists do, that what is moral or immoral is decided a priori independently of the contexts. For instance, rape is immoral can be decided a priori without going into the contextual details. When we judge that a particular action to be wrong, this judgment follows from the mediation of some or the other moral principles. All other judgments would be mere idiosyncratic. Some of the conflicts in the interpersonal framework seem to be attitudinal differences arising from idiosyncratic observations. On the other hand, there can be new moral situations that are not covered nor anticipated by any of the known moral principles. Consider for instance, the health issue of a clone. If the donor person suffers from a genetic disorder, this may be carried over to the clone. What should be the rights of the clone with respect to the genetic disorder he inherited from the donor? Should the medical insurance of the donor be extended to the clone as well? We need to deliberate on such moral issues and reach an agreement in a deliberative context. We cannot decide a priori in one-way or the other. To explain that context does not determine the status of morality, one should talk about the nature of agreement and disagreement. Certain issues always remain in tension though one cannot avoid judgments anyway. We know that there are objective moral truths besides being evident that subjective principles also can become objective and prove their moral worth. In this sense, we admit Nagel’s thesis of personalizing the impersonal. By subjective principles we mean the principles of personal points of views. These personal points of views have different degrees of interpersonal values, in the sense that some are widely acceptable and some are conditionally acceptable only in a framework. Either of them have minimal objective tendencies. In certain contexts of deliberation, one may embrace the differences by the mutual recognition of these differences rather than resolution of conflicts. The context in which human life is lived also poses questions such as: is the rightness belongs to an act independent of my thought, my feeling, or my existence itself?43 In chapter two we have extensively discussed the 43

Brand Blashard, Reason, and Goodness (London: George Allen & Urwin


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dispute between the agent relative and agent neutral preferences and choices. We have argued that in the formation of a life-project, every agent is permitted to choose agent relative preferences. This is very much important with respect to both right and good of a person. But the dilemma we face here is that can we extend this agent relativity to the level of morality. In other words, can we have agent relative moral principles? Besides, admitting that personalizing the impersonal is valid; we would also claim that the difference in points of views constitute agent relative morality. Nevertheless, this agent relative moral point of view is not normatively relative. However, these situations occur relatively less in comparison to any superficial conflicting situations. David Lyons substantiates that moral universalists attribute moral incoherence to ethical relativism. The abortion example that he enumerates interestingly brings the case of moral judgment.44 In the difference of opinion over the rightness or wrongness of opting for abortion, relativism presents different positions that are inherently conflicting in nature. Suppose that the coherence principle stands by the notion of a single moral principle. We can clarify this using Lyons’s own example. Claudia should not go for abortion, according to moral law. But relativism presents both the claims of Alice who maintains that abortion is wrong, and Barbara who maintains that abortion is right as possessing equal moral strength. This argument is right if it is evaluated by the principle of anthropological agent-group’s relativism. But this does not make relativism strong in any sense. Morality is not reduced to mere anthropological understanding of the issues. Morality is action guiding in every form of interpersonal interaction. Incoherence is attributed to the generation of logically incompatible judgments as simultaneously true. Lyons emphasizes that either the relativist has to show that s/he is not endorsing the view that all logically incompatible judgments are simultaneously true or deny that the judgments are truly incompatible.45 According to Hare, moral judgments based on factual analysis inevitably seek relativist position. His argument is, “moral judgments can be justified by submitting them under general principles from which they can be derived when suitable assumptions are made about the facts.”46 But every Limited, 1961), p. 105. 44 See his “Ethical Relativism and the Problem of Incoherence,” Ethics, 86(1976): 107-121. 45 Ibid., p. 113. 46 See his “Ethical Relativism and the Problem of Incoherence,” p. 114. Also see

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particular interpersonal conflict is not resolved through the maxim of universalization. It is for this reason we have divided conflicts into different categories, i.e., easily resolvable, resolvable with difficulty and irresolvable. Besides this categorization, we can rank the conflicts according to their importance. In some sense, Lyons makes us realize the fact that some of the interpersonal conflicts do not really seek moral answers, as they are composed of irreducible value-claims. Moral philosophers like Bas Van Fransen, Ruth Marcus and Bernard Williams recognize that we often make decisions in cases of conflict but argue that given the moral asymmetry the grounds of resolution cannot be universal.47 These philosophers argue for the significance of moral dilemmas and plurality of principles well within the boundaries of morality. In contrast, Jeremy Randel Koons presents that norm-guidedness is possible within the domain of social practices with preference given to the excellence of reasons.48 Koons’s concern is conceiving morality into a coherent codified set of rules. He concludes that morality and epistemology, like science, is independent of what we take it to be and is thus objective. The issue of normative foundation of social life will be discussed in chapter five while examining Habermas’s notion of universal pragmatic justification.

Realms of Morality Gilbert Harman’s idea that moral judgment is relative to a framework needs to be reflected upon. According to his notion of logical relativism, moral judgments are not made from the preemption of any form of moral absolutism. They are relative to a particular moral framework, relating the action and the agent without analyzing the action independent of the agent.49 It is worth repeating a few important points even though they are

R. M. Hare, Sorting Out Ethics (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997). 47 See Ruth Marcus, “Moral Conflicts and Ethical Relativism,” Ethics, 101(October 1990): 27-41 at 28. Also see Bas C, Van Fransen, “Values and the Heart’s Commands,” Journal of Philosophy, 70(1973): 5-18. Ruth B. Marcus, “Moral Dilemmas and Consistency.” Bernard Williams, “Ethical Consistency,” in The Problem of the Self (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973). Also see Bernard Williams, Morality: An introduction to Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972). 48 Jeremy Randel Koons, “Consensus and Excellence of Reasons,” Journal of Philosophical Research, 29(2003): 85-106. 49 Gilbert Harman, “Moral Relativism Defended,” The Philosophical Review, 84.1(January 1975): 3-22 at4-7.


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obvious. Whether an action is said to be right and wrong, and ought and ought not to be is limited to a moral framework. These moral predicates are not at the mercy of absolute moral principles meaning one cannot generalize the moral judgment relevant to all moral systems. This applies even to a universal moral theory when taken it as a moral system competing with other moral systems. For instance, even universalists cannot claim that marrying one’s own sister is immoral or moral given the above analysis. Moral character of a person cannot be concluded from one instance of his doing right or wrong things. S/he would have, knowingly or unknowingly, or unintentionally would have done something, which may be called wrong from a moral point of view. This is rendering the moral predicates moral and immoral useless. Aristotle has also pointed out that one action taken singly does not reflect a moral character. For him, virtue is a disposition, which would surface again and again in a similar way. He also gives the analogy of habit to explain moral virtues. A habit cannot be an isolated event or action. From this analysis one can claim that no single action can help us judge the character of an individual. One can only say that an agent is immoral in this context. If one has the morally relevant information about a person, then one can possibly make such judgments. For instance, we can say that because Stalin is an immoral person, all his actions are condemnable. What is important to be noted is that how the person behaves in the context of crucial moral dilemma or how often he tends to make immoral choice. Though one cannot give exact criterion to judge agents as moral or immoral, we have more or less some approximate idea. Nonetheless, we also speak of change in character; it could be for better or worse speaking from the moral point of view. One may note further that a system could be consistent and it may appear to guide our actions. Yet, the system is not worthy of discussion as a moral system. For instance, Harman speaks of Hitler and his actions. Harman is of the opinion that it is pointless to speak of an action of Hitler as right or wrong since the system he believed in itself was immoral or non-moral. That is to say, most of the actions that spring from the discriminative principle that Hitler used itself were immoral. This analysis can be extended to all principles within such a weak moral system even if the system is internally consistent as demanded by Harman’s logical relativism. An implication of the above discussion is that there can be some frameworks, which are moral and some which are immoral and may be some morally neutral.

A Critique of Moral Foundationalism


One question that would arise at this juncture is: On what basis do we claim a system to be immoral, especially if we have acknowledged pluralism? Speaking only from the formal point of view, one cannot declare a system to be moral or immoral. However, one can definitely declare a system to be immoral if the core principles that form the system themselves are immoral. What we need to note carefully is that no system can be moral if that system discards the cardinal values of moralityequality, justice and autonomy of individuals. From the point of view of basic ethical values, one can classify a system to be moral or immoral. What Hitler did was to deny the basic concept of equality and justice. He, on the basis of birth, decided who has the right to live and who does not. This level of discrimination is obviously immoral and other principles, which he might have used, were ensuing from this immoral discriminatory principle. And therefore, one is quite justified in declaring the very system as immoral. Of course, when we declare a system to be immoral, all that we are doing is following the pragmatic principle. We could in principle avoid declaring the system to be immoral but consistently maintain that each and every action it guides or judges to be morally wrong. It is quite natural that in conflicting moral situations, an agent will judge others of doing something morally wrong. However, one cannot rule out the possibility of revision of an agent’s beliefs and values in the process of deliberation. In the interpersonal framework, a moral agent may argue that the demands of another moral agent are unreasonable with respect to the deliberated issue. This situation would lead to moral conflicts, where agents maintain resoluteness in reaching an agreement of what is right and wrong. Such situations of disagreement call for the negotiation and bargaining of moral principles. The term bargain is generally used to maximize the benefits to the bargaining parties. Pragmatically two parties are said to be involved in bargaining where each one is trying to maximize the gain for herself/himself. However, when we speak of moral bargain, what one can understand by this is that one is trying to maximize the moral gain. That is to say, minimize the evil aspect of it and maximize the moral virtue. Taken in this sense, multi-agents are involved in moral deliberation in a conflicting situation. We assume that these moral agents would like to minimize the loss of moral values. Yet, they would like to have larger accommodation of moral point of views. Morality being limited to a framework could also mean that morality is understood in realms. Every framework is constituted with intractable (in our sense irreducible) differences, and conflicting beliefs and attitudes. These are called moral


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coordinates.50 It means that all these values, standards and principles are equal in their importance. It is similar to our assumption that pluralism means multiple rationalities. Duty and the capability to do or avoid doing a particular action in question are presupposed even in the case of Harman. Agents possess these characteristic traits of performing duty and have the capacity to fulfill moral obligations. But there is a problem in the understanding of these judgments by Harman. Harman speaks of moral judgments relative to a moral framework. The elliptical sense given to relative moral judgments seem to presuppose that agents in these frameworks can bargain based on the morally relevant information. To a certain extent Harman’s emphasis on intentions could help us in judging actions right or wrong. Harman also emphasizes on the compelling aspect of agents’ reasons. He believes that it is difficult to judge a claim or a value if any agent cannot put forth any compelling reasons. There are many instances where we cannot identify the relevant moral compelling reasons for agents’ preferences, beliefs and values. The reason is that agents are compelled with no choice of action. For instance, the interrogation of a hardcore criminal by a police official, a child in a family obeying what her/his parents says the only reason being respect for parents etc. Many actions persons make are out of compulsion. As the notion of moral relevance is vague, the idea of morally compelling reasons will also remain vague. Moral bargaining is the result of practical reasoning. If there is more moral agreement and less disagreement as a consequence of moral bargain and reasoning, this would be a better moral situation than the other situations where there is much conflict and disagreement. Settlement through bargain is necessary in the case of interpersonal deliberation where agents negotiate with irreducible preferences and value-claims to reach more stable state of affairs. Harman talks about the moral compromise where all moral agents deliberate with their respective incompatible moral principles. Such a kind of deliberation can increase the hope of mutual reconciliation of our conflicting beliefs, preferences and values. Agents will be able to communicate to each other their beliefs, preferences and values.

50 Gilbert Harman, “Precis of Moral Relativism and Moral Objectivity,” Philosophy and Phenomenological research, 58.1(March 1998): 161-169.

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One may ask a question. If morality is a matter of mutual bargain, then why don’t we have an objective agreement on common moral principles? As an answer to this question, one might say that social contract theory tries to assume that the moment we have undergone a contract the very moment we become part of the society. This social contract is formed by both expressed and tacit consent, i.e., the give and take goes on as long as we are members of a society. However, this contract theory is inadequate to account for changing situations. One needs to think of either modifications to the social contracts, or think of renewing social contract repeatedly as the new challenging situations arise. The renewal of contract idea has to presuppose that there are new bargaining points to be settled because of new moral contexts and the issues. Further, as argued earlier, the satisfaction of a life-project cannot be indifferent to agent-relative concerns. It is explained earlier that a notion of right should go along with the idea of good. What is rationally right for an individual cannot be distinctly seen from what is good for the very individual. One need not be hesitant to say that this position is not an extreme individualist position where one’s value is not comparable to the other. A moral bargain constitutes a moral understanding of the fact that agents have different preferences and values. But these divergent preferences and values should not be detrimental to each other. While arguing for a balanced conception of agent neutrality and agent relativity, we have taken this into consideration. One of the prominent a priori assumptions would be that ‘rights of one’ is a violation of rights of another. Based on the argument of moral bargain, this situation of violation of each other’s share of rights can be comparatively lessened. Harman has another crucial point to make while speaking of moral framework. He states that the values, standards and principles of a person are not symmetrical to the values, standards and principles of a framework in general.51 What may be taken individually right or good may not be taken collectively right or good. Our understanding of domains of deliberation has somewhat similar logic. It is related to two of our crucial assumptions. One, there is a difference between single-agent resolution of moral dilemmas and multi-agent method of conflict resolution. Second, while arguing for proceduralism and deliberative equality, Rawlsian dualism, i.e., principles applicable to individual are different from that of institutions, is one of the primary bases of moral pluralism. The first point 51

See his “Moral Relativism Defended,” p.


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has been already discussed earlier in this chapter and the second point will be discussed in the context of anti-perfectionist notion of public realm propounded by Rawls in chapter five. A moral framework conducts deliberation on several issues. Each specific issue would have some consideration of criteria on the basis of which judgment is made and agreement is arrived at. Harman indicates that new considerations should be encouraged whenever required. Even if the same issue has emerged again moral deliberation could take place with a renewed motivation [to be moral] in accordance with the consideration of new information. This will certainly change the nature of deliberation suitable to the needs of moral bargain and moral compromise in an emerged context. Open and fresh approach to old moral dilemmas is a prerequisite to all forms of moral deliberations. One of the fundamental principles of pluralism is the open-ended nature of moral issues. The open-ended nature of moral issues keeps the moral framework accommodative to new information to facilitate optimal just outcomes. We have to consider here Harman’s understanding of preferences, the priority of goals, desires and intentions. He moves away from Kant and gives significant importance to goals, desires, preferences and intentions. Intentions become more important while agents judge actions of one another in various formal and informal deliberations as right and wrong. Harman argues that the possession of rationality does not suffice to draw relevant moral reasons, but one has to have sufficient recognition of the intentions. This makes moral understanding open-ended and reasonable. The merit of Harman’s relative moral framework argument is that moral judgments are divided into general moral judgments and particular moral judgments. The former pertains to very wider issues of interpersonal concern, while the latter pertains to issues that have relatively limited scope. Such a distinction is more convenient to carry out effective moral deliberations. When we talk about the domains of deliberation and realms of morality, judgments can be either general or particular depending on the nature of the issue. What kind of relativism should we maintain here? The kind of relativism put forth by Harman cannot be called as subjectivism at all. It can be called as reconciliatory relativism. The use of practical reason and moral bargain would construct a kind of reconciliation where possibility of overlap, diverse thinking, open-endedness, and reasonable agreement are possible.

A Critique of Moral Foundationalism


Often pluralists assert that pluralism is not relativism. They maintain that there are multiple point of views and relativism maintains that the value of one is dependent on the value of another. For instance, marriage customs differ from society to society. This is pluralism. If something is said to be better than something else, it is said to be relative. To substantiate the point, we may consider extreme form of relativism and extreme form of absolutism. A hedonist might say that an action is right if it can bring him maximum pleasure. Taking this perspective, one might say that an action is said to be right or wrong is relative to the agents. To understand pluralism and relativism, and whether the latter is distinct from the former, we have to see the dependence of moral on the non-moral. An action is not judged from the consequences, but they are judged on the basis of whether they fall within the framework of a categorical imperative principle. This Kantian view is just another moral absolute view. One might say that a moral judgment is welded to a perspective. Obviously it makes sense to ask someone who says that an action in question is right, the perspective from which he considered it to be right. To say that a judgment is based on a perspective is to claim that it is pronounced from a particular standpoint. If this is taken to be relative, then an absolutist judgment too has to be classified as relative since it is made from an absolutist standpoint. As mentioned in the analysis, a judgment made from utilitarian point of view is relative to utilitarian point of view and a judgment made from Kantian point of view is relative to Kantian perspective. Both the judgments, which we normally call absolutist, turn out to be relative in this terminology. Hence, this is the fallacy of treating pluralism to be relativism. Taken in this light, Harman’s stand seems to be leaning more towards our notion of pluralism rather than relativism proper. Harman claims that a judgment is made from a particular perspective. But from this he makes a meta-statement about the judgments and their perspectives: that an ethical judgment is made from different perspectives. This meta-statement he considers to be an ethical statement. He forgets that it is a descriptive of multiple standpoints and their common behavior. This description even if it is taken to be relative, it does not apply to the individual judgment made from individual perspective. But Harman jumps from this to the stand of relativism. Also note that Harman is not a hermeneutic philosopher. If he were, he would not have spoken of agreement before judging the action to be right or wrong. For a hermeneutist the rule for judging an action is not needed prior to interpretation. One can, in the hermeneutic framework


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think of extreme form of relativism. An action may be judged as right by interpreting it one way and the same action may be judged wrong by interpreting another way. However, Harman does not belong to this group. He assumes that a perspective and the agreement on the principle is prior to judging an action. Moral pluralism is a middle path between absolute objectivism and absolute subjectivism. We would like to call this substantial pluralism. The Neo-Kantians also are responsive to pluralism in what they call as reasonable pluralism. The common feature in both the forms is the recognition of irreducible differences. Neo-Kantians prefer to place the criteria of resolution in the principles of higher abstraction. Unlike the Neo-Kantians, pluralists maintain that recognition of differences and rational thinking are equally important. Harman calls his interpretation of moral framework as quasi-absolutism. Some other pluralists call pluralism as quasi-universalism. The idea is that some truths may be necessary as they are bound by the force of external reasons and some truths on the contrary are internal in nature. Whether this middle position can be called reasonable pluralism of the Neo-Kantians or substantial pluralism will be discussed in chapters five and six. Harman’s notion of relativism can help us in dealing with the problem of moral incommensurability. He takes a position away from Kant; that our desires, interests, and preferences are very much important. This consideration increases moral bargaining power with reciprocity accompanied by practical reason. The moral bargain involves the modification of one’s beliefs, desires and so on. Nevertheless, Harman’s idea of inner judgments provides an initiative to view morality from a different dimension, from the perspectives of different moral frameworks that operate on the maxim of minimal universalism, yet coherent and rational. A proper justificatory framework with proper interaction would resolve more interpersonal conflicts.

Irreducible Pluralism The concept of irreducible pluralism refers to the situation where pluralistic viewpoints cannot be grouped together to reduce further differences. It is in some sense, rock bottom of reducible similarities. Preferences, values and beliefs, which belong to different domains, have to be kept intact since one cannot reduce these multiple domains to only one. It means that there are a number of equally reasonable yet mutually

A Critique of Moral Foundationalism


incompatible philosophical, moral and religious doctrines each of which promises its own distinctive vision of value, truth, obligation, human nature, collective life, good life and so on.52 It also explains that regarding conflicts of values and choices to be made, one’s justification cannot be completely reducible to the justification of the other. It means that moral reasoning has equal counter arguments possessing possibly equal moral strength. Hence, the main purpose of proposing this principle is to highlight the presence of contradictions and paradoxes. Values are taken to be always impersonal for Neo-Kantians. This is the way they speak of objectivity of values. However, the objective value, unless it has been personalized, is of no use to agents since actions of agents have to be guided by values. What is achieved through this is the same as what is achieved through Kantian universalization of maxims. Kant starts with the individual and goes to the universal and eliminates everything that does not fall under this as non-moral. Neo-Kantians start with the objectivity and interpersonal impartiality and demand that the agents should imbibe them. Thus, morality is said to be something that is interpersonal, neutral and objective and yet motivated by individuals. These motives are not personal and whimsical, but purely moral for the sake of morality. Moral universalists believe that morality is autonomous and independent of all empirical considerations. Wherever morality is a concern, objectivity is presupposed. They assume that moral objectivity dominates all forms of moral judgments. For instance, they argue that morality is objective in all spheres of human life except art and aesthetics. For them, morality should not be understood as we understand art and aesthetics. The idea is, morality as a concept offers more objective sense rather than subjective preferences. It is a systematic convergence of rules governed by public norms. Mackie argues that even though there is no standard morality, it is useful to have fictitious absolute standards. They also mean to say that ability to judge is ability to apply concepts properly. Objectivity of morality depends on the subject matter rather. 52 Robert B. Talisse, “Two-Faced Liberalism: John Gray’s Pluralist Politics And the Reinstatement of Enlightenment Liberalism,” Critical Review, 14.4(2000): 441-458 at 443. Susan Wolf, “Two Levels of Pluralism,” Ethics [Symposium on Pluralism and Ethical Theory], 102(1992): 785-798 at 785. Four Essays on Liberty (Oxford University Press, 1969), p. 168. Also see Peter Lassman, “Liberalism and Pluralism in the thought of Isaiah Berlin,” Political Studies Conference Papers: Politics at the Edge (Macmillan 2000).


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Rawls reconciles irreducible pluralism as a human condition, yet attempts to draw neutral principles that would lead to objective agreement. He mentions that modern liberal democracies are characterized with irreducible beliefs and incommensurable doctrines.53 Irreducibility is explained here as: Every agent holds certain set of deeper moral claims different from other(s), which is not reducible to others in the name of justification. It is not an absolute proposition. Irreducible pluralism needs further explanation. An individual can differ from other individuals, a group from the other, and so on. Irreducibility refers to the domain of disagreement over the very basic questions of what is to be collectively moral, rational, or neutral. Irreducibility is always at odds with the notion of rationalization of forms of life that include objectification of preferences, values and beliefs. However, irreducibility recognizes the difference but not reduces pluralism to relativism. Two questions remain critical all-through the understanding of irreducible pluralism. One, how do we arrive at this reasonable justification? And second, how do we know that we have reached the rock bottom? On the other hand, the criterion for interpersonal morality becomes flexible because moral justification is both rule-bound as well as dependent on interpersonal obligation. Pluralists have to make sure that multiple rationalities can draw a more compatible relationship between individual ways of life and institutions, and coexistence of various principles and norms that bear our actions. The presence of irreducibility as one of the features of interpersonal context makes conflict also as one of the pertinent conditions. Universalists assume that there is every reason that one reaches moral consensus over right and wrong. Reasons for agents not only overlap but also are objective in the universalist sense. In a pluralistic framework, moral consensus cannot be sustained, especially when different domains and multiple perspectives are involved. For instance, one cannot always hold one’s opinion both personally and interpersonally valuable. The interpersonal value may constitute a pragmatic component that can be morally neutral. At the same time, one may differ from this pragmatic component in her/his personal view. It is to be noted that every individual opinion is not as important as collective point of view. It could happen that an individual differs from the rest of the society on an issue. Let us say, he 53

William Galston, “Pluralism and Social Unity,” Ethics 99(July 1988): 711-726 at 711.

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suggests that all human beings should commit suicide so that conflicts are resolved. Such individual differences even if rationally argued, cannot be counted as important. However, to say this is not to eliminate a possibility of individual difference not becoming equal or more than the collective opinion. There is no logical criterion for this to measure; yet one can note from the history of civilizations that such revolutionary ideas always come from certain individuals and they are counted more than the view of collective. Amid different realms, persons are free to hold personal value-preferences. A person’s right to choose a form of life depends on person’s autonomy. To retain personal point of view is neither immoral nor contrary to public reason. Substantive freedoms determine the dignity and status of an individual vis-a-vis other individuals. The nature of substantive issues is such that we find a personal point of view and a general point of view. Moral deliberation should take note that certain claims represent the commitments of the respective agents. This has to be reconciled by each agent prior to the rejection of unacceptable reasons. George Crowder presents four features of pluralism: open-mindedness, realistic, relevant details of choice situation and presence of flexible plural principles in the place of decisive moral rules.54 Open-mindedness in the opinion of Crowder means a wide range of human goods, all of which possess a fundamental moral parity because all are/can be equally valuable. Open-mindedness influences agents’ cooperation, reciprocity, and fairness in deliberation. It means that agents recognize respective moral viewpoints. It is true that free thinking and free expression are not a usual party to most of the comprehensive doctrines. For example, Rawls explains that persons ought to be treated as free standing from the conflicting comprehensive issues related to philosophical, ethical, religious matters. He assumes that objective rational thinking is difficult to attain on these issues. Due to this reason he develops the idea of fairness and justice as principles to be the basis of interpersonal relationship as well as social institutions. Open-mindedness is required for reciprocal recognition of different values of agents. David Schmidtz puts forth a similar point. For him, a moral theory is structurally open-ended, where there is more than one recognition rule.55 There are certain recognition 54

George Crowder, “Pluralism and Liberalism,’ Political Studies, 42(1994): 293305. 55 See his, “Moral Dualism” in Rational Choice and Moral Agency (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), pp. 185-212.


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rules that agents intend to follow to achieve a fair and just interpersonal context. As argued in the previous chapter, these recognition rules that determine agreement and disagreement of issues play a very significant role in the resolution of conflicts. Isaiah Berlin argues that pluralists should approach choices with a sense of reality and the understanding of incommensurability. The sense of reality is recognizing the irreducibility in our preferences and the need for the accommodation of plurality of values in the interpersonal domain. Both Rawls and Berlin indicate the notion of limited social space in the modern social realm and inescapable social loss. The main idea of Berlin is that there are multiple notions of right and wrong, nevertheless, these notions are not countless. This point of Berlin adds strength to our notion of liberal-pluralism. It explains that though there is a persistent emphasis on multiplicity and diversity, one cannot dispense away with the faculties of reason, rationality and morality. The kind of irreducibility implicit in Berlin’s idea is that morality can be the core guiding principle for human actions without objectification and unification of moral principles (also discussed in chapter six). However, there remains a logical possibility of reducing the differences by assuming a higher principle, which may encompass this pluralism. One needs, as we do in our attempt, to show that these differences are logically so different that they cannot be reduced to anything else. For instance, one is in the domain of religion and another is in the domain of profession and so on. Let us suppose that we are relieved from a deterministic role of moral universal principles. In the face of fundamental conflict of our claims, it is inevitable that we incur certain loss of choices or values in the processes of deliberation and negotiation. Certain agents may not be able to convince other agents of how and why their value-claims are reasonable. However, loss can also be attributed to the lack of genuinely fair deliberations. The above argument suggests that our preferences and values should stand on fair ethical considerations. Liberal philosophy, as Bernard Williams and Michael Stocker point out, should go beyond the concerns of right and wrong. These philosophers claim that modern moral philosophy is nostalgic towards perfect and unifying notions of rationality, morality and social order. According to John Gray, it has to be segregated from the force of moral perfection and rational perfection.56 Perfection does not give us choices and alternatives. Since we are faced with the dilemma of 56

John Gray, Two Faces of Liberalism (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000), p. 34.

A Critique of Moral Foundationalism


rival choices and rival freedoms, perfection is unachievable or unimaginable. Gray is right in arguing, though skeptical to practical reason, that the true situation of rival choices, rival moral practices, and rival freedoms retain dilemmas. If there are rival freedoms that constitute rival choices, then there are rival principles of moral right and wrong that justify agents’ choices of these freedoms. Sometimes people face serious dilemmas where they have to choose between two equally good alternatives. Questioning the very nature of moral dilemmas and moral conflicts, Daniel Statman argues that even in the situation of moral dilemmas proper choice is possible.57 Every agent might admit the principle that our choices and dispositions should ground in justifiable reasons. This remains as an abstract principle only. Bernard Williams rightly argues, “Moral conflicts are neither systematically avoidable nor all solvable without remainder.”58 Emphasis on the plurality of right principles directs our attention to the necessity of taking factual analysis into consideration. This is not purely reductionist as argued by Berlin and Raz. Raz asks an interesting question: “Are there right answers for all conflicting questions?” Pluralism would not commit to say that there would be ideal solutions and perfectly right answers to many of the perplexing moral/ethical questions of interpersonal concern. These questions are nevertheless tough to answer. Interpersonal conflicts in different spheres and realms pertain to persons, how they live together, how they treat each other, how they judge each others’ beliefs, values and actions, and so on. Resolution of conflicts and differences is difficult if each and every agent is reluctant to reform and revise his/her claim under any circumstances. This will not resolve any kind of interpersonal conflict in any sphere. Pluralism has irreducible options but not always leads to indecisiveness. We do not admit one supreme good, no supreme moral principle and no master reason to explain morality and rationality.

Pluralism and Moral Significance The discussion above indicates our objection to moral foundationalism. Our emphasis is on multi-agent interpersonal moral conflicts. We have argued that judgments in the foundational sense on hard cases do not capture the significance of interpersonal complex situation. Samuel 57

Daniel Statman, “The Debate Over The So-Called Reality of Moral Dilemmas,” Philosophical Papers, 19.3(1990): 119-211 at 195. 58 Bernard Williams, “Ethical Consistency,” Joseph Raz, ed., Practical Reasoning (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978), pp. 94-103.


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Scheffler states that universal justification may find difficulty in distinguishing between moral-permissiveness and morally trivial things.59 For instance, the judgment whether abortion should be morally wrong or not gets caught in the web of permissibility, prohibition and obligation. To decide upon permitting or prohibiting the practice of abortion, proponents of moral universalism argue that all moral dilemmas and conflicts are rationally and completely resolvable with the help of objective moral deliberation. According to them, an agent ought to act upon what morality prescribes. However, pluralists would argue that the difficult cases, such as abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment etc. could be judged only by the consideration of irreducible value-preferences in addition to the pragmatic consideration. Judgments on either side of the dilemma of the issue of abortion for instance, are rational since one can justify as well as refute abortion on certain grounds. Hence, we do not have a supra moral judgment favoring one instead of another. This indicates that on several such issues one can only explore or discover a pragmatic answer, which nevertheless remains in the ethical fold. Some of the plural theorists treat morality as a social enterprise. In our case too, discovery and constructivism are treated as attempts to achieve general applicability of principles with a pluralistic basis. The point of discovery is discussed in chapter two. We have substantiated that discovery of principles takes place not to find another principle of universality or common good, but principles that are effective to judge wider claims and actions. Discovery thus becomes important alongside moral bargain and moral reasoning. On the other hand, moral constructivism needs to have anticipation for difference of opinion over what is moral and immoral. A public norm is constructed upon what is ethical in general because it has wide application. In the interpersonal context it refers to an interactive public sphere. Williams argues that in the Kantian perspective morality is reduced to the mere logic of language. He reacts to the understanding of morality by Kant and Hare. One of the principal points of Williams is that universal rational justification cannot be provided for the choice of one’s goal, preference, and value in place of another. For him, morality is more than mere linguistic analysis. In making such claim, Williams raises the question, “whose language? Whose morality?” while MacIntyre asks “Whose 59

A similar argument is discussed by Samuel Scheffler in his “Morality’s Needs and Their Limits,” Journal of Philosophy, 83.10(19860: 531-537.

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Justice? Whose Rationality?”60 His point is that there are many aspects of human life that need a deeper understanding than mere reference to right, wrong and ought. In this sense, he calls the deeper moral understanding of concepts as thick morality and to restrict them to the judgmental conditions as thin conception of morality. Contrary to what Williams argues, thick and thin morality would have a different conception in the moral epistemological framework. Here, thick conception of morality refers to normative ethics and thin morality refers to meta-ethical discussion of moral concepts. Thick morality would be action guiding since the principles involved are normative and thin conceptions such as good, ought etc. are incapable of guiding actions yet in some way give us the understanding of the uses of these terms. By deeper understanding, Williams means to say that these principles have implication in the social framework. Moral concepts and social contexts are to be connected. This kind of an understanding is near to the communitarian thinkers and thinkers of virtue ethics as they emphasize on the personal character. According to Williams, morality is not a single substantial ethical principle.61 It could be a set of normative principles. Williams is critical of Kantian sense of morality and is supportive of the Greek notion of virtues. For him, all foundational moral theories, deontological, contractual, and utilitarian, are reductive enterprises.62 His understanding of reductive enterprise is that each theory just mentioned, links all ethical issues to just one basic theoretical perspective. That is to say, Williams criticizes the view that there can be one master basic point of view from which you can look at complex interpersonal situations. The idea is that understanding morality, motivational structures and constraints of ethical life are so complex that they cannot be comprehended within one universal basic perspective. Similar argument can be found in Michael Stocker and Harman too. Their understanding is that one’s mark of a good life is being in harmony among one’s motives, one’s reasons, values and justifications.63 The complex web of human activities cannot be explained 60

Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy. Also see Samuel Scheffler, “Morality through Thick and Thin: A Critical Notice of Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy,” The Philosophical Review, 96.3(1987): 411-434. For MacIntyre, see Whose Justice: Whose Rationality? (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988). 61 Ibid., p. 412. 62 Ethics and the Limits of Moral Philosophy, , pp. 17, 116, 117. 63 Michael Stocker, “The Schizophrenia of Modern Ethical Theories,” The Journal of Philosophy, 73.14(August 1976): 453-466.


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by the preference of one single meta-reason. This pertains to traditional moral foundational theory. Williams and other moral philosophers maintain that an extreme emphasis on rational justification would result in moral loss. For instance, if an agent is subjected to moral monism, s/he has to regret for one choice instead of another. It is because all cannot make the same choice objectively due to many reasons. The point of pluralists is that if we have plural choices, one need not regret for the choice made by one instead of another.64 Even Raz, for instance, would be arguing on similar lines when he states that pluralism is the presence of more than one principle having the potentiality to be a universal principle. If agents realize that complex moral situation is plural in nature, then arriving at moral agreement, bargain or compromise is comparatively easy. If morality adequately accommodates rights, equality and justice, then what morality demands should not be an enforced obligation for all moral agents in terms of unconditional morality? Williams is right in understanding that it does not happen usually. For him, ethical life is important but one should be able to see things beyond what is ethical and are equally important. This can be stated with reference to rights, equality, and justice at a substantial level. It is widely accepted in moral political philosophy that liberty and equality fundamentally conflict with each other. If we have to grant liberty to an individual, s/he tends to misuse the liberty to maximize his gain at the cost of others. Therefore, liberty does not generally go well with equality. This contradictory relationship shows that any kind of objective rational ordering of values is a futile task if we have to retain both liberty and equality. Any complex moral conflict would necessarily swing from one end of liberty to another end of equality trying to cover good ground of agreement eventually leaving things with certain sense of dissatisfaction even after conflict resolution. Williams is right in believing that a moral rule or a principle cannot avoid disagreement among the agents. The Kantians assume that the rational approach would take care of the variety of human preferences and values. As argued in the previous sections, we are skeptical to their position. We have argued at length that mere rational agency does not capture the nature of interpersonal context of collective life. By stating this, we are not 64 Thomas Hurka, “Monism, Pluralism and Rational Regret,” Ethics, 106.3(April 1996): 555-575.

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allowing emotive considerations into our framework. Rather, we would refer back to our position of constitutive self, who is autonomous yet a social agent. Agents in the interpersonal framework need to take account of diverse pluralistic forms of life as an essential condition. If agents are able to have such knowledge, then the deeper conflicts that pluralists point out are acknowledged. This is a situation where agents agree to disagree, a stage set for the discovery of pragmatic workable principles. A social context may be said to have been constituted by three kinds of persons; those who support, those who oppose, and those who maintain neutral position. How do we settle the normative morality here?65 According to Stuart Hampshire, “Whatever a person’s moral outlook and conception of the good, and whatever his beliefs about issues of substantial justice, he knows that he will sometimes collide with others who make contrary judgments.”66 Our intention is to show that the complex nature of social life and the kind of compulsions we are trapped into the diversity of moral thinking. It discusses about two kinds of diversity that affects our moral thinking; internal as well as external, within a society and between societies. In most of the discussions on moral pluralism and moral relativism, it is noticeable that there is an opposition to the external enforcement of the moral principles. For instance, life is diverse, yet as moral-rational agents we respond to the moral requirements. This is because moral foundational theories seem to be over cautious about what is right and wrong in every action, belief, and value of an agent. Michael Stocker rightly argues that mostly modern ethical theories were more worried about rightness and wrongness of values. Agents’ should not only select rationally right choices but also these choices are expected to have impersonal and interpersonal value. Stocker’s argument can be taken seriously because it helps in relating the general criteria of moral principles to the interpersonal 65 See Paul Ramsey, “ Morality of Abortion,” Philippa Foot, “The problem of Abortion and the Doctrine of Double Effect,” Roger Wertheimer, “Understanding the Abortion Argument,” & J. J. Thomson, “A Defense of Abortion” in James Rachels, ed., Moral Problems: A Collection of Philosophical Essays (New York: Harper & Row. Publishers, 1975). 66 Because of this alternation between necessity and contingency, philosophical theory has always traced an uncertain and wavering path between ethical relativism on the one hand and ethical absolutism on the other. Stuart Hampshire, Justice in Conflict (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001). Introduction Chapter. Also see


Chapter Three

domain. It is needed because the independent rational criteria of right and wrong constitute not only autonomous right principles but also constructed moral meanings. Discussing whether conflicting moral judgments are really incompatible and incoherent, Lyons states, “... theories that avoid incoherence by such unjustified claims are much worse than unfounded and implausible.”67 Lyons’ position can be appreciated because the conflicting judgments indicate different moral frameworks in which the agent is expected to act. Normative ethical judgments should consider the principle of contingency involved in the rational justification of various claims, beliefs, and actions. Even the theories of coherentism cannot make a final assertion since the basis of a claim is normative/rational or mere attitudinal. Though Hegelian notion substantiates that reason is the highest faculty of human beings, social life is far more complex than what he had thought as organic relationship. Some moral philosophers have treated moral pluralism to be moral compromise. For them, pluralism’s conflicting moral judgments indicate both moral incoherence and moral insignificance. But these theorists fail to grasp what an egalitarian just society should seek to achieve. A reasonable theory of just society has to consider two important aspects in this regard. In the first place, we do not disagree with the argument that we need to have a certain rational procedure of our choices that results in effective ordering of our life-plan. The second, we should also realize that effective rational ordering of the hierarchy of values is not as objective as in the case of basic liberties. In this regard, neither moral monism nor strict moral objectivity works, as these two do not take into consideration the other aspects of human nature. The limitation of these approaches is the neglect of the point that the selfdefined subjects, despite being constituted in a group, association, or society at large, can have a different point of view. What a just egalitarian society would like to see is reciprocity understood in the form of interdependent lives. If the self is really a reflective self that grows with experience, then we can expect this self to have the courage to admit that it has to co-habit with other selves, i.e., co-habit with different life-worlds. Terrance McConnell makes two assumptions: One, he assumes that two or 67

“Ethical Relativism and the Problem of incoherence,” p. 121.

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more agent dilemmas can be taken as a typical example for interpersonal conflicts. Secondly, interpersonal moral conflicts represent those cases only that invoke genuine dilemmas among agents of a single moral theory or system.68 But what about the condition in which genuine moral disagreement arises over the validity of a single moral system? Interpersonal deliberation is not just a two-agent interaction, but also a multi-agent interactive framework. So, the conflicts among agents should be viewed with respect to different domains of competence and to possess different resolvable potentials. The interpersonal communication exposes such kind of moral conflicts. To handle these complex interpersonal or multi-agent conflicts, a moral theory should balance between generalization and specificities. It also requires a combination of principle coherence and substantial pluralism. Another argument that subsequently goes with the above argument is arguing for moral pluralism with respect to dilemmas and conflicts is considered as giving scope for theory skepticism. Gray Seay qualifies both the positions of moral particularism and moral pluralism being anti-theory towards morality. After explicating elaborately the positions of contextualism, moral partiality, and moral particularism, he concludes, “If there is a strong sense in which one’s thinking about the right thing is to be rational ... such thinking, then, must aim impartiality and seek to frame its judgments in terms that will apply alike to similarly situated persons in relevantly similar cases.”69 It is apt that we have to treat things with a rational eye. But it cannot be possible that a person would treat every aspect of life impartially. We have been addressing that there are two essential things with respect to interpersonal conflicts, i.e., duty to morality as moral agents, and duty to others as social agents. Both of them combine to define the nature of mutual reciprocity. The former is concerned about the reciprocity of reasons and the latter argues for equal treatment of different claims. The interpersonal conflicts are characterized by both the characteristics of conflict and resolvability. These are witnessed in different domains differently.


Terrence McConnell in his article, “Interpersonal Moral Conflicts,” American Philosophical Quarterly, 25.1(January 1988): 25-35, discusses the difference between single-agent moral conflict and multi-agent interpersonal moral conflict. He also discusses about moral dilemmas, moral adequacy and interpersonal moral conflicts. Terrence McConnell, “Interpersonal Moral Conflicts”:25. 69 Gary Seay, “Theory Skepticism and Moral Dilemmas,” Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, 12.3(2002): 279-299 at 299.


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Arguments of McConnell can be taken seriously here. The preference of a moral theory that proves more harmonious is to be preferred than others as no moral theory is perfect. It may be a reasonable argument in support of minimal universalism and substantial pluralism. Moral conflicts with respect to value-claims explain the complexity of dilemmas related to justice, equality, rights etc. these cannot be argued bereft of individual differences and collective differences. Social harmony is understood with respect to rights of persons in utility-maximization, moral equality, mutual reciprocity not only of adherence of moral principles but to understand society as a place for all etc. A moral theory that balances both rights and obligations can be better than others. It has to consider the issues pertaining to both primary goods and substantive issues. Though McConnell does not provide an adequate perspective yet presents a situation where the liberal foundational moral philosophy needs to reflect upon its own theory. A point may be added to McConell’s account. A moral theory has to take into account that the conceptual gap between individual autonomy and collective rationality is never completely bridgeable. It is right in arguing that we cannot totally presuppose what is moral.70 As argued earlier it is defined through a recognition rule of open-endedness and reciprocity. But the recognition rule should have implicit consideration of plurality. It is also right that moral theories should concern about how agents treat each other. Will such a position guarantee moral accountability on the part of concerned moral agents? Moral responsibility and responsiveness are important and such theories very well acknowledge the moral accountability aspect. This situation creates a condition that there prevails more than one overarching ‘rational’ conception of what is right or wrong of each one’s claims. Critics can express their apprehension here. Moral disagreement, essential to pluralism, and possible incommensurability are over certain aspects of human conduct only. In this sense according to them, pluralism becomes an insignificant doctrine. How can we settle the matter whether we have less or more irresolvable conflicts?71 In response to this question, we would like to reiterate that one of the greatest normative problems is the existence of irresolvable moral disagreements,72 how far morality is a pre-requisite and in what way it is adequate remains an open-ended question. In dealing with interpersonal conflicts, the 70

David Schmidtz, “Moral Dualism,” pp. 185-212 at 190. Ibid. 72 See Judith Wagner DeCew, “Moral Conflicts and Ethical Relativism,” Ethics, 101(October 1990): 27-41 at 27. 71

A Critique of Moral Foundationalism


challenge it poses is whether to give primacy to person, principle, or reason. The arguments in this chapter have thrown light on the problems involved in the approaches of moral foundationalism to resolve moral conflicts in the multi-agent frameworks. To put them in succinct form, we have emphasized that interpersonal moral conflicts are to be addressed with respect to domains of issues of deliberation, realms of morality, types of conflicts, irreducible values and preferences, and solvability and resolvability criteria. Minimal universalism within a domain and the discovery of pragmatic principle across the domains is left to the bargaining parties involved in the moral deliberation. The underlining assumption of all deliberations is substantial pluralism. It means that there is inevitability of disagreement due to diverse thinking. This situation will not be that of unconditional morality as the principal determinant of what should be done in interpersonal context. To acknowledge the existence of competing rights of others is to acknowledge pluralism and acknowledging pluralism will commit us to reciprocity, fairness and cooperation. Thus, a complex moral conflicting situation has all the following features: (a) recognition of difference in reasons and different perspectives of conflict resolution, (b) recognition of the fact that we are in irreducible plural situation, (c) acknowledging other’s reason as reasonable and willing to consider them with dignity and respect, (d) not insisting on one’s own original position, (e) recognition of different criteria for different domains, (f) acknowledging that only minimal universalization is possible within a domain, and (g) to discover a pragmatic principle through moral bargaining and compromise. Pluralism is not anti-theory and retains the possibility of rational interpersonal comparisons of moral principles.


When I ask myself what reason the fact that an action would be wrong provides me with not to do it, my answer is that such an action would be one that I could not justify to others on grounds I could expect them to accept. —T. M. Scanlon

In the previous chapter, we have discussed how moral conflicts are to be dealt in the interpersonal or the multi-agent framework. While discussing interpersonal conflict resolution, we have recognized the fact of pluralism as one of the fundamental features of interpersonal relationships. These domains of morality can enhance the ideals of cooperation, fairness and reciprocity in moral deliberations. However, these three notions demand certain standard of reasonable agreement from all the deliberating agents. The Neo-Kantians or the New-Kantian liberals have addressed this issue extensively. The aims of these contemporary liberal philosophers are to find procedures for reasonable agreement from the fact of pluralism, with a renewed emphasis on practical reason and public justification. For them, there are certain neutral and impartial principles1 that all reasonable agents would agree. The contemporary liberal philosophers believe that all the parties in the contracting situations share a common interest. This common interest is the consent for impartial moral principles. The argument of the NeoKantians is that to treat people impartially is to treat them equally.2 Their 1

For instance, in support of Kantian morality, Barbara Herman argues that impartiality is not to be ignored even when agents give importance towhat is personal. See her, “The Practice of Moral Judgment,” The Journal of Philosophy, 82.8(August 1985): 414-436 at 415. 2 Adrian Piper uses this statement to see the relationship between impartiality and

Public Reason: Impartiality and Reasonableness


understanding is that interpersonal conflicts are conflicts between personal and impersonal preferences, where priority is to be given to impartial impersonal preferences in the case of multi-agent deliberations. Impartiality is evident where the ability of an agent to give reasons that are not reasonably rejected by others is exhibited. Public justification or justifiability to others has become the central issue of these liberal philosophers. Agents need to put forth justifiable reasonable reasons for why they have such and such beliefs, preferences, and values. Reasonable reasons explain why reasonable agreements emerge from the principle of justification or justifiability to others and we accept them. A similar idea is found in contractualism, new social contract theory and discourse ethics. Proponents of reasonableness take recourse to impartial impersonal criteria for the justification of a person’s preferences and values. For them, reasonable agreement can be achieved even under the state of irreducible pluralism. The emphasis on impartiality defends the unity of morality and prevents any fragmentation of moral values. Demand for justification and reasonableness in the interpersonal context is not demanding too much. If an agent’s claims are not acceptable to others, then the agent is supposed to convince the other agent with morally compelling reasons for her/his desires. The important issue is how does reasonability get defined amidst conflicting preferences and choices in many complex interpersonal contexts. The Neo-Kantians have introduced that notion of public reason, which involves certain principles of objective justification defined as reasonable among all the agents involved. In this sense, they have assumed that with the sense of deliberative rationality agents can resolve interpersonal conflicts with a preference for agent-neutral values. The idea is that a reason is agreeable if it is not personal to any particular agent and is desirable that such reasons should only be advanced for moral justification. Very clearly, that the reasons advanced should not be consequentialist is obvious. In the New-Liberal framework, moral point of view is treated as impartial point of view. Interpersonal conflicts are treated as conflicts between personal and impersonal values. The impartial framework conceptualizes compassion. He argues this way to explain equal consideration of the interests of all. He opts for a compassion-based approach to explain substantive principles of conduct and judgment. The argument here has just taken the statement but does go into the aspect of compassion when it explains for moral equality. See Adrian M. S. Piper, “Impartiality, Compassion and Moral Imagination,” Ethics, 101.4(July 1991): 726-757.


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an ideal agent thesis, that there are reasonable principles that all agents ideally agree upon. There is an anticipation of perfect conditions of agreement in the conflicting situations, i.e., perfect ideal conditions of agreement. It takes cognizance of the values of other agents, that other agents too are rational in their endeavors to fulfill the life-project. It is idealistic in the sense that persons ought to speculate what is ideally reasonable for all agents in each particular domain of interaction. It combines two characteristics: the moral point of view and the impartial point of view. The impersonal prevails over the personal point of view whenever personal and impersonal claims are in conflict. A major challenge for moral agents is acceptance of others’ views. In the Kantian framework agents are assumed to know what is good, desirable, and a general right and wrong acceptable to each individual. To make an acceptable and reasonable claim, it is assumed that an agent should have possessed the judgment-sensitive attitude to have force of the reason. It is necessary, for those proponents, in order to avoid the unreasonable claims of the persons. As observed in the case of moral judgments, even new liberalism lays too much burden on the agents. This burden is understood as burdens of judgment of conflicting diverse preferences and values expect them to be fair and reasonable to the views of others. The core idea is that an impartial treatment of issues only satisfies the criteria of equal interests for all. For instance, it is generally argued in the Neo-Kantian framework that principles of higher abstraction have the potential to subsume all differences and plurality.3 Both Kantian and Neo-Kantian frameworks attempt to explain heterogeneity through homogeneous principles. In both the frameworks, convergence through reasoning is treated as a logical outcome. Like in the Kantian framework, Neo-Kantian moral philosophers too have made it necessary to arrive at moral consensus. There is no guarantee that agents would agree to disagree even if required. Neo-Kantians need to explain more on the issue of reasonable justification. This involves agents’ explicit passing of judgments of preferences, choices and values. The principal problem in public justification is identifying wrong reasons that agents put forth to justify their value claims. This procedure involves rejection of these wrong reasons and consequently rejecting the actions chosen by the agents. Critics have emphasized on the issue of identifying 3

Simone Chambers. Reasonable Democracy: Jurgen Habermas and the Politics of Discourse (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996), p. 159.

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wrong reasons of others in order to avoid all unreasonable and unacceptable reasons for justification. The larger concern would be whether agents follow genuinely fair principles in wronging others, i.e., whether or not the grounds for rejection of certain reasons free from arbitrariness. The contemporary liberal philosophy is also called argumentative and justificatory liberalism due to its emphasis on public justification. The current chapter examines the strength of the argumentative aspect of liberal philosophy. We have taken up four prominent philosophers under the category of Neo-Kantians or New-Kantian liberals. They are Thomas Nagel, Thomas Scanlon, John Rawls, and Jurgen Habermas. All of them may be called Neo-Kantian because their arguments are grounded in the Kantian moral philosophy in one way or other. The common element that we find in these philosophers is the belief that public justification through public reason can construct a rational, neutral and impartial interpersonal domain. In this chapter, we will deal with the idea of moral impartiality of Nagel and reasonable reason of Scanlon. In this chapter, we aim to show that recourse to impartiality is appropriate as far as serious strife between the personal and impersonal is concerned. To treat it as the any method to resolution of the conflict of value-claims is unreasonable. It violates the spirit of substantial pluralism, a feature implicit in all free liberal democratic frameworks. Neo-Liberals are not substantially different from the Kantians methodology in treating interpersonal moral conflicts. With an emphasis on justification, moral judgments, impartial reasons and normativity, the new liberals put the old wine in a new bottle. Justifying is a plausible method, yet claim for a consensus theory of justification too can kill the very essence of pluralism. We reiterate the point that interpersonal moral deliberations need not be driven by the principles of moral consensus and discourse consensus. The position we hold here owes to our previous stand on domains of conflicts, realms of morality and irreducible pluralism. We would like to argue that justification is not accounted only from the principles of higherabstraction, but also from the idea of multiple rationalities. We will discuss and examine the idea of reasonableness according to Nagel and Scanlon. We are interested in the issue of deliberation among agents that has certain forms of justification of claims to each other. Apart from reasons being part of justification, mutual justification in the interpersonal domain seem to emerge from the belief and attitudes that


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agents have towards many aspects of life. We critically examine impartiality or the perspective of personalizing the impersonal, the merit of reasonableness, the value of public reason, and the nature of intersubjective communication respectively. We would like to say that our criticism of these philosophers is similar to that of Kant as they too offer the solution at an abstract unrealistic level. There is no denial that an interpersonal context can make a distinction between personal and impersonal claims. However, Nagel’s impartiality or impersonal thesis is applicable to the simple issues or the resolvable issues of interpersonal conflicts. Understanding why a collective is not perfectly driven by the notion of impartial norms, at least in the informal public sphere where autonomy of viewpoints is important. Scanlon’s contractualism, nevertheless, has offered a very valuable perspective to moral philosophy, i.e., justification is ‘what we owe to each other’. He assumed that respect for values, others’ lives, and recognition of rationality in others is inbuilt in his method of contractual reasonable justification. We feel that reasonable rejection need to have persuasive element in it.

Reasonable Justification Neo-Kantian liberals defend the objectivity of moral judgments through a universal validity of a norm or procedure.4 They hold that morality is such that each person matters as much as and no more than any other person. Critics are skeptical about whether this effectively forms the basis of moral equality, which combines both minimal universalism and substantial pluralism. Reasonable agreement comes from the motivation of the individuals to act as moral agents. The extended discussion on the issue of moral choice from the Kantian moral tradition dominates the theories of Neo-Kantian moral philosophy. The justificatory account of liberalism seeks to develop an overlapping procedure for individual and collective rationality. The reason for holding this position is that Neo-Kantians too feel that perfect agreement over moral principles cannot be achieved. This idea is reflected in its various methods like hypothesization, idealization, and intersubjective communication. It conceives that an agent should have reasonable moral 4

Refer to Christina Lafont, “Moral Objectivity and Reasonable Agreement: Can Realism be Reconciled with Kantian Constructivism?” Ratio Juris, 17.1(March 2004): 27-51.

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standpoints acceptable to all the interacting agents, a non-compromising attitude towards morality. An impartial reason possesses the capacity to resolve interpersonal conflicts. When two or more agents differ over a moral judgment all of them ought to be guided by impersonal moral standards. The impartial account of liberalism projects to have sought a perspective for mutual cooperation, reciprocity and reasonableness.

A Criticism of Nagel’s Impartiality Argument Nagel is one of the important thinkers who talks about reasonableness in achieving objective morality. Nagel starts with the thesis: If fundamental values are radically opposed, then it is impossible to find motivation among the agents to arrive at any agreement.5 According to him, the conflict is between systems of value so opposed that the adherents of each not only think that the other is completely wrong, but they cannot accord others the freedom to act on their values without betraying their own. Certainly, a common framework that addresses all kinds of valid substantive valueclaims is a challenging task for moral theory. It is necessary too. We find clash of several frameworks with individual and collective characteristics in a democratic society. It is further strengthened by conflicts of value-systems representing some group, association, community, or culture. We have to see whether there is any merit in elevating agent-centered values to the level of agent-neutral values. For Nagel, objectivity should take care of the personal point of view. He forms a direct relationship between four aspects generally addressed in moral philosophy; impartiality, epistemological justification, moral judgments and truth that altogether define a public realm. This is similar to the Rawlsian distinction of public from the private signifying the former. It may be asked: What kinds of values or principles can pass-through justification? As mentioned earlier, justification is at two levels; at the personal level and at the public level. Justification in the latter may depend on the former. Nagel’s primary goal is to discover the distinction between the values a person appeals in his private life and the values appealed in the public life is coherent and defensible The pubic-private distinction is a plausible one in the light of divergent values held by us. It also indicates that one always owes justification to others. But the more a society imbibes shared conceptions, the more complex are those interpersonal relations. This complexity blurs the distinction between public and private values. 5

Thomas Nagel, Equality and Partiality (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), p. 169.


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Nagel draws our attention to the conclusive and judgmental normative principles.6 He turns to a higher level of abstraction in order to find a solution to this irresolvable morally conflicting situation. He assumes that this should come from the recognition of impersonal idea of morality. He states that individuals are fundamentally divided between the demands of the personal and the impersonal points of view. The presence of interpersonal would certainly call for public justification of divergent value-claims. This may not frustrate the personal point of view. The personal demands agent-relative claims whereas the impersonal is synonymously agent-neutral. For Nagel, agent-relativity should reflect the values of agent-neutrality i.e., personalizing the impersonal. This seems to be a contradiction. If we have called something personal it may or may not at the same time impersonal yet can be interpersonal. Interpersonal is not characterized to be consensual always. If same thing can qualify to be both personal and impersonal, then the distinction between personal and impersonal loses its significance. Motivation for a moral action is another important aspect here. It is clear that any voluntary action needs to have some motivation for its implementation. One can think of desires and intentions as motives for action. One can also, therefore, speak of rational decisions based on utilitarian principles or altruistic motives behind actions. However, in the present context, we are concerned with moral decisions and actions that are impersonal.7 According to Nagel, moral motivation can only fully recognize the objective values. This is what he labels as impartial equality. Taking cue from the Kantian conception of ‘respect for persons’, Nagel argues that one’s life does not matter more than anyone else’s.8 That is to 6

Though it is not argued for this purpose, Maeve Cooke presents a finer argument in defense of private autonomy, or private space that is needed for every person to recede back when s/he is unable to conform to the collective values or [universal values [emphasis added]]. See her “A Space of One’s Own: Autonomy, Privacy, Liberty,” Philosophy & Social Criticism, 25.1(1999): 23-53. Whether public reason leads to justification, whether it is determinate and conclusive, will be discussed. We can carry on with the position as inconclusive; in the sense that we retain the debate of the two schools open, i.e., public reason is indeterminate and inconclusive on the one hand, and the opinion that incompleteness of public reason is not a reason for citizens to abandon their commitment to public justification. See Micah Schwartzman, “The completeness of Public Reason,” Politics, Philosophy & Economics, 3.2(2004): 191-220. 7 See his The Possibility of Altruism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978), “The Foundations of Morals,” pp. 3-6. 8 “It is what I can affirm that anyone ought to do in my place, and what therefore

Public Reason: Impartiality and Reasonableness


say that everyone is equal in the moral domain. This is a strong point in Nagel, which is also seen in the moral foundational framework. Treating no one’s life more important than another does need not justify the authority of morality derived from ‘no where’. We have to reconsider this assumption since all the moral contexts are not so clear and simple. Viewing all the cases from a higher impartial criterion is certainly not arbitrary, but it cannot be the overriding criterion in different interpersonal domains. As different issues pose different kinds of moral contestations in different domains, impartiality cannot simply be the underlying determining principle in all domains. The criteria of justice or equality in different domains are different and comparison between domains is not so simple. Even if we consider that Nagel might gave a multi-dimensional picture of it, the principle that others’ lives are not more important than mine should allow agent-relative claims with respect to issues over which objective agreement cannot be sought. We would seek further refinement of Nagel’s point especially taking note of domains of conflicts and deliberations. If no one’s life matters more than anyone else’s in the moral domain, does it mean that value-claims of all the agents taken for equal consideration in the first instance? The answer is yes here. Based on the principle of equivocation, there should not be any arbitrary special preference to one person, thus depriving the moral right of another. One cannot judge that other person’s goals, preferences, and beliefs are less valuable. This kind of judgment cannot follow from the fact that one’s value-claims should have interpersonal value. Nagel opines that to have an equal concern for the interests of all, one should adopt the universal impartial principles. Here, we are, not questioning the principle of equal weight to the interests of all that is argued in the framework of egalitarianism and right to a lifeplan. Our quarrel with Nagel is in the domain of judgmentalism. Agents make different value-claims, many a times incommensurable, over several issues that concern them. Nagel seems to apply impartial principle in all domains and the claims of different individuals. He seems to be simplistic in the sense if the claims are only in one domain. But if the claims belong to different domains, then there can be no single criterion cutting across the domains.

everyone ought to agree that it is right for me to do so as things are. It represents the object of a Kantian judgment.” Equality and Partiality, p. 17.


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Interpersonal domain is a complex moral framework. The impartiality that liberals like Nagel attribute is only applicable to domains where issues are not largely perplexing in nature. In cases of complicated issues, impersonal criteria may be imposed but it cannot value the counter possibilities. It would not resolve the conflicting differences since the difference in the criteria of measuring justice and equality will themselves be contested by interested parties. Such an idea may result in a serious misapplication of relating grand concepts to the social mechanisms. What we argue is that there is a limit to what persons share as common morality. It is right that we endeavor to define shared principles on the issues of very common concern. On the contrary, there are several other domains where agents interact but do not share objective reasons or values. Rather, agents deliberate with the exchange of subjective motivational values. In such domains, it is even difficult to define impartiality. In the previous chapter, we have argued that moral deliberation persistently encounters new contexts where we reflect upon the adequacy of these shared reasons and common good. Such instances of moral decision are certainly burdensome for the agents. However, preference to impartial principles offers too simplistic and unrealistic solutions. Nagel pushes the sole responsibility of connecting personal to the impersonal on the agents. But, why should one assume that agent-relative values and agent-neutral values ought to overlap? Rather interpersonal domain has so great potential that agents can assert their subjective motivational attitudes. Nagel’s thesis asks an agent to think of all moral agents for a higher order abstraction in order to reach an overlapping opinion. Such abstraction should be able to accommodate diversity rather than necessitating convergence. Is Nagel, like other moral philosophers, conveying the message that such a moral domain cannot sustain any kind of moral argument? Nagel can be defended to the extent that impersonality is preferred because an agent has to avoid egocentric principles if equality is preferred. Preferences and choices of rights enjoy priority forever.9 Even if we suppose that the agents that we refer to are equally rational or capable of equal rationality and are less egocentric, other agents outside this domain will have a disturbing influence on the whole process. In our analysis, we cannot afford to overlook such consequences.


An agent-neutral reason does not include an essential reference to the person who has it. On the contrary, an agent-relative reason has an essential reference to the person who has it. See Equality and Partiality, 40. The Possibility of Altruism, pp. 90-95 and The View from Nowhere.

Public Reason: Impartiality and Reasonableness


What Nagel does is to link equally valuable and intrinsically valuable. He says that one has an agent-relative reason to have special concern for one’s own children as opposed to other’s children. Agent-neutral value understood in this way results in the mutual reconciliation of life-plan of one another. But this is rarely the case. Clash of substantive claims reflects the fact that we hold personal opinions over many issues. These personal points of views can be retained without affecting the status of moral principles or being anti-thetical to morality. It is really difficult to assertively say what one ought to choose to do in such dilemmas. The former cannot cease to be moral is just because one has a concern for one’s own children. Everything else remaining the same, if two individuals are found to be deserving charity, and if one of them happens to be known to you, selecting the one you know cannot be less moral in comparison to selecting the one whom you do not know. In such situations, choice is left to the moral agent. We are in line with Samuel Scheffler’s argument on the relationship between reason and values. To claim that you have favored one would be mistaking the very nature of human motives for actions is itself wrong. Conceived in this manner, all our choices may not satisfy the impersonal criterion in the objective sense of morality. Nagel’s impersonal criterion for interpersonal value may avoid arbitrary subjective preferences, but does not boldly take a position that in certain deeper aspects of life collective reason cannot have binding force on an individual unless individuals autonomously comply with others.10 Nagel’s notion of morality has an insider and outsider view. Insider view is the individual point of view and outsider view is the impartial point of view. We admit that for every issue there is a necessity of more than one’s own point of view of right and wrong. Moral and rational thinking have their due places in the pluralistic framework. What is right and wrong can be deduced from each point of view. For Nagel, it is right to argue that an outsider view provides us with an impartial account. It also values the interests of all. On the contrary, we claim that an outsider view can provide a better account but not invariably a right account only for the reason that agents are rational. From the point of pluralism, reason and rational thinking can be compatible with plural values. Many a times, impartial may prevail over the personal point of view due to the presence of multifarious interests. The rule is that no one’s life is more important than mine and vice versa. Besides, Nagel seems to have presupposed that one tends to judge others with biases; it is better to depend on impartial 10

Refer to Nagel’s The Possibility of Altruism, chapter on “Ethics”.


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principles that view everyone equally. Interpersonal issues are divided into several domains of interaction. There are domains where individual autonomy seems to be more operative than the collective reason. Every belief or value need not be right from the point of view of collective reason. For instance, if some philosophy students are asked, ‘which philosopher influenced you the most?’ For example, if Ravi may say that Isaac Levi influenced him the most as he is interested in logical and computational aspects of knowledge. Sailaja may say that Kant is the philosopher that influenced her most since Kant has emphasized the role of reason in morality. Dara thinks that the ideas of Marx have influenced him the most because his interest is in understanding the base-superstructure relationship. Everyone has a personal view (distinctive parameter) owing to his or her personal interests in understanding knowledge. None of them is morally or rationally inferior or superior to the other. All personal viewpoints of view can only be respected, but nothing else more than that. This seems to be a sympathetic understanding of the personal point of view. The above example shows how three different views are justifiable and can co-exist. There are substantial differences of values among persons, which are not to be reduced to likes and dislikes of human beings. Whenever there is a question of autonomy, one can find a due place for a personal viewpoint. In this example, all the three cannot allege each other as irrational. Interpersonal conflicts too could be understood in the similar fashion. As many of the interpersonal conflicts are domain-specific, impartial solution to certain conflicts in certain domains do not make much advancement for a better condition. Even in the case of political conflicts that Nagel refers to perfect impersonal or impartial preferences would not fulfill the conditions of equality. Kant had held that acting on consequence or on inclination etc. cannot be moral since these reasons are non-moral. He invoked the idea of moral action on the ground of moral reason. This is known as categorical imperative where reason for an action springs from the notion of duty duty ought to be done for the sake of duty. Nagel offers his version of objective and impersonal rational motive for action. His spirit is similar to Kant but only marginally different. For him, reason for moral action should not reflect any specific character of an individual. Rightness and wrongness should have a view from nowhere, i.e., an autonomous view. Earlier, we have contrasted “positional objectivity” of Sen with Nagel’s “a

Public Reason: Impartiality and Reasonableness


view from nowhere.” We have arrived at a position that ethical reasoning should begin with a view from somewhere rather than a view from nowhere. In this sense Sen is to a certain extent right in arguing that subjective principles or positional objective principles ought to be taken seriously for transpositional inference. Even if we assume that Nagel’s impartiality principle descends from Kantian notion of perfect rationality, it does eliminate differences over moral issues. Nagel’s account seems to be too idealistic. In this regard, Gerald Gaus refers to the distinction of ideal public justification and humanly accessible notion of public justification in his argument for moral impartiality. According to ideal public justification, only perfectly rational and free agents can validate bona fide moral claims upon persuasion. Humanly accessible notion of public justification, moral claims are validated by admittedly rational free and equal persons when persuaded. He modifies the first one to make it second such that the ideal element is replaced by humanly accessible notion of public justification. He assumes that with moral equality free moral persons can achieve a reasonable agreement in the conflicting situations. He further argues that agents can concur even when their evaluative standards clash.11 Public reasons stand as impartial, remaining basic to public justification, and help agents to judge or justify the claims in the bargaining situation. The rational authority is nothing but being nostalgic towards right and wrong of actions, seen in the entire modern moral philosophy. Pluralism has a point to emphasize in this regard. Interpersonal justification is the justification of different value-claims by all the bargaining parties. Apart from the role of reason-in-itself, outcome of a deliberation in every domain is also determined by the tendency of the agents to be moral and rational. Kai Nielsen refers to this point in his article “Why I should Be Moral?”12 As Williams and Harman point out intentions and motives are important for actions, so too intention behind every justificatory act is important. Many agents may reject the reason or value of another just because either it differs from her/his or s/he dislikes the reason behind that particular act. For example, in the cultural matters, one may reject a custom from another culture as unjustified simply because one does not 11 Gerald F Gaus, “The Demands of Impartiality and the Evolution of Morality,” 131. [Working Paper, Department of Philosophy, University of Arizona.] 12 Kai Nielsen, “Why I Should be Moral,” American Philosophical Quarterly, 21.1(January 1984): 81-91. Also see his, “On Giving Reasons for Being Moral,” Analysis, 33.1(Oct 1972): 17-19.


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have a similar practice in one’s own culture. Skepticism about the possibility of a just outcome from the domains of interpersonal deliberation cannot be avoided. Skepticism towards fairness and reciprocity could be there even if an agent is capable of distinguishing between personal and impersonal standpoints.13 To say that one cannot think of objectivity in the universalistic sense is not to claim that one cannot be moral. Impartiality rests in a certain kind of behavior and adherence to certain moral laws. An impartial approach imposes a kind of extra-burden on the agent to be within the limits of universal morality. This needs to be expanded further. Morality and rationality seem burdensome to be followed for their own sake. They are called as coercive enforcement of morals though both Kantians and Neo-Kantians would have a counter claim stating that they believe in autonomous moral choices. From the impersonal account of Nagel, we can invoke an idea here: a particular action can possess both personal and impersonal elements. The impartial thesis seems to be grounded in the presumption that to avoid ambiguity every agent should be morally motivated to make impartialchoice among equally significant desires. Thus, for Nagel, choice of rational desire is possible. One can, act against one’s own desire from a moral point of view. Here, the moral motivation would be the basis on which an agent is expected to perform an action. The distinction of partial and personal by Nagel is admissible in the context of preferences and choices. A decision taken from the partial or biased point of view cannot become interpersonal whereas a decision taken from personal point of view has the potentiality of becoming impersonal. From Nagel’s argument, it appears that there is implicit mechanism that determines whether a choice made can have interpersonal value or not. What is morally wrong is being partial and not necessarily being personal itself is ambiguous. Nagel talks about liberal impartiality as a moral truth in the public political realm.14 According to this idea, a collective is always guided by higherorder principles. If we represent political as public, interpersonal principles may not count on strict principles of moral realism or moral 13

Bernard Gert, “Review of The Possibility of Altruism,” The Journal of Philosophy, 69.12(1972): 340-344. 14 Thomas Nagel, “Moral Conflict and Political Legitimacy,” Philosophy & Public Affairs, (Summer 1987): 215-240.

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universalism. The disagreement discussed in this thesis is not about the procedures of collective conflicts, but among the agents themselves. Our understanding of interpersonal conflicts is a little different from that of Nagel’s notion of moral conflicts. The difference lies in our view moral conflicts as conflicts between impartial moral principles and personal motives from the procedural point of view only. In the notion of interpersonal conflicts, we would like to include two more aspects. It is not clear from pluralism, how one can totally segregate partial element from impartial personal element in the decision-making process. Such segregation may demand a proper knowledge of what is a personal preference and what is an impersonal preference. However, we may note that these may have the positional objective characteristics. The same may be said about complex moral dilemmas in the context of multi-dimensional situations. Two individuals differing in their life projects are expected to make two different personal and impartial judgments and this does not always escape the charge of being partial. When persons persuade others to agree to their preferences and choices, they try to attach interpersonal values to these preferences. But it is difficult to say that these preferences are only impersonal in nature since the principle of co-operation and the idea of agree to disagree after recognizing the legitimacy of the claim of others are at work. As we noted, all that is interpersonal ought to be impersonal is not a necessary truth. Nagel seems to have given impartial attributes to general principles. One can argue that one should have an autonomous conception of right and wrong choices. Others should be able to justify my choice when they consider it from my point of view. In the same note, the choice of the other person should also be considered from his point of view. For the Kantians and the Neo-Kantians, one’s preferences, choices, values and beliefs should be appropriate from the point of view of all concerned ones. Given this, there are three important presuppositions in Nagel’s understanding of the situation: one, every agent is bestowed with a survival instinct and a rational instinct; second, the process of justification will persuade all reasonable agents to come to an agreement; and third, the expectation of common sense morality is that the deliberation will result in the convergence of interests and values. On the first point, Nagel is of the opinion that even though survival and rational instincts are there, they work in a way that self-interest is kept under control through the higherorder principles. That is to recognize that survival and rational instinct needs to commit one to egoistic hedonism. Through rational instinct, one


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can go beyond egoism even if one has survival instinct. In the case of interest-maximization, interest in oneself should reflect as rational selfinterest to balance the conflict of right-claims. Secondly, the process of justification will persuade all reasonable agents to come to an agreement is understandable since the conflicting situation is undesirable. Given this, the persons engaged in deliberation should be reasonable. Reasonability works fine in single domain, but needs to be extended to different domains within the framework of interpersonal complex moral conflicts. Nagel expects the agents to be reasonable across domains, of course excluding psychopaths with purposeful noncooperation and unfair attitude. And thirdly, the assumption that reasonable persons can be persuaded to agree to common shared moral impartial principles to converge into common interests and values can happen perhaps only in select cases. At best convergence can take place only in an ideal well-ordered society where the issues are governed by the principles of equality and justice. It is highly skeptical to believe that an objective agreement would be reached through liberal forms of societies given the diversity and pluralistic life projects prevailing all over. Different people have different goals, pursue them differently, and develop different accounts of rationality and morality. Relating to others is inevitable due to interdependency. An attempt is always made to reach common morality and good. This does not mean that a unified and harmonious moral system would emerge. Even when convergence on common principles emerges, there are manifold divergent views in the dormant state. There is no unified view on these unsurfaced or hidden principles, which are not deliberated upon or have been kept aside for the sake of reaching an agreement. They are by all means, individual partial viewpoints that have their bases in individual autonomy and diversity. Hence, public justification should take note of these hidden facts. We may mention here one of the core ideas of liberalism, i.e., autonomy of individuals to the fullest extent means no interference from others. Based on this analysis, one may say that a public realm has the potential to take into account the non-idiosyncratic differences into account while expecting to reach an agreement. Agents come to resolve certain conflicts while they also maintain resoluteness over others.

Public Reason: Impartiality and Reasonableness


Seeking a complete resolution of conflict is itself meaningless because most of the problems are context dependent.15 These problems are addressed as part of informal deliberations. In the interpersonal framework, these informal deliberative patterns are even more important in making any moral principle neutral and impartial. If two agents are in a dilemma about their choices, one way to resolve the issue is to rationally weigh the options available keeping the pragmatic factor in mind.16 The principal aspect is agents’ ability to negotiate their respective agentcentered values with each other. Nagel also notes that there is a certain ‘open-endedness’ in the approach to the moral issues. Nagel’s point may be stated as: If the agents fail to arrive at some common ground, they must be open to the possibility of interpretation and pursuit. Necessitating the principle of epistemological justification, open-endedness, and truth, pluralism proper is pushed to the corner of holding an uncertain principle. This open-endedness may be viewed by some as a weakness since it gives a sense of incompleteness. However, this would be a mistake in the sense, this situation is preferable to rigidity and hegemony since open-endedness can lead to a new discovery. If the above argument of Nagel could accommodate substantial pluralism, certainly it would add strength to liberal-pluralism.


This concept is dealt by Joseph Raz in “The Practice of Value,” Tanner Lectures on Human Values (Delivered at Berkeley: University of California, Mar 2001), 113-150. Raz’s argument can be extended from the second chapter. For him, a rights-based theory is an impoverished account of morality. The point that he holds is one’s claim should not go contrary to the principles of social justice. Raz argues that the argument of neutrality stands on people’s higher-interest that makes them choose the rules of social justice. See his Morality of Freedom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980), 132 16 For example Frank Jackson presents an argument regarding the moral dilemma of choosing what is best for the agent. He locates moral dilemmas in internal conflicts. Further he expresses the fact that it is a manifest and unpleasant fact of life that we are often torn between alternatives. Like if x & y are two states of affairs, they are not possible at the same time. Jackson’s main thesis is that the contradiction is not in the states of affairs but the features. “What assimilation theory wrongly treats as clash or conflict between of states of affairs is in fact a clash or conflict between the values of features of states of affairs.” See Frank Jackson, “Internal Conflicts in Morals and Desires,” American Philosophical Quarterly, 22.2(1985): 105-114.


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How Reasonable is the Reasonableness? In our pursuit to discover the grounds for reasonability in the public sphere, we consider Scanlon’s contractualism as a crucial one. Scanlon develops the idea of contractualism with its central idea of what morality is and what is the nature of moral rightness and wrongness. We can also say that contractualism is about the fixation of priority of moral reasons over other reasons as such. According to the contractualism of Scanlon, “An act is wrong if its performance under the circumstances would be disallowed by any standard set of principles for the general regulation of behavior which no one could reasonably reject as a basis for informed, unforced agreement.” Contractualism becomes the basis for reaching reasonable agreement among the conflicting agents. It argues that rightness or wrongness of an action is to be understood in terms of reasonable rejection. This action may be defended by adequate reason when provided with full information no one would reasonably reject. Every action should have some kind of justifiable reason giving force. Contractualism is also about moral reasoning with principles that draw mutual accountability.17 In Scanlon’s point of reasonable rejection there is a relation established between agent-neutral and agent-relative conditions. The relation that Scanlon presents is an overlap of the personal and the impersonal, in a way similar to that of Nagel. Two central questions that would attract our attention are what a reasonable agreement is and what makes something a ground for 17 Philip Stratton Late, “Scanlon’s Contractualism & the Redundancy Objection,” Annals, 63.1(Jan 2003): 70-76. T. M. Scanlon, What We Owe To Each Other (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000). & “Contractualism and Utilitarianism,” in Utilitarianism and Beyond, Bernard Williams & Amartya Sen, eds. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), pp. 103.128. Also see his “Review: Moral Theory: Understanding and Disagreement,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 55.2(June 1995): 343-356 at 346. Regima Kreide, “Context Sensitive Universalism: on Thomas Scanlon’s What We Owe To Each Other,” Philosophy & Social Criticism, 26.5(2000): 123-132 at 124. For instance, D. J. Wiggs also mentions more or less similar point, “what and how should we live is a function partly of what is acceptable to others”. Also see Peter Railton, “Some Questions About the Justification of Morality,” Philosophical Perspectives, 6(1992): 27-53 at 40, 41. For the mention of adequate reasoning, refer F. M. Kamm, “Owing, Justifying and Rejecting,” Mind, 111.442(April 2002): 323-354 at 324. Rahul Kumar, “Reasonable Reasons in Contractualist Moral Argument,” Ethics, (Oct 2003). T. M. Scanlon, “Precis of What We Owe To each Other,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 66.1(January 2003): 159-161.

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reasonable rejection? In Scanlon’s contractualism, agents are supposed to have reason giving force, morally compelling reasons and judgmentsensitive attitudes. They have moral force on the grounds that they have to fulfill the rules of practical reason. Richard Arneson remarks that reasons often function to frame deliberation and choice that do not resemble the purpose of maximization.18 Reasonable rejection calls for an interpersonal impartial justification of one’s values and actions. According to Scanlon, the point of morality that concerns what we owe to each other is to be understood as what we can justify to each other reasonably. Contractualism seeks a reasonable basis of normative morality. Only such condition would result in valuing other’s life. Every one of us has an obligation to examine (accept or reject) the claims of others. It is interesting to know how different agents make these moral judgments in the interpersonal context. Scanlon adds further that this justification includes the appropriate information of the agents as well. Certainly, the notion of what we owe to each other is very significant as a fundamental feature of a just society. The important task is the construction of the impersonal value of reasonableness. The strategy of Scanlon is justifiability and the agents’ built-in-sensitivity of right and wrong to whatever appeals we make. Scanlon’s contractualism has made a considerable progress in understanding and expanding the moral horizon that in fact would provide a better picture of interpersonal justification. Owing to the pluralistic nature of our preferences and values, Scanlon rightly assumes that one should consider a wide range of reasons. However, to presuppose agreement as central to morality may be overlooking certain conflicting reasons. Moral agreement is achievable in matters of certain fundamental rights and wrongs. Actions are either right or wrong categorically in such instances. But in various other instances like an individual judging that another is wrong in holding a particular value or a belief, agreement is to be supposed as central provided one has mutual recognition of different beliefs. This is because either of them could turn out to be appropriate ones or we cannot really at times come out of internal objectivity. For instance, rape, child molestation, cheat, promise, disrespect etc. are agreed by one and all that they constitute fundamental wrong and right. One need not say that there cannot be autonomous moral judgment over such issues unless and until two of these same basic shared values are in conflict with each other. On the other hand, interpersonal framework is more complex and the 18 Richard J. Arneson, “The End of Welfare As We Know It? Scanlon Versus Welfarist Consequentialism,” Social Theory and Practice.


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complexity grows gradually. Scanlon does admit this fact when he argues that MacIntyre is right in saying that one needs to know more informed definition of disagreement (and in our context conflict too) rather than progressing towards solution.19 In order to deal with that complexity we have to proceed from the unity of morality to the plurality of moral principles. The point of reference is to conflict of value-claims that would arise from substantial central as well as peripheral beliefs. Reasonable reasons need to be equally sensitive to moral constructivism. While developing a theory of agreement or compatibility of values, we have to recognize that there are degrees and domains of conflicts. Knowledge of this would enable agents to realize the burdens involved in accepting one principle and rejecting another. In this sense, both acceptance and rejection are burdens and involve certain obligations as rational-moral agents. This is because we are expected to examine the claims of others before we accept or reject them and vice-versa. The complex situation is such that we have autonomous claims, not reducible to one another. Secondly, the impasse between universal and particular claims always exists. One may look at the issue from the general or from personal point of view. There is a very serious problem addressed by Scanlon, i.e., of convincing others of the reasons one have for acting in such and such a way or believing in such and such a thing. There are several instances where either we are unable to convince others for our particular value position or the others are reluctant to come to terms with our point of view. This is feasible because in the Scanlon’s framework every individual is autonomous or sovereign to make a moral choice and every other individual is an equal reasonable claimant.20 Such a condition makes the role of substantial pluralism more apt because we are concerned here with the rationalization of moral point of view, which may differ from the collective legitimate point of view. Besides reasons, we owe to each other mutual respect, a decent standard of living (well-being of Scanlon), treating each other’s values as important, and most significantly reasons for our deeper commitments and actions. In other words, we owe one another reasonable treatment of our preferences, 19

Thomas Scanlon, “Moral Theory: Understanding and Disagreement,” p. 356. Ibid., pp. 353-355. Also see Stephen Darwell, “Contractualism, Root and Branch: A Review Essay,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, 34.2(2006): 193-214 at 196. 20

Public Reason: Impartiality and Reasonableness


choices, actions, value-claims, and beliefs. This could happen the way Raz explains that a relationship should be formed between reasons and values. We should engage with reasons in the interpersonal context.21 Elsewhere, we have argued that project-dependent reasons are not unreasonable. We owe to each other autonomous spheres of competence, where agents are not affected by others’ interference. Reasonableness could also be arrived at if agents do not get puzzled other agents’ choices as outside their belief sets. Robert Adams observes that justification should adequately take into account the extent to which it would be unreasonable for us to sacrifice the considerations of broader morality like the pressure of social or rational universalism.22 What we owe to each other is more than arguing for mere adherence to impersonal principles. The plural feature of the deliberative frameworks demands this kind of reconciliation. Scanlon’s contractualism keeps in mind the principle of role-reversibility. It means that certain rules are to be similarly followed by any other person in my place and vice-versa. Based on this, he asks an agent to place herself/himself in other’s shoes in order to understand the implications of following or rejecting a principle. If one is rational to believe why others should not violate a moral principle upheld by one, then by the same token, s/he should also violate the moral principles upheld by others. There exist equally compelling moral principles that other agents also adhere to. Scanlon, like other moral philosophers, puts a condition that an agent must have valid or compelling reasons as why s/he has made a specific moral choice. Not any reason would validate an action except the moral one. When reasons are subjective or subject to contingent conditions, the complexity lies in communicating reason of one agent to another. These varying reasons can, according to the fundamental plural principle, conflict with each other. Scanlon talks about judgment-sensitive attitude, which constitutes rational and moral motivation. The problem of rational motivation is to explain the intention that motivates one’s action and which reflects on the reason to do so. In deriving moral motivation, Scanlon defines mutual recognition as a kind of idealized reciprocity of respect. For him, morality is a reciprocal recognition rather than having a


See R. Jay Wallace, Philip Pettit, Samuel Scheffler, Michael Smith, eds., Reasons and Values: Essay on the Moral Philosophy of Joseph Raz, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2004). 22 Jurgen Habermas, Justification and Application: Remarks on Discourse Ethics (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1993). Robert Merrihew Adams, “Scanlon’s Contractualism” p. 581.


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mere instrumental value.23 When different agents have inclinations towards moral standpoints, how do they recognize the value of these moral standpoints without the use of universal reason or uniform moral principles? We treat this as the most compelling question in the context of conflicting deeper differences and complex interpersonal life. For instance, Philip Petit refers to Parfit’s argument that an action is wrong as long as anyone can make a reasonable complaint against it. This notion of reasonableness possesses objective value. Justifiability and rightness are bi-conditional in the Scanlon’s framework.24 The dispute between personal and rational also makes Scanlon idealize the notion of moral reasoning. The principle of idealization is followed within the liberal philosophical framework. It prefers persons to be impartial spectators. It would mean that right choice is the one in which when we ideally would want to perform in the situation in question. Being right from an ideal standpoint should be the motivation for reasonableness in contractualism. In the Scanlon’s framework reasonableness itself is a source for moral motivation. Agents make reasonable claims with the motivation that others would not reasonably reject them. Critics would argue that the principle of moral motivation demands too much from an individual. They would claim that moral motivation is not followable if it endorses actions that people may not be able or willing to perform. The inability to translate a belief into an action is what makes a moral motivation not followable.25 Scanlon argues that the reason-giving force of moral considerations will establish the justificatory force that others will not reasonably reject.26 Let 23 Arneson argues that this account of Scanlon fails. This gradually carries the characteristic of reflection which he calls as “phenomenology of moral motivation”. R. Jay Wallace, “Scanlon’s Contractualism,” Ethics, 112(April 2000): 429-470 at 435 & 450. Moral motivation in the ordinary sense can be explicated as standing in some strong sense of moral principles makes agents accept each other’s reasons for actions and commitments. This condition is itself the source of moral motivation. 24 Philip Petit, “The Construal of Scanlon’s Contractualism,” The Journal of Philosophy, 97.3(Mar 2000): 148-164. 25 Vitario Bufacchi, “Motivating Justice,” Contemporary Political Theory, 4(2005): 25-41 at 31. 26 T. M. Scanlon, “Contractualism and Utilitarianism,” pp. 103-28.

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us admit that we ought to give compelling reasons for our choices and interests. According to the principle of reasonability, it adds strength to the justification of our preferences, beliefs, and values. Without reasons these are prone to reasonable rejection. We may note here that theoretically, if one puts forth compelling reasons, then others cannot reasonably reject these reasons. Another built-in-assumption in Scanlon’s account is that reasonableness takes note of the tolerable pluralistic aspects of agents’ preferences and values. This kind of assumption may not go well with contractualism because to recognize pluralism, one needs to follow reasonable acceptance of varying claims by others and not their rejection. Reasonable acceptance of claims of others is truly pluralistic; rejection cannot be the criterion for pluralism. Therefore, contractualism which has the superficial feature of recognizing the plurality is at a deeper level is in favor of uniformity. The domain in which the justification and rejection occur is constitutive of all those reasonable beings that possess the moral sense of co-operation. Scanlon contrives a specific character of a human being as a dominant trait, present in some or the other sense, to an extent that each has the capacity to convince the other. From the writings of Scanlon it is clear that our desires cannot escape critical reflection since others have to consider it to be worthy. Another point that adds to the moral skepticism is striking common grounds for interpersonal moral principles. Scanlon’s position does not have an added advantage over Nagel’s. Nagel speaks of impartial values and excludes partial values from moral deliberations and Scanlon talks of impartial values through the reasonable rejection and eliminates the rejectable partial values from moral deliberations. This skepticism opens up doubts whether Scanlon’s moral and rational motivation accommodates pluralism or not. It seems that apparently it accommodates pluralism but at the basic level it only recognizes the common elements in the pluralistic framework. Impasse of moral standards can be due to the presupposition of the limits of morality. This can be analyzed in two ways. In the extreme sense, an agent ought to pursue the highest good defined as neutral and impartial. In a moderate sense, the pursuance of the highest good is limited to the capacity and sacrifice of self-interest of the agent.27 Though Shelly Kagan put forth a valid point about the limits of morality, it also invites criticism. 27 Shelly Kagan, “Precis o the Limits of Morality,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 51.4(Dec 1991): 897-901 at 897-8.


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It is very apt to recognize that motivation even depends on capacity and cost of cooperation. This only gives a partial account of the problem of morality and its demands. On the other hand, reasonableness also depends upon the fairness and reciprocity of different values, i.e., impartial rules enforces pressure on the agents to stick to the principle of highest good. We agree rational that self-interest as an influential quality cannot forgo their agent-centered options as also stated by Kagan. Kantians and Neo-Kantians believe that pluralism proper is a fragmented account of morality. They prefer unity or uniformity of morality that can be normative and binding on agents. Scanlon believes that there should be unity in morality. This is the reason why he would like to appeal to moral sense present in others while providing moral reasons. He believes that an honest moral agent would not reject any sound reason for an action. The presupposition of Scanlon is very clear here. A moral agent, given the rationality and moral sense, would not be dishonest to reject a fair and just reason for a moral action. Speaking from this account, any fragmentation of value would be a moral loss for him.28 Therefore, he insists that even if pluralism prevails; unity of morality is desirable. This argument seems to project itself to have a concern for others and their moral positions. Whether it would be unreasonable for me to reject a certain principle, which no one could reasonably reject, depends upon two significant factors. One, the amount of actions affects other agents. Second, the potential loss compared to potential loss of other agents under these principles and alternatives to it.29 The concern of Scanlon is our normative account of morality that affects the understanding of what is right and wrong in our moral domain. For this reason he is also concerned about justifiable basis of our actions. On the 28 We can make out similar observations from the arguments of advocates of moral-rational behavior. They argue that significance given to moral dilemmas would involve in moral loss (the reference could be towards moral fragmentation). For similar argument see Daniel Statman, “The Debate Over The So-Called Reality of Moral Dilemmas,” Philosophical Papers, 19.3(1990): 119-211. 29 T. M. Scanlon. “Contractualism and Utilitarianism,” p. 113. Though the argument of Rahul Kumar is not directly relevant, his position that contractualism is not driven by consequentialism can be noted. He discusses about the situations in which persons can be wronged. “...a claim to have been wronged requires that certain legitimate expectations, to which one is entitled in virtue of a valid moral principle, have been violated.” Rahul Kumar, “Who Can be Wronged,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, 31.2(2003): 99-118.

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contrary, we are interested in understanding reasonable agreement with respect to how an agent judges others’ values while holding certain values towards various aspects of life. By emphasizing on what is right and wrong, the notion of pluralism is not so adequately dealt in the contractualist framework. The reason is, Scanlon like other moral philosophers of the Kantian tradition, is more concerned about a unified sense of right and wrong rather than the plurality of normative reasons. Taking note of the importance of multiplicity of right and wrong in the pluralistic framework, we argue that such a simplistic unified sense can prevail only when the issue pertains to only one specific domain of human interactions. Scanlon assumes that the basic pluralism is within the contractual framework. This is like not giving due recognition to pluralism since the whole approach is to undermine the pluralistic elements in morality in favor of uniformity. A persistent emphasis on the normative domain indicates that his concern about the nature of procedural rule that resolves the conflicts. Scanlon should be credited for giving some importance to the views of multiplicity in the sense that recognition of reason as valid and justifiable. The solution does not lie in unity, but elsewhere. To speak of unity is to undermine the elements of diversity. We want to achieve interpersonal agreement without sacrificing the diversity. Contrary to the demands of contractualism, reasonableness needs to have the possible expanded domain of considerations that could possibly minimize the loss resulting from the arbitrary rejection of principles. Another point worth noting is that contractualism certainly brings normative status to the understanding of the moral reasons. But all the moral contractualists should realize that contractualism has no solution for all the issues. Nor is it capable of providing convincing answers to some of the issues. This is because, we are not even aware of all moral issues that might emerge in the near future. For instance, speaking of different professions, one might say that the moral conflicts that have arisen in the near past were not there earlier. The concept of cyber crime, the concept of crowding the sky with satellites etc. were unheard of. One can imagine that there might be conflict of interests with reference to skies over pacific sea that does not belong to any country today yet might become really a contentious issue in the near future. One cannot and should not even think that we have exhausted all moral issues of human life. All that we need to do is to have the flexibility in the model to take care of such issues, which may arise in the near future. Scanlon’s model does not recognize this


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inevitable feature of human society. He believes that it is possible to work towards unified morality, which, perhaps, has the potentiality to address all such future moral issues. The primary concern is whether the principle of reasonable rejection has the potential to take plurality into consideration. Jay Wallace presents that Scanlon’s contractualism pretty well satisfies the concerns of plurality.30 The principal question is: How do we negotiate a balance between the necessity of generic reasons and that of individual claims? Scanlon depends on the principle of normative reflection, which in turn depends on the principle of internal correctness.31 He seems to argue that the generic moral values will cater to the wider questions of human life. The higherorder moral principles will be abstraction from the plural nature of social life. At a higher level, the distinction between individuals and groups are blurred and the distinction is not found so important. One may argue in favor of the need for general norms and plural principles. For example, Simone chambers argues that norms become more abstract and general because their justification must satisfy a wider and more profound set of criterion and objection in a pluralistic, democratic and heterogeneous society.32 Nevertheless, it is questionable as to how an abstraction of this kind would serve the concern of pluralistic society since conflicting issues arose in a concrete social situation and the solution offered is at a general and abstract level perhaps satisfying none. There is no doubt that Scanlon recognizes the fact of pluralism. This is seen in his article, “Fear of Relativism”. His concern was to find explanations for a benign form of relativism, and pluralism somewhat similar to Nagel’s personalizing the impersonal. His interpretation of Gilbert Harman’s logical relativism reflects his fear of pluralism and 30

Though it is not strictly universalistic, it draws our attention to what is called objectivity in our justification. “I am not claiming that the desire to be able to justify one’s actions to others on grounds they could not reasonably reject is universal or ‘natural’. ‘Moral education’ seems to me plausibly understood as a process of cultivating the desire and sharpen it, largely by learning what justifications others are in fact willing o accept, by finding which one you yourself will accept as you confront with from various perspectives...” See “Contractualism and Utilitarianism,” p. 117. 31 Jay Wallace, “Scanlon’s Contractualism,” pp. 461-463. 32 This argument of Chambers is actually made with regard to Habermasian discourse of universality. See Reasonable Democracy: Jurgen Habermas and the Politics of Discourse (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996), p. 159.

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relativism threatening the basic requirements of morality. The fear may be genuine, but Harman’s argument that moral reasons are welded to a particular framework does not threaten the basic moral requirements. It is right that different people are influenced by different ultimate moral standards. There is no fear of fragmentation of the moral principles in Harman’s theory. Interpersonal differences are situated at different levels. Instead, moral fragmentation would save a total collapse of morality. This should make it amply clear that different people could have different ultimate moral standards. These multiple moral standards are not in the real sense indeterminate moral principles leading to uncertainty and ambiguity. It is true that Scanlon is wrong in saying that pluralism would leave us with no explanation of ultimate reason giving force of the diverse conditions collected under the rubric of moral right and wrong. Also it is wrong to say that moral reflection in the pluralistic framework is a messy process and an indeterminate business of normative reflection. In the interpersonal framework moral constructivism need not be determined by only independent values. In arguing this way, one would take into consideration that pluralism is not to be misunderstood as one idea that arbitrarily questions every single moral principle. One must also take into consideration that to be serious about morality need not mean that one should arrive at only unified account of morality. Scanlon seems to have serious apprehensions about the status and territory of moral inquiry in pluralism. The point that morality can be distinctly placed in an independent domain comes as a challenge to pluralism. The question that is important here is how important is the role of an independent framework of morality. Morality would loose all its importance if it fails to guide human action. In each and every walk of life, morality should guide our actions. Therefore, it would be a mistake to put morality in an independent domain without interacting and interfering with our day-to-day life. More aptly, we may say that morality is autonomous, as it cannot be derived from anything, yet it operates in all different domains of life. This needs further reflection of whether idealizing ways of reasoning and justification can construct an objective interpersonal standpoint that can take care of pluralism. Any pluralistic claim strongly held would maintain that reasons offered by any other system could be reasonably rejected. That is to say, what is expected of a rational person is to uphold her/his own point of view and he would not be called unreasonable if he rejects all other perspective as


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unreasonable. A rational person is expected not to contradict himself. Given this what is the point of retaining pluralism when Scanlon wants to go for unity. Therefore, we need to work out the exact relationship between reasonable rejection and the pluralism. The basis of moral action is not desire but reason. The very fact that Scanlon speaks of reasonable rejection by others means that he recognizes pluralism. He too recognizes the different values of others and respect for others yet speaks of appealing to their rationality for achieving the unity of values.

Wronging Others The important aspect of contractualism would be the basis of judging others. Stephen Darwell raises a similar question asking what it means to call an action as morally wrong. Subsequently, he argues that when one judges a conduct to be blameworthy, it is done on the presumption that one can demand moral conduct on behalf of a moral community.33 If that particular person has a rigid conception of social morality, then s/he may not be able to get convinced even upon extending full information and persuasion. By saying this we do not deny that one cannot wrong others at all. We can act as moral agents in many instances, but in many other instances moral agency alone will not be the basis of either reasonable rejection or reasonable agreement. The wronging procedure can be made less arbitrary if one has the real characteristics of rational-moral agency. Reciprocity and fairness are supposed to be intrinsic to morality, i.e., moral accountability is what morality is fundamentally about.34 Here, we do not go into the discussions of moral responsibility. We are talking about the very first act of wronging others. Morality may have at its root moral obligations with reciprocal values. In a complex framework, where new knowledge is acquired alongside the revision of the current beliefs takes place; we cannot really judge our values, actions and claims with perfect unity of moral principles. In order that we can refrain from arbitrary and taste-based value-claims we need to take into account how open-ended morality could be while considering the nature of morality. Even in the moral framework, we cannot avoid linking our moral points of view to some or the beliefs. One reflection can be made here.

33 34

Stephen Darwell, “Contractualism, Root and Branch,” p. 207. Ibid., p. 208.

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Scanlon is too optimistic in his belief that morality by its virtue would free us from arbitrariness as much as possible. It can be said that he firmly believes that whenever there is deliberation for the resolution of moral conflicts, moral principles will certainly guide our actions. In this sense, if a moral agent is rejecting a principle or a person’s viewpoint, the very moral agency would make her/his wronging the fair and just. This is in some sense depending on the intrinsic value of moral agency. Consider the same harm example and the problem of numbers. Though Scanlon appears to have widened the criteria of moral judgments through reasonable reason, the social context yet creates several complications. Besides, preference for unity of moral principles and convergence of reasonable point of views cannot escape treating morality as a principle-in-itself. It will attempt to define the rational and normative standards of an interpersonal deliberative framework. Certainly, a social context cannot be devoid of normative standards. Otherwise all morals rules and laws would be meaningless. The reason why wronging others is problematic despite defining morality in a proper sense is due to the intersection of different worldviews among the agents. The question that would bother us here is whether agents can come to terms upon persuasion whenever they meet with some different or unusual value-claim. In theory we can say it is possible. But practically this is not the case. One can imagine about how much of our conduct can be reasonably rejected and how much of it is permissible. This is always an open-ended question, which would in a continuous state of conflict. As the communitarians claim, it is also necessary to have a proper understanding of the interpersonal framework. The complication that could be stated here is that Kantian moral theories do not allow standard consequential way of measuring blameworthiness or moral wrong. The matters are left to the question of well-being that takes care of philosophical utilitarianism. But as Bernard Williams points out for certain actions or choices, moral rightness cannot be seen immediate or in the near future. In this sense, we are left with two kinds of moral arguments. First, one can accept or reject others using the definitive aspect of morality. Second, moral argumentation cannot be really carried out due to the inadequacy of rationalized normative principles. A question emerges here: are we taking Scanlon’s contractualism into the domain of irrelevant considerations? One may make a counter argument stating that Scanlon’s morality may not be extended to such a wider scope. We make a noticeable observation here. If we have stated earlier that


Chapter Four

besides according moral status to agent-relative considerations, we also retain the possibility of transpositional evaluation of ethical considerations as propounded by Sen. Similarly, Scanlon’s morality can be extended to the substantial framework of interpersonal moral deliberations as in the case of Habermas’s discourse ethics. Another aspect of contractualist reasonable reason is the basis on which one can condemn others’ wrongs. We would say that pluralism does not take the justificatory aspect to a helpless condition where no one could be wronged and no condemnation could be made of wrong value-claims. Relativism might lead to such irresolvable dilemmas. In Scanlon’s thesis, a standard measuring point is inevitable to judge moral actions. He argues that relativism deprives us of finding wrong actions, or treating certain condemnations as legitimate and justified.35 This fear of Scanlon is genuine because even in a complex interpersonal framework, where irreducibility operates, conflicts cannot occur without some wrong being done by some person(s). However, fairness and reasonableness can be questioned in morally wronging others in the interpersonal framework. A rational agent may not be accommodative of diverse point of views, which in turn may become the reason for wronging others. We claim here that a uniform moral account would by itself avoid this negative wronging is being too optimistic in nature. Nagel and Scanlon’s pluralism though recognizes the fact of pluralism or the irreducible pluralism in the initial stages; their arguments certainly take the course of morality back to universalism. Both recognize the variety of views and they see the need to have one grand moral system in order that there is agreement and all conflicting views are resolved. That is to say, the end of the deliberation should have the desirable effect that all disagreeing agents agree on some principles and embrace them as action guiding. Such an outcome can only be seen as universal, i.e., a transformation takes place and all divergent views are either found to be weak and ineffective and the strong universal view emerges. With such a picture, we tend to call them initial pluralism and eventual universalism. This stand, we do not consider to be pluralistic. This program cannot be said to be upholding the pluralistic spirit. What is noteworthy is that recognizing others’ reasons as reasons or respecting the viewpoints of others does not mean that embracing the 35

In R. Hursthouse, G. Lawrence and W. Quinn, eds., Virtues and Reasons: Philippa Foot and Moral Theory (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), pp. 219-246. at 228-9.

Public Reason: Impartiality and Reasonableness


perspective of others. This slip is the dangerous one. Many have thought that accepting others’ reasons is same as embracing them. Respect for others leads to the recognition of their reason as reasonable, but that need not lead to losing one’s identity and moving towards uniformity. This is the common point seen in Nagel, Scanlon, Rawls and Habermas. All of them have a mistaken belief that if an agent grants other as reasonable, they have reached an agreement. This need not be the case. This could be only the first step towards finding an amicable solution. Respect for others is a pre-requisite, but itself is not a solution. Scanlon’s unity or Nagel’s impartiality are not something so logically the consequence of recognizing the reasonable reason. A reasonable reason would not reject the justification offered by others, yet it may not embrace the justification offered by others. Scanlon does not recognize this gap but he thinks that he has made a good move towards unity after having invoked the concept of reasonable rejection. Once reasonableness is achieved Nagel and Scanlon think that one has reached the solution to the problem of conflict. We insist that this is not the case. Reasonable reason is needed to recognize the justification offered by others. Having reached this level, we recognize the multiplicity of reasons and justification. For us, this stage is a true stage of pluralism, not universalism since there is respect for others and their justification. This is truly the conflicting situation and an agreement has to be struck. This process is the process of moral bargaining, coming to terms with reality of plurality and mutual co-operation that should work and help conflicting individuals to come to a pragmatic solution. It does not work automatically. One should work towards the agreement, hence the importance of moral deliberation. However all the Neo-Kantians tone down the difference and jump to the conclusion that there would be now universal normative value once we recognize the common element in different groups. This is a mistake as others’ norms do not become yours unless you embrace them if you cannot embrace the norms of others without sacrificing yours if they are already in conflict. This part has been overlooked by Neo-Kantians and thus they are mistakenly led to think that recognition of the reasons offered by others resolution of conflicts.


The fairest rules are those to which everyone would agree if they did not know how much power they would have. —John Rawls

The above quote from Rawls lays strong emphasis on liberal neutrality as a foundational principle for contemporary liberal democracy. It seems quite problematic a position. The previous chapters have elaborately discussed on how interpersonal moral conflicts are not resolvable within the limits of any absolute rational or normative method. We have two important frameworks here. One is the liberal philosophical framework which stands on four significant principles: moral-ethical foundationalism, justification, normativity and reasonableness. Another is the pluralist framework, which opposes traditional foundationalism of rational method for resolving conflicts. The big challenge to pluralism is to elaborate on what best constitutes the interpersonal in a just society. Pluralism needs to explain a little more about the nature of procedural, political and the practical dimensions of social life. In this regard, we have two distinct categories pertaining to liberalism and pluralism. They are moral-political, and metaphysical-procedural. A few are in favor of its separation and a few others defend the overlap of the both. The former is more feasible in this context as morality influences but does not totally overrides the political.1 This can be reflected in the 1

For example, J. L. s opines that what is morally right and wrong need not be politically right and wrong. See Neil Cooper, The Diversity of Moral Thinking(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981), Anthony Quinton argues that it is a mistake to see moral philosophy as part of political philosophy. For him, the problem of politics are not moral in nature. The interesting point that is made by him is that the morality or moral convictions are uniform when compared to

Justificatory Liberalism: The Limits of Proceduralism


contestation of monism and dualism. Linking the political with the pragmatic considerations grounded in practical reason, the domain of political is distinctly viewed from the metaphysical assumptions. These pragmatic considerations are linked to what is called judgmentalism that leads to a determinate public realm.2 The issue is what kind of a political theory is conceived so that it has a broader understanding of deeper complex nature of society or social formation? Contemporary Liberalism offers reasonable pluralism that accounts for irreducible pluralism but takes conflict to be totally remedied. On the other hand, Substantial Pluralism gives primacy to reciprocal agreement that should be approached through reasonable acceptance. It happens only when moral agents widen their horizon of understanding the diversity of human condition. Even some theorists have stated that it attempts to stand on principles that would never converge.3 Doubts are expressed whether substantial pluralism can reconstruct stable principles of reasonable agreement. Interpersonal domain need not be rooted in the principles of convergence only, but can be conceived as a domain where persons agree to disagree and yet mutually justify their claims. Here is where all the critics seem appropriate in their allegation that the foundationalist normative account of liberal social order stands on exclusionism, rather than negation. The current chapter makes an attempt to look into the relationship between liberalism and pluralism. Rawls’s procedural justice determines the nature of basic structure as neutral to achieve egalitarian procedures. An understanding of what is procedural or political is desired. Rawls’s conceptions seem to place justice as fairness between proceduralism and reasonable pluralism. This leads to the debate between monism and dualism. Why are not principles of justice and equality one and the same for individual and common good? They are not same, in some cases, as we do treat justice and equality as absolutist in nature. Can Rawls’s criteria be political convictions. The latter has the intrinsic characteristic of conflict. See Phillips A. Griffith, ed., Ethics [Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement] (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 96-101. 2 See John Rawls, “Justice as Fairness: Political not Metaphysical,” Samuel Freeman, ed., John Rawls: Collected Papers (New Delhi: OUP, 1999). Russell Huttinger, “John Rawls Political Liberalism,” Review of Metaphysics, 47(March 1994): 585-602. 3 Albert W. Dzur, “Value Pluralism versus Political Liberalism,” Social Theory and Practice, 24.3(1998): 375-392.


Chapter Five

expanded to take into account conflict and disagreement, which will satisfy the principles of mutual reciprocity and equality of claims? We have earlier mentioned about the necessity of a philosophical conception of the political. In other words, we need to have a suitable framework of a public realm for the contestation of our claims. This public realm enables two important tools for dealing interpersonal conflicts; intersubjective communication (Habermas) and public deliberation. These stick to the justification model that views public realm as a practical discourse situation, yet is bound by the normative considerations. Public deliberation is treated as an extended model of intersubjective communication. In the case of Rawls’s public reason, we will reflect on the notion of freedom of conscience, where agents are bestowed with the powers of the sense of justice and the sense of fairness. Except that there is absence of any form of explicit deliberation the idea of public reason in Rawls is a more attractive idea. His distinction of basic liberties and comprehensive issues may not be acceptable, but the ides of public reason and private rationality adds strength to the notion of public realm. On the other hand, Habermas claims to have propounded a dialogical theory of universal pragmatic justification where we argue that communicative forms of life and discourse justification are relevant to a discourse structure, but the discourse is not determined by consensus justification. The purpose of a discourse is not to arrive at consensus over every issue of the discourse processes. Though Habermas seem to have made some advancement over the philosophers mentioned earlier, his ideas too are confined to the world of impartial moral universalism. In arguing for equality of right-claims and moral equality, we have tried to explain moral pluralism as the co-existence of different values together. Value-conflict is an eternal human condition, but the intersubjective situation is not constituted only with irresolvable conflicts. The issue again refers to how much idealization and rationalization is allowed into this compatibility. Liberalism is convicted with the charge that it formulates its theory with a hypothesization of perfect socio-political conditions.4 Suppose that priority given to conflict does justice to non-ideal or imperfect conditions. The point debated here is that unless pluralism promises a kind of reconciliation process of these conflicting claims, it 4

Michael Phillips, “Reflections on the Transition from Ideal Theory to Non-Ideal Theory,” Nous, 19.4(Dec 1985): 551-570. Also see Sarah Williams Holtman, “Three Strategies for Theorizing about Justice,” American Philosophical Quarterly, 40.2(April 2003): 77-90.

Justificatory Liberalism: The Limits of Proceduralism


cannot hold a strong political perspective against Reasonable pluralism. Faith in public reason enables us to come up with ways of conflict resolution. These perspectives assume that the principles of (a) dualism, liberal neutrality and practical reason, (b) discourse theory of democracy, and (c) different accounts of public deliberation. Public reason automatically conditions our conflicts into resolvable and irresolvable categories. But the question is whether there can be such a distinction? Is public realm constitutive of the political only? How far its opposition to perfectionism5 is justifiable? Much has been discussed on Rawls proceduralism or public political conception of justice. It is prudential to think that all our conflicts cannot be mitigated by just procedures. But doubts could be raised over the sufficiency of the notion of basic structure of subject provided by Rawls.6 Critics are right in alleging that Rawls’s ‘basic structure’ is an incomplete idea. Yet, a just society, pragmatically speaking, needs a just basic structure. Though Rawls’s conception of justice as fairness may miss a few crucial components of understanding collective life, fulfillment of a life-project still is determined by the category of primary goods. Social frameworks may not be constructed upon conflicting fundamental principles. Subsequently we argue that institutional procedures should be the guiding forces for rights, equality, and justice. By doing that we assume a significant character of a society, a just social order that has apparently balancing notions of what is to be equal and unequal. We cannot overlook liberalism’s emphasis on limitedness of what is diverse, tolerable, permissible, and reasonable. But simultaneously it should acknowledge that impartiality7, neutrality8, and proceduralism operate


Richard J. Arneson, “Perfectionism and Politics,” Ethics, 111.1(October 2000): 37-63. Jurgen Habermas, “Reconciliation through the Public Use of Reason: Remarks to John Rawls’s Political Liberalism,” Journal of Philosophy, 92(March 1995): 109-131. 6 A. J. Julius, “Basic Structure and the Value of Equality,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, 31.4(2003): 321-355. 7 Thomas Nagel, “Moral Conflict and Political Legitimacy,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, (Summer 1987): 215-240. 8 Two points can be mentioned of Colin Bird: It must be a justification which all reasonable members of the political community would acknowledge as correct. It must be a justification with displays a certain kind of morality toward individual’ controversial conceptions of the good...neutral justification must not rest on controversial notions of the good held by particular individuals. See “Mutual Respect and Neutral Justification,” Ethics, 107(October 1996): 62-96 at 63-4.


Chapter Five

only on limited grounds.9 This point is derived from the complex nature of many of our problems. A critical analysis of Rawls’ Political Liberalism, Habermas’s Communicative deliberation, and Bohman’s Public Deliberation would make explicit the insufficient notion of liberal perspective.

Rawls’ Public Reason: Conscience and Reasonableness Rawls recognizes the fact of pluralism as one of the persistent conditions of current day modern societies. He follows the principle of Kantian moral constructivism where persons differentiate between what is agreeable and not agreeable among them. He attributes the sense of morality and the sense of justice as fairness to all rational beings. We feel that Rawls’s have made the understanding of an interpersonal political framework so simple that it may not be acceptable to the critics who conceptualize the public realm in a very complex way. The simplistic nature of the interpersonal framework characterizes human beings with such an amount of rationality that they very easily differentiate what would be conflicting and what would not. The idea seems attractive but to construct the notion of a public realm with such simplicity and neutrality is too idealistic. We shall see what is acceptable and objectionable of Rawls. Rawls presents coherence principle that describes process of mutual adjustment of principles and considered judgments of persons whose aims are to achieve reflexive equilibrium. According to this principle, we correct our considered judgments about particular cases by making them more coherent with our general principles and we correct our general principles by making them more coherent with our judgments about particular cases.10 The reflexive equilibrium is a point from where it is reasonable for everyone to accept that particular position. We need to give a second thought to such an understanding of the state of equilibrium. The argument in Rawls is based on the expectation that the preference to generalist foundations is transition from a modus vivendi status of our agreements to the status of overlapping consensus that is assumed to be more stable. Gilbert Harman refers to this approach as a shift from special foundations of self-evident rules to generally agreed principles of 9

For this point, refer Colin Bird, “Mutual Respect and Neutral Justification,” Ethics, 107(October 1996): 62-96. 10 See Gilbert Harman, “Three rends in Moral and Political Philosophy,” n.4 (Nelson Goodman, Fact. Fiction and Forecast (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1955), pp. 65-68). John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971), pp. 40-45.

Justificatory Liberalism: The Limits of Proceduralism


neutrality.11 Rawls’ notions of reciprocity and justice as fairness make a beginning for moral equality yet falter with the principles of objectivity and neutrality. The relationship between particular and general is not so simple as long as one is bound by formal deontological principles. Rawls seems to be interested in a reciprocal relationship between the general principles and the particular cases, where reciprocity is achieved through reflective equilibrium. The dominant concern for Rawls since his second work Political Liberalism is to draw the political foundations for procedural justice and the principles of reasonable agreement. His principal contribution in this area is conceiving justice as fairness in the political sense. The purpose behind this is to contrive a decisive model for proceduralism. Political liberalism sees metaphysics as a dispensable luxury rather than a prerequisite of a theory of human rights.12 Rawls believes that all epistemological pursuits do not have any objective outcome in the context of resolving interpersonal moral conflicts, specifically, the problems of justice and equality. Similarly, the issues of metaphysical differences cannot allow us to reach any outcome. Substantive freedoms are metaphysical in character and those who differ in their views regarding substantive freedoms cannot have any outcome in moral deliberations. It is evident from his contract model that Rawls stresses on the judgmental nature or the outcome of our actions.13 It is also seen in his distinction of rights into basic liberties and substantive freedoms. He argues that persons can reasonably agree and disagree among themselves in the interpersonal domain. With the fear of nonjudgmentalism pertinent to our substantive ends, he draws arguments for freedom of conscience and the fact of pluralism. Both of these notions are implicit in his idea of reasonable pluralism. Individuals are not just rational beings, but are also treated as conscientious beings. According to Rawls, freedom of conscience has two aspects. First, we need freedom of conscience because there is no guarantee that all our present ways of life are the most rational ones as not in need of minor if not major revisions. Secondly, we need freedom of conscience because society contains a plurality of such conceptions, which 11

Also see his Political Liberalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993). David Thunder, “Is Metaphysics an Essential Buttress or a Dispensable Luxury for a Theory of Human Rights?,” (31 Mar 2000). 13 See T. M. Scanlon, “Idea of Justification,” Samuel Freeman ed., Cambridge Companion to Rawls (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), p. 141. 12


Chapter Five

are non-negotiable.14 Though it is evident from the assumptions of Rawls that he acknowledges irreducible conflict and pluralism, forsaking the metaphysical realm from the public realm is not completely possible. This is an inevitable limitation of the social life of individuals. All issues related to the metaphysical are burdens of judgment and reason. He has a specific project in mind. He wants to draw a basic structure of society governed by the two principles of justice, which is further constituted by neutral procedures arrived from an order of reason. His emphasis on freedom of conscience where persons have the freedom to revise and reform their comprehensive doctrines is appreciable. But the preference to non-metaphysical realm, i.e., the procedural realm, stands on the priority given to outcome and judgments. In any interactive and justificatory processes we find two kinds of persons: those who have a will to revise and reform and those who do not. Even in the case of public deliberation, agents are not expected to hold onto their claims. Rawls divides individual autonomy into public and private, where the comprehensive doctrines are restricted to the latter. Even if we suppose that this dichotomy is appropriate, the basis of public justification is not transparent or fair in itself. For Rawls, all that is public is procedural in nature. All our ends should satisfy the principle of publicity condition, which is present in Rawls’s scheme of basic liberties and the two principles of justice. The positive aspect of the publicity condition is that there remains a certain abstract idea about the issues that could create conflict among the individuals. Besides, it seeks to search for transparency of the procedures.15 It is important though it proves to be dubious in some 14 See John Rawls, “Social Unity and Primary Goods,” in A. Sen and Bernard Williams, ed., Utilitarianism and Beyond (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), pp. 159-186. Also see his “Basic Liberties and Their Priority,” Tanner Lectures on Human Values, (University of Michigan, 1981), p. 29. Will Kymlicka, Contemporary Political Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, ), pp. 232-3. The fact of pluralism is explained as, “A modern democratic society is far characterized simply not by a pluralism of comprehensive doctrines, religious, philosophical and moral doctrines but by a pluralism of incompatible yet reasonable comprehensive doctrines. No one of these doctrines is affirmed by citizens generally. No one should expect in the foreseeable future one of them or other reasonable doctrines will ever be affirmed by all, or merely all, citizens.” John Rawls, Political Liberalism, xviii. 15 Stephen Wall, “Public Justification and the Transparency Argument,” The Philosophical Quarterly, 46.18(Oct 1996): 501-507.

Justificatory Liberalism: The Limits of Proceduralism


instances. We prefer to lay the grounds of deliberations in the principle of fairness and recognition of several distinct moral co-ordinates. In defense of Rawls, Charles Larmore holds that the publicity condition aims at a freedom of self-determination, which citizens can exercise together with their abiding disagreements.16 Rawls aptly argues that the principles of justice ought to guide us in sorting out differences to a possible level.17 Nevertheless, Rawls offers a model of justification through the procedure of rational construction. But it is not a purely deliberative or communicative exercise; it only represents the hypothetical model of social contract. Public framework, practical reason and objectivity are the basis of this construction. No doubt this method has effective process of conditioning persons’ preferences and values. Reasonable pluralism demands the true sense of rational agency from each person. But what we need to emphasize is how we can draw a reasonable basis even for disagreement. For Rawls, persons recognize everyone’s comprehensive views as reasonable because, the persons involved could not have recognized all of them as true in the absence of shared basis to distinguish true beliefs from false ones.18 The question is whether we should have a just social order where the mutually reasonable agreed rules outweigh all our differences, or a social order that, under any circumstance, cannot avoid differences. Rawls has an interesting position here: many of our political judgments involving the basic political values are made assuming that conscientious and fully reasonable persons after free and open discussion exercises their powers of reason and converge.19 This requirement of Rawls, calls for a full citizen to act as a representative agent too, is unrealistic. Is it that Rawls is aware of and had included the communitarian aspect of moral development within his notion of freedom of conscience? May he was. It can be questioned whether a liberal democratic society succeeds in securing such full citizenship.20 16

Charles Larmore, “Public Reason,” in Samuel Freeman, Cambridge Companion to Rawls, p. 376. 17 The word possible is used here because Rawls adduces to the fact of reasonable pluralism though not the fact of complete pluralism. This is resembled in his concepts such as justice as fairness, overlapping consensus, constructivism, and burdens of judgment 18 John Rawls, Political Liberalism, 128. 19 See John Rawls, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement, Erin Kelly, ed., (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2001), p. 36. 20 For such an argument refer Jean Hampton, “Should Political Philosophy Be


Chapter Five

Thomas Nagel too draws a defensive argument for Rawlsian idea of comprehensive doctrines. He argues that Rawls’s overlapping consensus relieves us from the compatibility dilemma. To him, some comprehensive views hinder the principle of reciprocity that seeks a collectively acceptable basis of cooperation. He expresses a critical view against the communitarian theories that violate rights of individuals.21 His assumption that compatibility can be formed between different views is optimistic. A social order cannot be perceived with perfect compatible principles nor can it be achieved by the principles of coexistence. Compatibility leads to harmonious existence, which is a necessity for the current democratic societies. But the debate for harmony that has developed within liberal philosophy always follows two requirements: unity of morality and higher-orderness. Compatibility of political liberalism cannot avoid the tension between pluralist/rationalist discourses.22 Rawls asks, “What is the most appropriate conception of justice for specifying the terms of social cooperation between citizens regarded as free and equal?”23 To some degree all our concepts, and not only our moral and political concepts, are vague and subject to hard cases. The indeterminacy means that we must rely on judgment and interpretations within some range where reasonable persons may differ.24 The relationship between reasonability and constructivism is that all equally reasonable persons objectively agree upon non-comprehensive nature of normative principles raised within the public political framework. Agents are guided by principles of practical reason, which for Rawls are the basis of cooperation. Practical reason is governed by genuine normative constraints, but what makes these constraints normative is precisely their relation to the will of the agents Done Without Metaphysics?,” Ethics, 99(July 1989): 791-814. See Kai Neilsen, “Rawls and the Socratic Ideal,” Analysis & Kritik, 13(July 1991): 67-92 at 84. Also see Pierre Mailly, “Rawls from a Different Angle: On the Justice that makes (Distributive) Justice Possible”. Gnosis, 6.1(September 2002): 1-13 at 8. 21 Nagel states, “Overlapping consensus does not mean the derivation of common principles of justice from all the comprehensive views in the pluralistic bouquet but rather the compatibility of each of these comprehensive views with a freestanding political conception that will permit them all to coexist.” Thomas Nagel, “Rawls and Liberalism” in John Rawls: Collected Papers, p. 84. 22 Jacob T. Levy, “Liberalism’s Divide, After Socialism and Before,” Social Philosophy and Policy Foundations (2003). 23 John Rawls, Political Liberalism, p. 47. 24 John Rawls, Justice as Fairness: A restatement, Eric Kelly ed. (Cambridge: The belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2001), p. 35. Also see Pierre Mailly, “Rawls From A Different Angle: On the Justice that makes (Distributive) Justice Possible,” Gnosis, 6.1(Sep 2002): 1-13 at 5.

Justificatory Liberalism: The Limits of Proceduralism


whose decision they govern. The measurement of reasonability among persons involved in the agreement process is assumed to have an effective sense of reciprocity and cooperation. But Rawls, like other liberals, stands on the premise: all equal persons who are equally reasonable will agree to a certain set of norms. Reasonable pluralism is derived from the burdens of judgment. Rawls conception of a well-ordered society depends on the public justification where the citizens comprehend the burdens of judgment of claims publicly made. On the contrary, a deliberative framework need not shy away from comprehensive issues. For Rawls, reasonable pluralism is dependent on the public political framework only. Much has been discussed about why Rawls makes the aim of a well-ordered society a political goal. Accordingly, he defines reasonableness “is the standard of the correctness, given its political aim it need not go beyond that.”25 This is a pragmatic way of arguing for ethical principles for a workable notion of a public sphere. He makes the point of agreement and disagreement as a political concept nevertheless influenced by objective moral considerations. Korsgaard defends Rawls as a moral constructivist. Reasonable agreement, for him, is a form of constructivism. Korsgaard’s representation of Rawls relates concepts to social facts. She argues that Rawls’s Theory of Justice acts as a binding solution to the presence of the problem of justice. She states, “The normative force of the conception is established in this way. If you recognize the problem to be real, to be yours, to be one you have to solve, and the solution to be the only or the best one, then the solution is binding upon you.” Despite, Korsgaard’s projection of Rawls it is important to look into what Rawls’s theory excludes, includes and above all the criteria it meets. Perplexing matters related to rights, justice and equality are not just settled with a presumption of ideal solutions that are necessarily binding on us. Even if we have an a priori conception of right and good, these comprehensions are not so rigid that the observation of empirical situations does not motivate us to modify the scope of concepts. Korsgaard asks why not persons should consciously build our social world or political societies, or practical identities. The answer to this question depends upon the nature of discovery of interpersonal rules and the nature of constructivism of common morality. The reason is that the assumptions we make in order to construct a social reality avoids a predominant 25

John Rawls, PL, p. 127.


Chapter Five

determinant, i.e., rationalization of moral principles. In other words, locating the rational meeting the social has been a major concern for many contemporary moral political philosophers. Some have argued for an overlapping objective conception of social and rational. Though certain absolute assumptions are inevitable, these assumptions do not escape the risk of overlooking certain inconsistent premises just to make the theory consistent. In the language of social contract theory, persons hold reasonably justifiable principles that fall into the framework of justice as fairness. Rawls’s conception of public political justice assisted by reasonable agreement does not search for epistemological truth conditions. It is rather a workable conception of proceduralism. It proceeds with the assumption that each one of us should hold reasonable comprehensive doctrines. Reasonable pluralism is, thus, an architectonic outcome of human reason followed by Kantian constructivism. Yet, this workable conception accounts for a neutral social order. This neutrality has troubled many of the interpreters of Rawls. We acknowledge their criticism that a complex interpersonal context or well-ordered society at large cannot be guided by mere neutral principles. Reasonability, according to Rawls, is the claim for fair terms of cooperation acceptable to all reasonable agents.26 The principles of justice determine the fair terms of co-operation. He puts forth a very practical conception of a reasonable society, i.e., a society that is not too virtuous but very much a part of the ordinary world.27 Reasonability pushes the justificatory epistemic framework to the background culture, where the public sphere is conceived in the non-political sense. As argued earlier, this forms the basis for public and private morality, where private being rational and public being reasonable. The Rawlsian distinction of public 26

Equals resemble all reasonable citizens of a democratic society. David Estlund has certain assumptions here. [1] RAN: Reasonable Acceptance Necessary- No doctrine is admissible as a premise in any stage of political justification unless it is acceptable to all reasonable citizens and it need not acceptable to all. [2] Political NTN: No Truth Necessary- Political Liberalism never requires truth for admissibility; AS: Acceptance Sufficient-Nothing is requires for admissibility in political liberalism, other than acceptability to reasonable citizens. See his, “Insularity of the Reasonable: Why Political Liberalism Must Admit the Truth”. Ethics, 108.2(January 1998): 252-275 at 257, 260, and 261. 27 Samuel Freeman, “Reason and Agreement in Social Contract views,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, 19(Spring 1990): 141-47.

Justificatory Liberalism: The Limits of Proceduralism


and private is challenging because there is a strong interconnection between procedural and non-procedural, where the latter is a strong determinant of legitimate interpersonal rules. From the arguments provided in the previous chapter, we could say that interpersonal conflicts arise from several domains of human interaction which are non-political spheres of human interaction. Social constructivism, thus involves deliberations and interactions from both procedural and non-procedural dimensions. What is legitimate from the commonsense point of view is consolidated from several informal interactions that take place in the nonpolitical conception of public realm. For instance, how different people of different casts, religions, languages and cultures treat each other is not just procedural problem. Even moral conflicts we had referred to indicate differences among the people from the intersubjective point of view. Hence, the conflicts, the way contemporary liberal philosophers assume, need not be mere procedural. Reasonableness is an interpersonal issue prior to utilizing it as a procedural tool. There are several interpersonal conflicts where there are no a priori mechanism to resolve them, yet one hopes that reasonableness would be at work and some procedure might be discovered to arrive at some agreement. Though, Rawls is reasonable enough in forming the basis for public and private morality, his procedural liberalism fails to mitigate deeper conflicts. Besides the formal notion of public sphere, the background culture needs to be brought into focus by the principles of substantive moral pluralism. Otherwise, it is difficult to locate domains within the interpersonal context. Rawls’s exclusion of contentious issues in the broader public domains forces us to draw this inference: For a just society to emerge, the principles of justice and the choices of persons should be compatible and in turn satisfy the publicity condition.28 Public justification is a limited concept in the case of Rawls. This can be referred to his argument that no general moral principles can provide publicly recognizable basis for a conception of justice.29 Justice as fairness, reasonable pluralism and overlapping consensus take into account justifiability of the doctrines of only reasonable persons in the public sphere. Whether certain actions and attitudes are reasonable or not is itself a matter of debate. This is worth mentioning though it is not a determining aspect of the interpersonal reasonableness. In other words, 28

Samuel Freeman, John Rawls: Collected Papers (New Delhi: OUP, 1999), “The Independence of Moral Theory,” p. 292, 293. 29 Ibid., pp. 388-417.


Chapter Five

only those persons are considered who fulfill the obligation of fair terms of co-operation. Certainly, bargaining among persons need to be guided by fair cooperation. The underlying fear is that a person’s acceptance or disagreement with others may not itself be reasonable. Agreement is reasonable only when a person acknowledges that the other person’s reasons and commitments are possibly valid. This has to be the basic idea unless and until an agent does not wish to justify totally objectionable values from all dimensions. Public reason is effective but it has to take note of the procedures that ought to be genuinely fair and just. These procedures should further satisfy equal agency, equal representation, and equal dignity. Rawls may be criticized for taking less complicated issues and trying to resolve those using procedures that cannot be contested by many since they have only instrumental value.

Habermas and Communicative Justification Habermas follows the method of intersubjective justification. His project is considered to be a procedural reconstruction of the idea of common interest. The fundamental difference between Habermas’s and Rawlsian model is that the former claims to be dialogical while the latter is monological constructed using the original position. Habermas’s idea of deliberation goes like this: Once human beings no longer agree on basic moral norms, the only thing they share is a belonging to some communicative forms of life. Since these forms have some structural aspects in common, there is a definite principle upon which they are able to co-exist.30 According to Habermas, rationality and morality are part of the communicative processes. For him, communicative rationality is superior to the instrumental rationality, as it is language that is involved in communication and argumentation.31 This can be taken as a positive aspect of communicative ethics because both moral reasoning and intersubjective deliberation need evaluative language. Habermas’s position seems to claim that we reach an agreement through force of the better argument that involves validation and justification of claims. Habermas account of normative justification consists of three prominent principles: practical discussion, debate, and consensus. These determine 30

Martin Lest, “Democracy and the Individual: Deliberative and Existential Negotiations,” Philosophy & Social Criticism, 2.6(2003): 681-702 at 684. 31 Michael H. Lessnoff, Political Philosophers of the Twentieth Century (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1999), p. 278.

Justificatory Liberalism: The Limits of Proceduralism


the nature of communicative patterns.32 These communicative patterns possess three different characteristics; impartiality, claims of generality, and normativity. Further, the predominant elements in his discourse ethics are the performative sense, moral argumentation, and practical discourse which are non-monological (dialogical), imperative claims.33 One can find two kinds of reductionism found in Habermas: One, all our claims are reduced to pragmatic justification and universal validity and secondly, all questions are posited as ethical questions. To him, ethical considerations in argumentation save a participant in the discourse from resorting to mere strategy, i.e., working on the principle of utility-maximization. For him, agents are cognitive rather than strategic. The advantage of cognitive aspect is that interactions are not treated as games. Nevertheless, its limited operation in our behavior cannot be overruled at all. Habermas’s thesis stands on these two propositions: First, norms are used as guides for human action can be justified only if they are universalizable. Second, it is rational for everyone who argues about norms to accept the principle of universalizability. Let us suppose that communicative forms of life demands rational justification of our value-claims. In other words, we can interpret it as a kind of rational ordering of our ends, so that they are not reasonably rejected by one another. Normative foundations of a social life would mean that universalism determines and controls the condition of plurality. Why cannot a practical discourse ground itself in loose conception of consensus? Minimal consensus can take its form in the domains of deliberation. There are many questions that this kind of approached-universality leads to. It does not account for the loss resulted in the deliberation. The question of numbers in a democratic setup refers to a counter question, i.e., can a practical discourse accommodate nonmajoritarian viewpoints? This question is applicable to Nagel, Scanlon, and Rawls as well. Though the discourse ethics method guarantees that everyone is an equal valid-claimant, we cannot take for granted the public sphere as genuinely a fair domain that guarantees just outcome to a supposedly moral person.

32 Jurgen Habermas, Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1999), p. 58. 33 According to Habermas, ethical questions are generally answered by unconditional imperatives, not dependent on subjective preferences and finally a consensus based justification of valid claims. See his Justification and Application: Remarks on Discourse Ethics, Cairan Cranin td. (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1993), p. 5.


Chapter Five

Habermas’s idea falls in the line of traditional moral philosophy. It may be apt to conceive that various realms of human activity ought to function on the publicity condition with consensus over morality and rationality. But the intersubjective communication need not generate consensus from the condition of plurality. Consensus, thus conceived, can only be at the cost of value-pluralism. The test of universalization again asks the same question, what is the role of this universalizability? An answer to this question depends on the kind of disagreement Habermas takes into consideration. In chapter four we have mentioned that interpersonal conflicts constitute disagreement in beliefs and attitudes, but the point can be further extended to what Nicholas Rescher states as disagreement in belief, action and value.34 As far as the public sphere, every arbitrary attitude is taken seriously in the practical realm. The ideal practical discourse processes need not seek unifying moral principles as the basis for justification. Any discourse, contains a few partial common elements as the given condition. This does not mean that there is consensus among the agents. The argumentative liberalism has the motive to arrive at a single objective agreement on any issue. In order to achieve this, argumentative liberals speak of prioritizing their choices. Consensus arrived at by prioritization of universalizable claims supports this position. This is not the final argument because most of the questions are open-ended and represent complex interactive processes. Reference to hard cases would substantiate this position. There would be no possibility of coming to an agreement when such issues are concerned. Moreover, consensus in most cases is a forced one. Even in the case of traditional social contract philosophers like Locke, agreement constitutes explicit and the implicit consent. All those who do not participate at all in the deliberative process are understood to have consented indirectly. Though Habermas may not mean consensus in this sense, this objection can be raised as a response to his view of discourse consensus. Consensus may also mean rational agent’s agreement with one another for the sake of general agreement or a normative principle. This is what we explained earlier as two level agreements: agreement for the sake of common interest and a personal point of view that differ from others. The argumentative liberals including Habermas worry about common morality, justification, and agreement. But, pluralism cannot be gambled at the expense of rational consensus. 34

See his Pluralism: Against the Demand for Consensus [Clarendon Library of Logic and Philosophy] (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), “Consensus, Rationality, and Epistemic Morality”.

Justificatory Liberalism: The Limits of Proceduralism


The argumentative liberalism confines itself to the brute assumption, that a rational account would by itself bring the desired agreement. Rational and structured communicative forms by themselves possess internal logic and implicit rightness. It is grounded in the understanding that what I think as rational, moral or universal can overlap, or be equated or elevated to what we think as rational, moral or universal. All our differences are thus converged by the virtue of either universal or universalizable principles. The conceptual distance between one and other explains the variety of interpersonal conflicts. It explicates why a unifying sense of morality is immensely inadequate as a deontological principle. Unifying morality does not grant autonomy to differ opposed to pluralism. Practical reason and moral imagination too fall short of reconciliation of plurality. As already discussed, plurality cannot be reduced to indeterminacy or incoherence. Habermas’s method takes account of moral agents as cognitive beings rather mere following a strategy guided by self-interest. Moral cognitivism demands justifiable claims from all the claimants. For moral Universalists, all those that are non-cognitive cannot be a party to the discourse ethics and hence no appeal made in favor will be recognized. This has a noticeable implication. Any claim made by an agent that falls under the category of non-justifiability is shallow to Habermas. These philosophers emphasize upon the definitive determination of a particular claim as right or wrong. This is indispensable, but only one side of the coin. There is an extensive account of Habermas’s thesis on communicative forms of life. The argument of Habermas can be put into two phases: First, prior to his publication of “Remarks on Legitimation through Human Rights”35 where rational consensus and universal morality have a unique place. And the second, after the publication of Postmetaphysical Thinking,36 his position seems to be near to Rawls’s anti-perfectionism that we are going to deliberation. The discourse principle (D) of Habermas is: “Just those action norms are valid to which all possibly affected persons could agree as participants in


N.3 in Farid Abde-Nour, “ Farewell to Justification: Habermas, Modernity and Universalist Morality” Philosophy & Social Criticism, 30.11(2004): 73-96. See Jurgen Habermas, ‘Remarks on Legitimation through Human Rights’ in The PostNational Constellation, M. Pensky, td. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001), pp. 113-29. 36 Postmetaphysical Thinking: Philosophical Essays, William Mark Hohengarten, td. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992).


Chapter Five

rational discourses.”37 For Habermas, a will is autonomous in three ways: first, it should be connected to the common principles, moral appeal, and practical reason leading to an impartial judgment.38 Secondly, autonomy is not represented as personal discretion to hold discrete moral positions. For him, it denotes freedom from others’ influences in consenting to something that is normative in the universal sense. Thirdly, commonality is established in the process of overlap of our agreement of specific rational normative foundations. The important question here is: How do we conceive a moral-normative consensus in a society? This kind of idealization is far away from concrete social context.39 Consensus is a requisite process for both homogeneous and heterogeneous societies. The kind of consensus that Habermas sought may satisfy nominal account of pluralism. He retains the necessity of moral justification with priority given to reason-giving force of the claims, reciprocal recognition, intersubjective communication, force of the better argument and shared definition of cooperation. He treats individuals as interacting under ideal conditions who are involved in rational interaction. Every agent who is capable of speech can be the part of a deliberative process. Thus, intersubjective communication is assumed as an ideal interactive framework. Reasonable agreement is achieved through rational justification for Habermas. His discourse method emphasizes the fact of reason as the basis for intersubjective communication to sociality of reasons. It invokes a significant question: what should be the basis for judging actions of intersubjective concern?40 For Habermas, consensus justification is possible because private individuals in the public sphere confront each other as discussants, not as rivals. This is a very significant point in understanding interpersonal 37 Also stated as “Only those norms can claim to be valid that meet with the approval of all affected in their capacity as participants in a rational discourse.” Jurgen Habermas, it Moral consciousness and Communicative Action, 66. Also his Between Facts and Norms: Contribution to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1997), p. 107. For similar kind of an argument also see, J. Donald Moon, “Practical Discourse and Communicative Ethics,” Stephen K. White, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Habermas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 143-164. 38 Jurgen Habermas, Justification and Application, p. 42. 39 Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), p. 197. 40 Michael Slote, Morals From Motives (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), Reviewed by N. Athanassoulis, University of Leeds.

Justificatory Liberalism: The Limits of Proceduralism


conflicts. It is an ideal-communicative condition. This is in line with the Rawlsian original position except that Habermas locates the intersubjective communication in the actual social framework. For example, if persons of different faculties, wealth, social status etc. could deliberate as equal participants, the resultant agreement could possibly be accepted as reasonable though inequalities might have been very much there. We can say that when it is the matter of only one domain, the inequality is comparatively less complex with certain requisite assumptions. If it is the issue of different domains then definitely all members do not equally participate in every domain of interpersonal conflicts. For instance, if the multiple conflicts are under deliberation, someone may show much interest in religious aspect, and another on moral aspect, and yet another on social aspect or economic aspect. The sense of urgency and the importance about the issue could be different to different individuals and this point perhaps is totally missed out by the justificatory liberals. One has to look into the aspect of how symmetrical intersubjective communication is possible despite agents hold the asymmetrical values and beliefs. In favor of Habermas, Simone Chambers argues that Habermas has recourse to universal foundations without defaming ultimate foundations. What she means is that the procedure of Habermas keeps alive the significance of universal moral foundations. It is because Habermas’s discourse principle sticks to the position that universalization leads to objective agreement despite agents’ essential differences.41 Agreement is a kind of ought-implies-can supposition. The understanding of a practical discourse is that it is an articulation of our intuitions conceiving the reciprocal conditions of moral deliberations and agreement.42 The question is what kind of answers a deliberative discursive process should furnish for complicated issues. The complications become more difficult because of the condition that reasonable persons, all adult speakers with effective speech competence should be part of the deliberations.43 The complexity in the conflict of substantive value-claims makes one wonder whether one should search for sustainable answers. These answers need to be agreeable to the reasonable persons involved in the deliberation. Contemporary liberals hold that interpersonal or intersubjective deliberations 41

Christina Lafont, “Moral Objectivity and Moral Agreement”:35. Simone Chambers, Reasonable Democracy, p. 140. 43 Jurgen Habermas, “Some Distinctions in Universal Pragmatics: A Working Paper,” Theory and Society , 3.2(Summer 1976):155-167 at 155. 42


Chapter Five

should provide sustained legitimate solutions to the conflicts. For example, Rawls was concerned about the principles of justice that the posterity also can depend upon. The question, should one try to answer for one’s own immediate present problem or should one try to find a lasting solution to a contemporary issue might attract different answers. One can think of Rawls as offering solutions to immediate problems that are local and the global answers in the sense that any society could follow his procedural method. This is a relevant question in the sense that a complex society generates both localized as well as grand answers. This situation can be connected to the discourse patterns. Deliberative and communicative processes should be perceived as continuous ones that incessantly reform, revise and reframe the conditions of morality. It is a plausible position that discourse ethics provides a place for every possible claimant. It serves two purposes, the urge for generalizable interests and also the principles of plurality. The idea of intersubjectivity needs a reformulation here. Maeve Cooke’s argument can be considered here. She finds difficulty in the strong conception of intersubjectivity that is grounded in the constructive model and ideal justification. She argues that the constructivist-cognitive approach is retained despite Habermas’s slight shift from reconstructive to deliberative approach. There are three principal criticisms against the universal model. First, Maeve Cooke has an interesting analysis. One of the drawbacks of Habermasian model is the attribution of contexttranscendence in the communicative practices of everyday life. The reference to everyday life is very important because irreducibility and disagreement are implicit here. On the contrary, we find interpretations like that of David Paritz who alleges Habermas model as indifferent to the practices of everyday life. She argues that a stronger version of intersubjective constructivism can be achieved in reality. This stronger version calls for a consensus through ideal-justificatory conditions under general validity. Secondly, Christina Lafont argues that the model is inherently unstable as it undermines or closes the gap between the ideal and the actual. Thirdly, Albrecht Wellmer argues that an ideal speech situation aims for complete and final knowledge that serves no useful function. 44 As an alternative, she offers a weak non-constructive model of 44 This can also be referred to the distinction of ‘strong publics’ (context of justification) and ‘weak publics’ (context of discovery) by Habermas. For this distinction see Jeffrey Flynn, “Communicative Power in Habermas’s Theory of Democracy,” European Journal of Political Theory, 3.4():433-454 at 440. For all the arguments, see Maeve Cooke, “The Weakness of Strong Intersubjectivism:

Justificatory Liberalism: The Limits of Proceduralism


justification. According to this model, no a priori criterion of moral validity is available. Moral validity is tied to an assumption of a realm of truly generalizable interests. Yet she retains the outcome of rational consensus and formation of genuine generalized principles. The weak intersubjectivity works in a way that it allows multiple criteria in the intersubjective or the deliberative processes. The term truly generalizable interests should have the capacity to consider multiple claims to moral validity. Nonetheless, the non-constructive approach should also account for the rationalization process within a practical discourse. There is a need of one additional point here. A social framework, no doubt, cannot escape from truly generalizable interests. Besides, there are many interests whose magnitude of generalizability is far less than these truly generalizable interests. Yet, these former too are to be recognized as valid and permissible. Deliberation not only needs a better, reasonable argument, but also a just argument. Cooke’s concept can also take this into consideration but in a non-foundationalist sense, may be the sense in which she argued for personal autonomy.45 The issue is not merely about autonomy but about mutual reconciliation of reasons. Even this non-constructive approach has to consider the substantial pluralism that exists in complex social processes. It can only help this approach to recognize complex notion of equality and justice avoiding the liberal philosophers’ simplistic notion of equality. This would counter the claim of the liberals that pluralism may not become a necessary condition just because a society constitutes complex structures. Apart from the rightness of the claims, proper conception of self-authorship and conceiving autonomy, a discourse also involves power operator in intersubjective communication. Jeffrey Flynn is right in arguing that a communicative model proves to be both problemsolving process and also problem-generating process. Cooke’s’ argument of self-authorship can be referred to Rawls’s and Berlin’s ‘limited social space’. Universal impartial norms possess an obligatory force since we indulge ourselves into conflicts; we need rules to guide our deliberations on Habermas’s Conception of Justice,” European Journal of Political Theory, 2.3(2003): 281-305 at 285, 289. For Habermasian stand see his Between Facts and Norms, Context of justification and context of discovery can be related to his two levels of discourse reconstruction, discourse of justification and discourse of application. 45 Maeve Cooke, “A Space of One’s Own: Autonomy, Privacy, Liberty,” Philosophy & Social Criticism, 25.1(1999):23-53.


Chapter Five

disagreements. These rules safeguard freedom of conscience and human dignity as moral agents. Rational discourses are open communicative practices in which the participants seek to reach mutual understanding about the truth of a proposition or the validity of an action norm, as every participant has an equal access to the discourse and participation.46 The claim of moral realists, is that the participants in the intersubjective communication should be able to distinguish what are true and false values. However, moral disagreement cannot be avoided from the discourse processes. That we indulge ourselves into conflicts is only a half-truth. They are also due to rigidity of the individuals to be accommodative of different point of views. Admitting such difference is not violating either conscience or human dignity. If values are to be ranked morally, there need not be any consensual model for that. There is a reason to be explained here. In the previous chapter we have seen the relevance of universality in the wake of transition from perfectly rational norms to general norms. In a deliberative framework agents have to reconcile an a priori presence of irreducible pluralism and also view persons as prospective purposive agents.

Discourse Ethics, Not So Plural The assumptions of Habermas are more or less similar to that of the social contractualists. An agent who can negotiate with good interactive and bargaining competence doesn’t prove that matters are impartial or rational. This is a valid analysis. Besides the condition that all wrong claims get negated in the context of intersubjective communication, we can speculate an a priori construction of ordering of our claims to our ends. This can be valid in Habermas’s communicative ethics so that we can imagine certain amount of equality among agents and their dispositions. Berlin rightly states that human values are inherently placed in the sense that they are incommensurate and cannot be rationally ordered.47 In Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, Habermas presents principle (U): “All affected can accept the consequences and the side effects its general observance can be anticipated to have for the satisfaction of everyone’s interests (and these consequences are preferred


See Simone Chambers, Reasonable Democracy, p. 152. Also refer Farid AbdelNour, “Farewell to Justification,” p. 77. 47 J. Donald J. Moon, “Liberalism, Autonomy and Moral Pluralism,” Political Theory, 3.1(Feb 2003): 130.

Justificatory Liberalism: The Limits of Proceduralism


to those of known alternative possibilities for regulations).”48 This principle like the (D) principle gives primacy to the intersubjective argumentation as the most important one to reach an agreement through cooperation. For Habermas, agreement of this kind expresses a common will. He assumes that a cooperative process of argumentation follows this principle. This cooperative principle leads to the reformulation of Kant’s categorical imperative. The Kantian maxim becomes categorical imperative when each agent can in principle will without contradiction. Habermas claims to reformulate the categorical imperative where all can will for agreement through deliberation in order to reach the status of universal norms. Christina Lafont rightly maintains that to assume that the universalization principle would result in the agreement of all the affected persons despite their essential different interests seem unreasonable.49 The will of all to reach universal norms through cooperative argumentation seems to assume that the multiple interests of the plural also get served in this process. The points mentioned above would convey that all rational agents come to a reasonable agreement which would also sound as if all the parties concerned admit that there is certain loss of viewpoints in arriving at consensus in the communicative processes. In other words, we accept norms by sacrificing our plural views for the sake of normative foundation of the society. Habermas seems to promise that pluralism is maintained by the virtue of consideration of two greater goods, i.e., the individual good and the social good. If we combine principles (D) and (U) it would seem like this: Not only valid norms are accepted by all the persons concerned in a rational-practical discourse but also whatever be the consequences of these principles is also agreed upon on its general application.50


Jurgen Habermas,C. Leonhard and S. Nicholson td. Introduction by Thomas McCarthy, (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1993), p. 65. Joseph Heath calls this U principle as a connection between moral cognitivism and the expectation of convergence. See his Communicative Action and Rational Choice (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2001), 220. Also see Farid Abdel-Nour, “Farewell to Justification,”p. 80. 49 See her “Moral Objectivity and Reasonable Agreement,” p. 35. 50 According to Habermas, “Unless all affected can freely accept the consequences and the side effects that the general observance of a controversial norm can be expected to have for the satisfaction of the interest of each individual.” Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, p. 93.


Chapter Five

The question is whether the three principles of Habermas accommodate true sense of pluralism into the methods of intersubjective communication. On the prima facie account, every agent possessing an equal chance to make a valid claim appears to have taken into account pluralism adequately. However, recourse to higher-abstraction nullifies all the hopes that Habermas gives through his discourse method. Pluralism is present in his account of discourse deliberation as he refers to the modern conception of public spheres and the processes involved in rationalization. But pluralism has a restricted sense in Habermas’s framework as convergence of various interests is sought through rational argumentation leaving aside all uncomfortable differences. It is one thing to admit that deliberation has its role in interpersonal conflict resolution, and another to believe that his deliberation results in a uniform view synthesizing all differences. For Habermas, a skeptic abstains from argumentation and develops immunity to universal pragmatic justification. He talks about inescapable presuppositions of communication. But prior to all presuppositions, interpersonal or intersubjective deliberation ought to presuppose three important aspects: rights, equality and justice. The contention that an agent cannot escape interactive as well as argumentative conditions is quite valid. Interpersonal moral principles cannot avoid both interactive and argumentative aspects. Abdel-Nour mentions that the shift from universal pragmatic justification to the sociological argument does not make compulsory the idea of justification. Abdel-Nour argues that the justification of basic human rights and universal morality have a better method in universal pragmatics. We shall analyze this in a different way. In response to the first point about pluralism, it is not to be taken as a moral compromise or a weak position. Some of the moral theorists qualify pluralism as a weak epistemological stand. On the contrary, we do not treat pluralism as a moral compromise because morality is not by definition monistic in nature, nor derivable from a meta or master reason. It is not confined to the self-evident presuppositions. In the previous chapter, we have elaborated that it is unjustified to blame pluralism to be anti-theoretical. Communicative forms of life not necessarily lead to overlapping rational consensus, but emerge out of mutual reconciliation where overlapping and objectivity achieved through chance factor. Otherwise, all our substantive claims to a certain extent are conflicting in nature. William Rehg’s point is interesting as he gives preference to an agent and fellow negotiators on one hand, and points of agreement and disagreement on the other. The question is

Justificatory Liberalism: The Limits of Proceduralism


whether we can reach a rational consensus by putting forth the arguments of both the sides. Rehg is optimistic in thinking that universal pragmatic justification of Habermas can be achieved here. An agent while negotiating with other participants will take into account many aspects like the outcome of negotiation, co-operation, her/his interests, her/his choices and collective norms. This is conditional in the sense that all the participants should possess the same will to listen to one another. The idea of all co-operating reasonable citizens is found in the models of all the thinkers that we have discussed so far in this chapter. Furthering Rehg’s discussion of multiple set of reasons, Abdel-Nour makes a remark: In this pluralistic conception of rational consensus, a speaker who tailors the reasons the she offers to listeners and to their respective world-views, is unable to take at least one set of those reasons seriously herself.51 As mentioned in many places, multiple sets of reasons do not reflect that the agents are resolute over their respective claims. If all the agents are equally participating agents, then the solution to reach an agreement acceptable to all is simplistic. This is at best one aspect of the deliberation. It has got another aspect also. Some of the principles of every agent may conflict with others. Not only reasons should be multiple but also mutual reconciliation should result in the recognition of these multiple claims. Expectation that differences in our worldviews get dissolved either through consensus theory of validity or rational consensus for impartiality is unrealistic. Assumption that all our claims should pass through the test of impartiality is also an unreasonable one. Our conception of a social union has a higher complexity. Social processes and collective life create very many complexities that any alternative provided in the form of consensus theory of validity or rational consensus or universal pragmatic consensus will be inadequate. Habermas anticipates the objections of his skeptics about the very basis of the transcendental-pragmatic derivation of the moral principle. Moreover, a skeptic can stand on Neo-Aristotelian and Neo-Hegelian point of view that discourse ethics offers an empty formalism without much resolution of philosophical ethics.52 Habermas takes a strong note of it and compares this skeptic to an ethnologist who takes the debate away from the cognitive dimension. Skepticism over the efficacy of universal pragmatic justification emphasizes on the aspects that the model is oblivion. With 51 52

“Farewell to Justification,” p. 90. Jurgen Habermas, Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, p. 99.


Chapter Five

specific to rights, equality and justice, a person’s moral argumentation would definitely picture outside the cognitive aspect as the procedure may not be fair-in-itself.53 Formalism remains as disputed doctrine, as Habermas prefers a normative account of social cultural forms of life to evaluative account.

Anti-perfectionism and Limits of Proceduralism At the political level, how do we conceive cooperation in a democratic society is a vital question despite one’s claim that in a democratic public spheres such distinctions between public and private get blurred or even erased?54 This question is important also for the intersubjective or interpersonal context. Differentiating his view in his book Political Liberalism from Kant and Mill, Rawls expresses his fear of indecisive nature of certain conflicts in the public sphere.55 This can be noticed in his preference to the publicity condition in A Theory of Justice and shift to public reason in Political Liberalism, presuming that each of the citizens know that others will reasonably accept those principles of justice. There are two ways to interpret this situation. Either one ought to avoid bringing in those principles that are intrinsically conflicting and non-judgmental, or one’s actions should have the capacity to provide convincing reasons. As citizens of a particular society, we have got two-fold obligations. To prioritize our interests at the personal level and to consent for the principles of justice pertained to interpersonal relationships.56 According to Rawls political constructivism treats rational agents as representative of citizens and subject to reasonable conditions to select the principles to 53

Habermas refers the skeptical argument to Nietzsche and Foucault placing the character of Robinson Crusoe. As is explained above a skeptic’s position can be an anticipation of a certain kind of consequences of the communicative process for universal justification. This, in any sense, cannot be referred to the standpoints of either Nietzsche or Foucault. Even all the people concerned in a practical discourse will not consent to a certain mode of socio-cultural life only. 54 “We should distinguish between real and nominal confrontations.” For the distinction argument, one can refer to Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy (Cambridge: Harvard University Pres, 1985), p. 160. Donald J. Moon rightly asks, “How can we settle with the issues that we fairly cooperate with each other with those principles that we do not reasonably reject.” See his , “Liberalism, Autonomy and Moral Pluralism,” Political Theory, 3.1(Feb 2003): 125-135 at 128. 55 See John Rawls, Political Liberalism Charles Larmore, “Political Liberalism,” Political Theory, 18.3(1990): 339-360. Russell Huttinger, “Political Liberalism”. 56 David Riedy, “Rawls’s Wide View of Public Reason: Not Wide Enough,” Res Publica, 6(2000): 49-72.

Justificatory Liberalism: The Limits of Proceduralism


regulate the basic structure of society, overlapping consensus, and public reason.57 To talk about political constructivism, Rawls argues that it is the conception of political values working towards a fair system of cooperation where citizens are reasonable and rational. What Rawls mean by objective political convictions being derived out of an order of reason, seems to be that the effective public reason enables all rational agents to come to an objective agreement on the distinction between private and public matters. And these procedures are treated as neutral-in-themselves. This dualist thesis retains in some or the other forms the traditional liberal principle of non-interference. Rawls’s thesis of political liberalism persuades us to seek answer for the question: “Is philosophical liberalism only a theoretical presupposition?” Sebastiane Maffettone stresses on the philosophical conception of liberalism rather than political liberalism. Philosophical conceptions can be brought under the rubric of justification and institutional neutrality. According to the principle of separation offered by him, liberalism can be indeed more philosophical than political without worrying too much about the eventual authoritarian consequences that could spring from the main paradigm.58 This opinion seems to be in line with the perfectionist notion of society, where common good too is given importance. There can be doubts about the strength of this position. On the contrary, urge for a perfectionist model of philosophical liberalism seems like an opaque concept. Perfectionism calls for a judgment of the comprehensive issues. This may lead to the debate whether there should be judgment of issues on good in the public domain. Some of the pluralists like Galston and Raz argued against proceduralism of Rawls. Rawls theory poses a challenging question to political philosophy, i.e., what we can judge and what we cannot judge by public reason. The antiperfectionist stand of Rawls would presuppose that perfectionism has very little to contribute to politics.59 On the contrary, the conflict of values does 57

See John Rawls, Political Liberalism, p. 93. See Ronald Dworkin A Matter of Principle (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985), p. 191. Also see Charles Larmore, The Morals of Modernity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 121-127. Simon Clarke, “Contractarianism, Liberal Neutrality and Epistemology,” Political Studies, 47.4(1999): 627-642. See Samuel Freeman, John Rawls: Collected Papers, pp. 574-575. 58 Sebastiano Maffetone, “Liberalism and its Critique: Is the Therapy Worst Than the Disease?,” Philosophy & Social Criticism, 26.3(2000): 1-7. 59 For this point, refer Richard J. Arneson, “Perfectionism and Politics,” Ethics,


Chapter Five

not indicate mere capricious behavior of agents. Conflict of basic liberties is linked to those of substantive freedoms. We have begun with this distinction. Collective life goes far ahead of just basic concerns since life is quite complex and there are issues at the surface level as well. Rawls believes that a just well ordered liberal democratic society constitutive of freestanding institutions is independent of any kind of arbitrary rationalizations.60 It may be true, but a practical political discourse, even that of Rawls’ political conception of just society is not free from rationalizations and ideological assumptions. As we noted earlier, such ideological assumptions have in-built weaknesses. Rawls’s idea of a well-ordered society is thus caught in between thorough proceduralism on one hand and comprehensive liberalism on the other. Though Rawls prefers the former for the basic structure of society, his opinion that reasonableness over the comprehensive issues depends upon the kinds of values and reasons persons share in the well-ordered society is important. In our analysis, what we have pointed out is that it is difficult to arrive at unity of principles from the complex multiple equally compelling principles. It is also very difficult to find a common reasonable principle that neutrally serves the purpose of binding each other in interpersonal domain. In this sense, Rawls’s proceduralism would form a connection between itself and comprehensive issues yet not explicitly said. Antiperfectionism has also an implication for what Rawls calls burdens of judgments or burdens of reason. Burdens of reason or judgment of Rawls related to the notions of justice as fairness, political not metaphysical and basic structure as subject.61 Patrick Neal raises a good question in this context: “What are the reasons for preferring political accounts of justice to metaphysical ones and are they sound ones?”62 Galston states that each position of a particular issue can give rise to metaphysical discussions. He also states that cooperation of the contending parties incline toward one or the other metaphysical doctrine.63 In such cases, commitment to one or the other metaphysical assumptions need not 111.1(October 2000): 37-63. 60 See his “Public Reason,” Samuel Freeman, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Rawls, pp. 368-394 at 378. 61 See John Rawls, Political Liberalism, p. 266. 62 Patrick Neal, “Justice as fairness: Political or Metaphysical,” Political Theory18.1(February 1990): 24-50 at 29. 63 See his Liberal Purposes: Goods, Virtues and Diversity in the Liberal State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 152

Justificatory Liberalism: The Limits of Proceduralism


guarantee justifiable decision to all the contending parties. Pluralism too leads to similar conclusion. Rawls reconciles pluralism with the burden it carries along with it in his account of justice.64 A complex public sphere may nevertheless be not capable of avoiding conflicts in the engaging of reasons and values. This is one of the irresolvable tensions between substantial pluralism and neutrality. The fear that substantial pluralism leads to social fragmentation is implicit in liberalism despite their recognition of the inevitability of irreducible pluralism. Larmore says that pluralism puts an extra burden on the process of reasonable agreement. He draws an altogether contrasting relationship between pluralism and reasonable disagreement.65 If principles of neutrality are more preferable over plural principles, these neutral principles have only limited applicability. The liberal method is to avoid if possible or resolve disagreements; this forms the common ground originating from neutral principles. Moral conflicts remind us of duty to morality on the one hand, and duty to civility on the other.66 We have seen that satisfying the requirements of morality is to fulfill both duty to morality and duty to civility for the Kantians. For Rawls, reasonable agreement, justice as fairness, fair terms of cooperation and sense of morality together form the components of duty to civility. We again reiterate that adherence to neutral procedural principles, where the state is indifferent to what individual goods are as one aspect. The other important aspect is that the background culture of Rawls where all the values and interests lie. For discovery of more appropriate principles of social cooperation and bargaining of agents for moral-ethical principles, the background culture is very much necessary. Sandel is very much right in this regard when he emphasizes this point. But the discovery and bargaining should note the Rawls’s point that the principles of justice applicable for individuals are different from the principles of justice that shape institutions. Recognition of this would change the interpersonal multi-agent bargaining processes. There has to be a basis for balancing the personal points of view and the collective or general point of view. The recognition of this dualism may help us in that direction. In challenging the position of dualism, Murphy is trying to blur the 64

See Political Liberalism, p. 54. See Patterns of Moral Complexity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), pp. xii-xiii, 151, 154. 66 Charles Larmore Morals of the Modernity, p. 142. Also see his “Public Reason,” p. 380. 65


Chapter Five

distinction between individuals and institutions, a fundamental problem of political philosophy. There is another crucial point here. There is a difference in the expectation of how an individual contributes to the promotion of the social good from the way institutions are expected to fulfill. There are certain aspects of human life that may not be brought under institutional procedures and norms. It is the limitation of the procedures in one sense. There is another aspect that Rawls’s model should bother about besides worrying about how best we can bring out just procedures. Manifestation of fair procedures need some additional characteristics of human beings apart from what Rawls has described as sense of justice and fairness and sense of cooperation. Prior to and after reasonable agreement, persons should owe the responsibility for their choices of procedures and norms that determine the public realm. Their responsibility lies in seeing how the public realm thus constituted affects them in turn. A reasonable theory could only commit to the principle that ‘each person’s claim should be acceptable to the others’. Rawls’s political liberalism and Habermas’s communicative reason may not be suggesting us a universal answer about how we should live as a collective. Fair terms of cooperation are certainly a well-crafted concept with the conditional principle of social contract theory: principle of reciprocity, “My agreement depends upon others’ agreement to so and so set of rules’.67 This understanding of reciprocity is a pragmatic conception. For instance, persons of a particular group or community do not extend cooperation to those who disrespect its dignity. The scope of public is immensely wider than the procedural. A neutral political institution has to adjudicate interpersonal moral conflicts thus judging this or that claim as right or wrong. Public realm, unlike the procedural, goes beyond right about justice.68 To arrive at fairly just state of affairs we need to go back to background culture. Unlike Rawls, Habermas claims to have developed a fully comprehensive model of democracy and public sphere.69 The common issues that formed 67

John Rawls, Political Liberalism, p. 16. See John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, 31. Also Shane O’Neill, “Tensions in Rawls’ Liberal Holism.” Philosophy & Social social Criticism, 22.1(January 1996): 27-48. 69 See Jurgen Habermas, The Inclusion of the Other: Studies in Political Theory, Ciaran Cronin and Pablo De-Greiff, eds. (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2001), p. 67. Thomas McCarthy, “Kantian Constructivism and Reconstructivism: Rawls and Habermas in Dialogue,” Ethics, 105(October 1999): 44-63. See Nythamar 68

Justificatory Liberalism: The Limits of Proceduralism


the basis of debate between Rawls and Habermas are public and private autonomy, proceduralism that explains political and comprehensive issues, stability, impartiality, normativity and public reason. The point of similarity in both Rawls and Habermas is that both maintain their inclination to Kantian universalizability without its formal foundational aspects. The major argument lies in conceiving the scope of the public and what is defined as public justification. The arguments between them point to what kind of a theory of just society one should construct. Habermas doubts whether Rawls’s reasonable agreement and overlapping consensus allows enough public justification from the moral point of view. He opines that Rawls idea calls for an a priori agreed consensual principles. The principal question of Habermas from his discourse method is, “Can the plurality of reasons rooted in worldviews, whose nonpublic character is mutually recognized, lead to a consensus that can serve as a basis for a public use of reason for the citizens of a political community?” Answers for this question would be available only when a framework is conceived in which a certain distinction is made in what is public from what is political because persons would care more for public values than political values. Prior to Habermas, considerable research had dealt with what public reason is and in what way it is bound by normative principles.70 This is with reference to reasons that a person gives to justify her/his claim. Several philosophers have argued that reasons are only public, and are only agent-neutral in nature. Others try to emphasize on internal reasons that are mostly private in nature, i.e., agent-relative. We have seen how Habermas prioritized communicative structures, influenced by public reasons. We regard that at some point even communicative structures or intersubjective communication falls short of compelling reasons for normative consensus. Doubts over consensus can be raised while keeping in mind how Habermas understands of a practical discourse. Habermas gives an alternative account of institutionalized public sphere. Habermas would prefer to argue, after a historical observation of Fernandes de Oliveira, “Critique of Public Reason Revisited: Kant As Arbiter Between Rawls and Habermas,” Veritas, 45.4(2000): 583-606. 70 . See Thomas Nagel, The Possibility of Altruism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970), “Objective Reasons,” pp. 90-98. John Rawls, “Idea of the Public Reason Revisited”. Christine M. Korsgaard, “The Reasons We Share: An Attack on the Distinction Between Agent-Neutral and Agent-Relative Values”. Creating the Kingdom of Ends (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 275310.


Chapter Five

transformation of public sphere, that the modern conception of a public sphere adopts a universalistic account in a different sense. For him, public sphere is a normative concept that plays a key role in the process that culminates in legitimate political discourses.71 There are supporters and critiques of his conception of public sphere. Some have argued that Habermas’s model consists of a universal construction of the principles of shared interests and sensitivity to the fact of modern pluralism.72 He also propounds a two-track model of democracy that makes the distinction between a life-world and a system. The former is understood as a broader social framework and the latter is a formal public framework with defined procedures. This two-track model, for Habermas, connects various spheres of a plural society. The argument for mutual reciprocity of rights-claims has differentiated roles for both the processes of life-worlds and systems. Yet several critics have shown Habermasian theory of democracy does not fulfill the promise of rational consensus he makes. Habermas’s argument that the communicative power takes care of the polycentric feature lays too much faith in formal structures. The idea that democracy replaces and takes care of other forms of dominations is a bias towards a normative framework. The actual situation is even within various forms of democratic spheres and sub-spheres, these always operate several forms of domination. The issue is how a discourse manages to balance egalitarianism, pluralism, openness and rationality. Douglas Kellner rightly argues that Habermas discourse theory of democracy is not suited to the everyday matters of life. One can admit that the presence of legitimate discourses would result in the appropriate use of power by the public institutions. Democratic structures bring a proper understanding of rule of law and popular 71 But there is, in his conception of public sphere, a transformation from transcendental to quasi-transcendental notions. See Pauline Johnson, “Habermas’s Search for the Public Sphere,” p. 233. Also see Jurgen Habermas, Inclusion of the Other, pp. 75-106. See Jeffrey Flynn, “Communicative Power in Habermas’s Theory of Democracy,” European Journal of Political Theory, 3.4(2004): 433-454 at 440. Kenneth Baynes, “Democracy and the Rechtstaant: Habermas’s Faktizitaat Und Geltung” in Stphen K. White, The Cambridge Companion to Habermas, pp. 201.232. 72 Pauline Johnson, “Habermas’s Search for the Public Sphere,” pp. 215-236. Also see Kenneth Baynes, “Practical Reason, the “Space of Reasons” and Public Reason,” Pluralism and the Pragmatic Turn: The Transformation of Critical Theory, James Bohman & W. Rehg, eds., (Harvard: MIT, 2001).

Justificatory Liberalism: The Limits of Proceduralism


sovereignty. As already mentioned, the relationship between formal and informal public spheres should remain in tact. To a certain extent, the legitimacy principle is not applicable here, and at times brings adverse consequences. A claim of this kind indicates the tension in the distinction of strong publics; the context of justification and weak publics,; context of discovery as discussed in the previous section.73 Habermas makes the context of justification as a strong principle for a mere reason that he opines that the public sphere should be governed by publicly justified legitimate values. Similar to that of the background culture in Rawls, Habermas’s weak publics or the context of discovery is more important. In our view both have missed important and crucial aspects of moral conflicts in modern societies. The weak publics in the case of Habermas and the background culture in the case of Rawls are far more significant than the formal or procedural institutions. These can be meaningfully related to the idea of discovery offered by Sandel. Importance of this is very much evident in the considerable studies that have been made in social and political theory. From the early modern period to the contemporary society, major chunk of philosophers have reflected upon the tension between individuals and institutions. The contemporary liberal philosophers and theorists of democracy and deliberation have definitely made a progress in offering a workable idea of a social order. These are in no way lasting solutions. The question, “How could we live commodiously?” is caught between idealistic principles on the one hand and pragmatic perspectives on the other. For instance, that liberalism should be able to distinguish the political procedures and metaphysical perspectives is not as simple as it may appear to be. It is a hasty conclusion if we believe that agreements are common phenomena in the political domain.

The Limits of Public Deliberations Two significant questions are worth considering: (1) Can we identify a distinctively political point of view that provides a framework for deliberation independent of other considerations? (2) Would an appeal to public reason presuppose that we presuppose a clear cut distinction between the political and the nonpolitical domains?74 In order that we find 73

Jurgen Habermas, Between Facts and Norms, p. 434. Kenneth Baynes, “Democracy and the Rechtstaat,” pp. 216-7. Jeffrey Flynn, “Communicative Power in Habermas Theory of Democracy,” p. 440. 74 James Boettcher, “Rawls and Gaus on the Idea of Public Reason,” Thinking


Chapter Five

answers to such questions, we will now turn to a different approach, i.e., public deliberation that deals with the theory of deliberative democracy. John Bohman is one of the principal proponents of the democratic theory and the deliberative turn. Bohman defines public deliberation as a dialogical process of exchanging reasons for the purpose of resolving problematic situations that cannot be settled without interpersonal coordination and cooperation.75 Deliberative democracy is the public deliberation of free and equal citizens.76 In defining the limits of public deliberation one should also define the limits of legitimate public deliberation. Deliberative politics or public deliberation attempts to bring public dimension to the conflicts among human beings. Dualism discussed above has two important aspects. First, our collective life should be properly explained with public and nonpublic perspectives or procedural and non-procedural mechanisms. Secondly, these respective domains have to be properly understood. Bohman draws a distinction between his account of deliberation and proceduralism of Rawls and Habermas. Rawls and Habermas confine themselves to impartiality, proceduralism, discourse justification, and precommitment to morality. There is high-scale abstraction and idealization in the case of both these thinkers. Habermasian and Rawlsian approach, Bohman argues that the generalizations and the abstraction that occur in the public sphere inevitably point toward formal and specialized forms of discourse, rather than toward a deliberative notion of political debate among citizens with diverse and ever conflicting viewpoints and standards.77 This argument of Bohman compels us to reconceptualize public deliberation and its relationship with impartial rules and normative principles. He argues that impartiality is not always the most salient feature of public deliberation on conflicting demands. Public deliberation should ensure open endedness, substantial pluralism, and fair deliberations according to us.

Fundamentals: IWM Junior Visiting Fellows Conference, Vienna, 9(2000). 75 See Public Deliberation: Pluralism, Complexity and Democracy (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1996), p. 27. 76 James Bohman, “Realizing Deliberative Democracy as a Model of Inquiry: Pragmatism, Social Facts, and Normative Theory,” Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 18.1(2004): 23-43 at 23. Sabastiano Maffettone, “Liberalism and its Critique,” p. 6. 77 See Public Deliberation, p. 44.

Justificatory Liberalism: The Limits of Proceduralism


Public Reasons are not always convincing according to Bohman. It is true because they are mostly meant for balancing the conflicting claims. Bohman questions the role of strict pre-commitments that play in ongoing social life. The impartial liberals would argue that this pre-commitment is of those principles that would defend the claims that others would not reasonably reject. The point of the impartial liberalism is not trivial any way. It seeks to reflect upon the nature of our collective life.78 Bohman is right in arguing that the principles of procedural justification confines public justification with the design of institutions by bringing in constitutionalism. His argument reflects that a mere appeal to rules and procedures is insufficient; one has to interpret these procedures that could be applicable to new situations.79 Public deliberation is a dialogical account with the notion of a particular good in mind. The difference it holds from the procedural and communicative model is, unlike these two, it is concerned with the problems of everyday life and thus believes in resolving them. The latter falls under the discursive model and the former is more of a dialogical one. Public deliberation believes in give and take of reasons, and the discursive process is oriented towards the claims of truth. Speaking in the Hegelian language Charles Taylor argues that there should be dialogical mechanisms, which means incorporation of the opposing claims as component parts of a new elaborate proposal for a new framework.80 He opposes any form of deontology and proceduralism. Rather he stresses upon a substantive public dialog that is grounded in both plurality and inseparable goods of identity. Taylor talks about two things: plurality of spaces and plurality of public spheres. Besides, public dialog possesses the characteristics of interpretative public sphere and mutual recognition of difference. In order that institutions arbitrate interpersonal conflicts moral, social, or political, the democratic nature of these institutions will not suffice for a just social order. The public sphere from time to time should indulge into the process of self-reflection, in the sense that it has to respond to the changing value systems. A critical understanding of the social 78

One may refer Bruce Ackerman, “Why Dialogue?,” Journal of Philosophy, 86.1(January 1989): 5-22 at 16. Thomas Nagel, Equality and Partiality (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 166. 79 See James Bohman, Public Deliberation, p. 51. 80 Michael Walzer, “Liberalism and the Art of Separation,” Political Theory, 12(1984): 315-330.


Chapter Five

interdependence has to take place. With reference to rights-claims and fulfillment of life projects, public deliberation faces the challenge of claims pertinent to both weak and strong accounts of equality and justice. On the one hand, virtues of collective life are rearranged from time to time with the justificatory procedures. On the other hand, the notion of justification is tied to the forms of discovery and interpersonal bargain. An agent has to understand the actual life situations along with the ideal notions of life. The virtues of collective life should be driven by the ideal of a place for all. Apart from the epistemic justification we owe to others, we also owe to others their due respect not to be simplified as mere sympathy; but recognition of difference. On the one hand, interpersonal deliberation leads to recognition but not necessarily embracing of values of others in a complex moral situation. It would be a mistake to think that recognizing the values of others, does not lead to accepting them; but only agents agree to disagree. To say that one recognizes the reason advanced by others in favor of their values does not mean that one has reached a point of agreement. On the other hand, autonomous individuals can reach a common agreement in some of the cases where we cannot preempt these issues. In interpersonal deliberation, if we take any deliberative framework into consideration, we cannot rule out the possibility that agents would voluntarily come to a common agreement on certain issues. In this regard both hypothetical social contract model and intersubjective communicative model have more or less equal significance provided these perspectives can maintain their claim about individuals as free and equal. A reasonable theory of morality thus swings between utopia and ground reality.


...where two principles really do not meet which cannot be reconciled with one another, then each man declares the other a fool or a heretic. I said I would combat the other man, but wouldn’t I give him reasons? Certainly, but how far do they go? —L. Wittgenstein1

In the previous chapters, we have argued that deep pluralism cannot be overlooked in matters of moral judgments, moral bargain, and moral understanding. Our reasoning does not always attain moral consensus. Instead, irreducible pluralities pose real challenges testing our ways of dealing with moral difference. Objectivity cannot distance itself from agent-relative or agent-centered norms. Even in assigning moral value to these choices, moral deliberation needs to take this into consideration. One of the reasons cited is that persons have irreducible preferences. The complex social life is guided by the principle of irreducible pluralism. Interpersonal needs should be understood in the way that the inevitability of moral disagreement and difference are treated as inevitable of moral deliberation and intersubjective communication. This situation calls for the recognition of multiple rationalities, in the sense that there is more than one principle that is at work and have the potential to become a universal principle. Further, we argue that as far as shared reason and shared good are concerned, we cannot split the nature of the self as either totally autonomous or independent or only as an embedded self. We have argued that autonomy and embedded aspects of self have to be considered together in order to have a proper understanding of the interpersonal. In this sense, autonomy and social agency go together as they are inseparable qualities. This helps us to explain why and how irreducible pluralism


L. Wittgenstein, On Certainty (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1969), p. 81e.


Chapter Six

operates in the interpersonal framework in terms of choices, preferences, goal-fulfillment, ethical considerations, interpersonal relationship and virtues. The matter that needs to be addressed here is how moral pluralism would analyze the problem of priority of right over the good. One of the prime concerns is what makes pluralism a strong moral theory. It is generally argued that some forms of pluralism are present in every moral theory. It is rightly argued because we see some form of pluralism even in Kantian and the Neo-Kantian theories. There is the recognition for plural values though the goal is to unify them. These are not best examples of pluralism. Unlike these theories, genuine pluralism constitutes in itself multiple elements that cannot be normally ordered and unified by an overarching scheme of hierarchy.2 Neo-Kantian approaches to conflict resolution still prefer consensus to irresolvability on moral issues. On the contrary, genuine pluralism is guided by the ideal moral equality, that every moral agent has a justifiable claim comparable to every other agent equally. The opportunities for pluralism not only emerge from the possible consideration that there is no rational basis to resolve all differences, but also from the optimism that multiple principles internal to it can be legitimately established within the range of agents’ preferences. Genuine pluralism notes that judgment and justification can only be biased if it fails to recognize pluralism. We can call this as a recognition rule. As argued earlier, such a recognition rule is inevitable when persons are involved in justifying each other. Genuine pluralism also is aware of the tensions between the general point of view and the personal view. For many years, morality was tied to true sense of rationality and objectivity that automatically leads to consensus. This work strongly asserts that that there are moral truths itself is considered as a myth. The change in the perspective happened when there was a shift in their emphasis from moral truth to moral justification. However, the central focus was on the duty to morality and the duty towards others. In the moral foundationalist framework, these two are treated as one and the same. However, interpersonal moral coordination is not such a systematic process where deliberation or discussion is very symmetrical. Some critics have observed that moral argumentation is not towards coordination of 2

Lawrence C. Becker, “Places for Pluralism,” Ethics, 102.4(July 1992): 707-719 at 708.

Moral Pluralism


each one of us agreeing to what we hold to be true and false, rather it would create a condition where all of us are entitled to hold views that we need not agree. What is this moral coordination? As argued in chapter 3, moral coordination is the recognition of others’ points of view and cooperating with them rather than identifying one’s own values as superior to those of others and embracing them. Common morality is subjected to the claim that though human beings share foundational moral principles, they have differences at a very level. Some philosophers have even argued that it is allowing persons to form their respective autonomous worldviews. We will also look into the aspect where such coordination would sustain the idea of domains of deliberation. Consensus is problematic because it is even more difficult to find a common metric in terms of competing values and claims.3 Some of the moral philosophers have reflected on the point that there cannot be Archimedean point in moral reasoning. These philosophers have opined that this is to misguide morality by alleging subjectivism as the main criminal.4 Consensus on the one hand, and morality and rationality on the other are considered as mutually correlative. Thus, interpersonal domain further poses a challenge to all the unifying theories of morality in finding out a balanced way that takes care of these competing and equally compelling values. Morality is not just defined by the fundamental interests and values we share. This is what we claim against the universal moral theories. The condition is that we share basic interests but would not commit us to claim that all principles are shared even in complex moral situations. It shows that the only advantage the unity of morality has is the explanatory convenience. It is true that moral foundationalistic framework views plurality as burdens of explanation. It is true that morality ought to be the guiding principle but we still need to answer the question as to how we can resolve the complex conflicts is not clear in any way. Nevertheless, pluralism does not eliminate the possibility of justification, but places moral judgment in between being too obsessive about epistemic status on the one hand, and no means of justification on the other.5 This would assist us in maintaining that pluralism is not relativism. When we say that universalism is this, and relativism is that etc., we are contesting the 3

Nicholas Rescher, Pluralism: Against the Demand for Consensus (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993). 4 Kai Nielsen, “Ethical Subjectivism Again,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 37.1(Sept 1976): 123-124 at 123. 5 Michael Stocker, “The Schizophrenia of Modern Ethical Theories,” The Journal of Philosophy, 73.14(August 1976): 453-466.


Chapter Six

argument of unity of morality. Here, the irreducible nature of our differences has to be stated properly. There can be two interpretations of this contention: first, we agree on many issues, and cannot converge on some and second, we fundamentally differ, and come to terms out of certain compulsions. For many believers of moral universalism, to act or choose what is moral and rational is to have proper sense of moral cognition. This position is seen in both the Kantian and the Neo-Kantian frameworks. For them, the rational point of view means that it is rational for one and all after all things considered seriously. On the contrary, the rational point of view applies only to domain-specific arguments or deliberation of issues. These domain specific can also be treated as issue-specific and emphasized on the aspect of realms of morality. Morality is the guiding principle for all forms of moral deliberation but does not possess all-pervasive character. This would also mean that the test of generalization and universalization should have renewed understanding, a more flexible notion of universalization. What we have stated previously is that this notion of generalization has the scope to include plurality of moral considerations within its ambit and recognize divergent values. The claims of the agents are either domain specific or are prone to levels of justification. The point from which an agent argues is also important. This shows the reasonableness of the moral agents as interlocutors. The impact of realms of morality on interpersonal conflict resolution is that it establishes a proper understanding of agents as claimants and recipients of various values they treat as appropriate ones. Autonomy is likely to lead to different value systems. Given this possibility, moral pluralism is a natural consequence of the autonomy that persons practice towards each other. The reconciliation of difference and diversity inherent to our lives will place moral dilemmas, incommensurabilities and ambiguities in an altogether different sense. Moral pluralism is taken to be morally insignificant by universalists for they believe that morality ought to be one and universal. Pluralism only complicates and dilutes moral values instead of strengthening the moral values and principles. Deliberative agreement is likely to have agreement at two levels, general agreement, i.e., agreeable from the general point of view and agreement to disagree from a personal point of view. The general cannot take care of the particular. Therefore, there is a necessary conflict between the individual and the general. For instance, within the framework of utilitarianism, which is good for majority may not be the good for an

Moral Pluralism


individual. By virtue of this contrast, there would be some individuals who are at a disadvantage; creating a possibility where an individual is right and the collective is wrong. What kind of pluralism would stand still in between moral absolutism and unity of principles on the one hand, and absolute moral relativism on the other? The arguments of this chapter are made to defend the previous positions on morality, pluralism and reasonable deliberation. Pluralism when read in a certain ways, is not relativism. This claim is made with respect to many critics of pluralism who attribute anti-theory to moral pluralism. We further claim that pluralism should not be mistaken for relativism even though pluralism and relativism stand on delicate distinction. We explain the perspective of morality by John Kekes, who argues for a positive understanding of morality. His model of primarysecondary relationship, where the former refers to the first-order moral principles and the latter refers to the social contestations, is appreciable as the real possibility. This can be metaphorically reflected as universalplural relationship, where this perspective would place a critical but not an antagonistic relationship between universalism and pluralism. Lastly, we would also discuss the perspective of pluralism propounded by Isaiah Berlin who argues that pluralism means multiplicities but not countless options due to limited space. His idea that pluralism and power of reason could go together will be further discussed.

Pluralism without Relativism Dissatisfaction about overarching demands of moral foundationalism is that a rational-moral agent’s actions ought to comply with the impartial reason. An opposition to this certainly provides space for subjective considerations for moral judgments. However, certain forms of subjectivism do not go with ethical relativism. Here, relativism should not be taken in the Harman’s sense. Some of the moral philosophers seem to have made the distinction of universalism and relativism omitting pluralism. In theory, we can maintain there is a difference between the two. However, the fear of such assertion is that both universalists and relativists claim their stakes on it. Pluralism takes note of the descriptive and normative relativism. On the contrary, hardcore relativism prefers normative moral relativism. As far as pluralism is concerned, it values judgments of our preferences, actions, beliefs, and values because sometimes we value a wrong thing, sometimes we hold a wrong belief assuming it to be right, sometimes we detest a right principle believing to


Chapter Six

be wrong etc. Unlike the case of universalism, pluralism seeks to find answers in multiple ways because it believes that there are multiple ways in which a thing can be qualified as a right one. There are two different senses of morality here: framework-independent morality, which is generally treated as moral universalism and frameworkdependent morality, which goes well with relativists and pluralists. The dilemma pluralism faces is whether to accommodate both descriptive and normative relativism within its fold. As the descriptive relativism takes account of the family of empirical facts, normative relativism understands that true and false are not mere simpliciter, but only have moral codes of this or that moral system. While siding with any of the two or heeding to both the positions, pluralists should also explain how different moral systems can be compatible to each other that could in turn influence reasonable agreement among the agents. ‘Realms of morality’ explains another difference between pluralism and relativism. It retains the scope of rational moral judgments by not eliminating the possibility of overlapping views or objective agreements. It also argues that between realms morality is a matter of compromises, bargains and negotiations. Objectivity can be seen only within a realm or domain. This further illustrates the role of partial and impartial principles that in turn define the role of ideal reasoning or moral imagination of the agents. Dividing issues into various ‘spheres’ is very much necessary because they enable us to identify incommensurable claims and opinions. Pluralism does not in totality deny the importance of ideal conditions of reasoning but insists that in this process of reasoning, one should not fail to recognize the difference in opinions and views. With this pluralism can make a better claim for why it is not possible that agents objectively agree to universal principles under ideal conditions in all cases. Pluralism takes account of moral significance of the choices we make, beliefs we form, and the agreements we reach. Pluralism only assumes that certain set of interpersonal or multi-agent conflicts are inevitable and are not resolvable smoothly using universal principles. Critics of pluralism allege that such position is just arguing for normative moral relativism. However, those who propound value-pluralism claim that it is not to be confused with radical or robust relativism. Some of the prominent thinkers who argue that pluralism is not relativism are William Galston, Joseph Raz, Bernard Williams, Lawrence Backer, Stuart Hampshire, Susan Wolf,

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John Kekes and Isaiah Berlin.6 The common point of argument of these philosophers is that the diversity of human condition is presented with conflict of values of which there is no rational ordering and no single determinate answer. Pluralism admits that something is right or wrong only in relation to the person concerned though relativism can go to the extent of arguing that my views are right for me and your views are right for you. Pluralism also allows a certain compatibility of insider-outsider view. Further, there are certain basic values that possess independent qualities of being right and wrong; these may be treated as intrinsic qualities. For example, to be moral, modest, honest, helping the needy, seeing others as equal, respect for others, promise-keeping, truth telling etc. possess intrinsic qualities of being right and theft, disrespect for others, murder, rape, genocide, homicide, suicide etc., may possess the intrinsic qualities of being wrong. Even pluralism would be sharing certain values with different perspectives when it is the matter of basic ethical values. The main difference in the pluralistic framework emerges when one considers the values, which are not so basic, yet, worthy of considerations. 6

John Gray argues, “I note only that value-pluralism is a view that aims fidelity of ethical life. If ethical life contains conflict of values that are rationally undesirable, that is truth we must accept...not something we should seek to tidy away for the sake of theoretical consistency. See Two faces of Liberalism (London: New Press, 2000), p. 36. Galston’s argument is, “Value pluralism is not relativism...Objective goods cannot be fully rank-ordered. This means that no common measure for all goods, which are qualitatively comprehensive lexical orderings among types of first virtue of social institutions. Beyond this parsimonious list of basic goods, there is a wide range of legitimate diversity. See Liberalism and Pluralism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 5-6. According to Raz, “that there are many values as distinct that are not merely indifferent manifestations of one supreme value...that there are incompatible is that they cannot be all realized in the life of single individual.” He also argued that the incompatible forms of life display virtues each capable of being pursued for its own sake. Joseph Raz, “The Practice of Value,” Tanner Lectures on Human Values, (Berkeley: University of California, Mar 2001), 113-150 at 136. Also see his The Morality of Freedom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 396. According to Susan Wolf and Lawrence Becker, Pluralism does not contain any single determinate answer. Susan Wolf, “Two Levels of Pluralism” and even in a single minded and rigorist theory it is unlikely to be pluralistic in the sense that it counter places significant indeterminacy and diversity within the moral life. Lawrence C. Becker, “Places for Pluralism,” p. 708. Berlin distinguishes his pluralism from relativism in the sense that the former contains several components that are not forms derived from one single source. Whenever they conflict they are not resolved by a monistic moral doctrine. Also see Stuart Hampshire, Morality and Conflict (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983).


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How is it that there will not be conflict between basic values while considering pluralism? For instance, an utilitarian might say that euthanasia or abortion is desirable keeping the consequence in mind and a Kantian might argue against any attempt to justify euthanasia or abortion. How such a conflict on basic values possible and would pluralism uphold such difference of opinion on basic views? If we analyze the argument of the utilitarian carefully, we realize that the argument of a utilitarian is convincing if and only if one brings in the argument of saving a life. For instance, it is convincing enough, one might say, to abort an unborn fetus against the life of the mother who would otherwise have to die. The task of pluralists is not simple. They argue that the values are basically incommensurable due to the heterogeneous nature of human collective. Any kind of lexical ordering is treated as arbitrary in this regard. Then how does pluralism resolve the conflicts of basic interests and values? Though broadening the framework of the basic goods can retain some form of lexical priority, it only directs us to choose one of the basic values in place of another. There are several basic goods from which agents can make a choice as part of their life-projects. Good is taken to be plural and plurality is basic to human life. What it presupposes is that the feature of overridingness cannot be fixed as an ultimate value on basic values or goods. The questions are not as simple as one might think them to be, even by invoking the concept of pluralism. The issue becomes more and more complex when the conflict is on the similar basic value, i.e., there is more than one equally competing and compelling claim to be qualified as a right decision. Pluralism has a challenge here, whether to consider basic values as unconditional in the sense that they constitute categorical right and wrong or whether these basic values possess subsidiary conditional arguments of ifs and buts. In the Universalist framework, moral realists assume that basic human interests do not conflict as all rational and reasonable moral agents objectively share them. If there is a conflict of interests on basic values, they are rationally resolvable and agreeable to all. If murder is immoral, then it becomes categorically a moral wrong. No other subsidiary argument can be made in support of this act. But, no such sharing of the basic interests can resolve the conflicts easily. It is not that the shared reasons on the basic human interests will provide reason-based solutions to the conflicts. Pluralism implies that reasoned moral decision-making is often hard, sometimes impossible. It may be impossible to find decisive reasons to choose in one direction rather than another. This shows that

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conflicts pose certain amount of indeterminateness to our decisions through reasons. There can be difference of opinion over the very basic issues like right to life. It is right to ask how pluralism would deal with these differences of opinion at the basic level of a single particular issue. However, we are troubled with the situation that why we cannot take a determinate decision on such an issue. The reason is that many conflicting situations that are attributable to the conflict of basic values are not driven by determinate answers in all cases. Nevertheless, the indeterminate nature too can avoid the danger of approving the violation of basic values by one of another. Galston calls determinacy as deliberative closures, where decisions are not guided by clear-cut reasoned judgments. There are several instances where basic values like rights, equality and justice conflict with each other. Even amidst such indeterminate deliberations on the conflict of basic values, pluralism would uphold the difference of opinion of value preferences. This difference of opinion sometimes can be viewed as a difference of opinion between, two groups, individual and collective, and sometimes as differences among the individuals themselves. In the case of abortion, one can claim a woman has the right to opt for abortion and on the other hand, one can also maintain that the fetus has the right to life. It is certainly not an easy task to say that one basic right can be taken as overriding the other when they conflict. Yet pluralism cannot escape from this perplexity. The perplexity could lead to a situation where one has to count non-basic values to embrace one stand against another even though both have valid argument in their support. There does not seem to be anything better than the issue based solution in the actual context rather than any general principle to guide us on all cases of conflict of basic moral principles. The problem here is that both judgment and justification involves two aspects: One, wronging some claims to legitimize others. This would involve judging some agents’ claims to basic values as reasonably wrong from the interpersonal point of view. This has a negative repercussion as discussed in the case of morality and reasonableness. Secondly, such judgmental process could involve the loss of certain viewpoints. Generally, deliberative loss and loss through rational justification are also due to the conception of social framework as a limited space. The limitation is that all views cannot be validated even with a plural sense of moral deliberation and intersubjective communication or dialog. Pluralism has to take into account is the accommodation of a wide range of values as well as multiple points of view on each value-preference.


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Judgmentalism is thus explained as: Acknowledging the presence of domains of morality and conflicts, we do not take much interest in claiming that all actions of rational agents are right actions. Rather, we would be interested in saying that agents in a particular framework make reasonably justifiable claims. On the face value, there seems to be an incompatibility between judgmentalism and multiple rationalities. We have three principal viewpoints to discuss: First, according to moral universalism, right and wrong depends on either standard set of reasons or on the universalizable or generalizable claims of the agents. Second, according to moral relativism, right and wrong does not account from the universal or rational sense of morality. There is no independent notion of reason from the context of culture. And third, according to moral pluralism, right and wrong, though, not guided by universal/rational sense of morality, it is even not reducible to the contexts. Independent reason and contextualism play their respective roles. Pluralists treat morality as free from foundationalist sense of justification. There can be two kinds of responses to this issue: one, that dilemmas are resolved by providing a localized perspective that is contingent, temporal, and socially dependent,7 and to put it bluntly fact or event-based morality. On the contrary, a universal perspective permeates throughout societies, cultures, and generations. Pluralism, different from both universalism and relativism, takes a middle path that multiple options are available for the agents to resolve a dilemma. In defense of value-pluralism, Raz and Kekes can be referred here for discussion. Drawing the limitations of social dependence theory, Raz mentions that values constitute temporality and eternality. Certain values are culturally dependent and certain others are independent of it. The moral dilemmas that we address like the clash between ends and means might emerge any time. Raz is quite right in arguing that certain set of principles are formed independent of existing social practices and certain others being dependent on ever changing social conditions.8 There 7

Raz uses this term to explain radical relativism. “It not only makes the rightness of an action dependent on the social factors, it makes all evaluative standards socially relative; they are valid only where they are practiced, or they are subject to some other social condition.” See “The Practice of Value”p. 115. David Lyons also mentions the relativists claim that they embrace that the existing norms of a social group are the only basis for moral appraisals. Refer David Lyons, “Ethical Relativism and the Problem of Incoherence,” Philosophical Review, 86(1976): 107-121 at 109. 8 Raz alludes to the instance of freedom that can be conceived free from sustaining

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can be interpersonal conflicts that need not be historical or convention bound, yet they can be context bound. In other words, certain contexts could reflect certain set of practices that complicate the interpersonal relationships. Every issue can generate a newer conflict independent of the existing conditions. Also these conflicts need not be viewed from the point of view of the context. This relates to our earlier argument that even communitarian philosophy of tradition-based values can manifest false values, with a narrow sense of morality. On many issues of interpersonal concern we note that multiple dimensions of rightful preferences, choices and actions are possible. We need to assume that agents would not make decisions based on principles outside this set since this set is large enough to include all rational decisions. Pluralism, we argue, would declare all those decisions irrational, which fall outside its scope. Apart from the domains where plurality determines the decision-making process, we can theoretically conceive two types of situations: a domain or a possible world in which every one agrees to one common principle, and another domain in which there are as many valid views as the number of deliberating agents. For instance, in the case of the former, universalists may argue that there exists a possible world where every rational-moral agent would ideally agree to all the rational principles under all ideal conditions. On the other hand, radical relativism would be a situation where the number of views equals the number of persons. Different from these two perspectives, pluralism rules out the possibility of one and also of countless options in moral reasoning. Critics may question the merit of pluralism as opposed to universalism and relativism. Universalists may complain that pluralism might come across several such situations where its own principle of multiple rationalities would worsen the moral deliberations as that of relativism. On the contrary, relativists might argue that there are only such situations where one cannot have a rational point of view for all the persons. As a matter of fact, interpersonal conflicts are of different kinds, as conflict of objective preferences or objective collective ordering, of procedural in nature, of values and beliefs, and conflicts that emerge from the values we attribute to several aspects of life. All these categories show that they contain different degrees of resolvability. There is some noticeable difference between pluralism and universalism. For instance, Neo-Kantians would practices. He states, “The values of people and of others who are valuable to themselves, that is, the identification of who has value in himself or herself does not depend on sustaining practices.” See his, “The Practice of Value,’ p. 129.


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claim that the arguments of pluralism are well embedded in their account of morality and reasonableness. For them, reasonableness would itself reflect that they have taken the pluralist point of view into consideration. We have argued that the neo-Kantians’ recognition of pluralism turns out to be only a symbolic recognition, because their unified sense of morality or impartial morality is not so different from the traditional moral foundationalism. This account is not sufficient in the sense that NeoKantians are concerned about the procedural aspects of morality and conflict resolution. Even at the procedural level interpersonal conflicts are not as easily resolved as they think. Let us turn to the critics’ analysis of pluralism again. Pluralism has been used in two senses. First, pluralism would refer to differences among cultures that are generally called as external pluralism. External pluralism would also mean that there are different moral systems. Secondly, pluralism would also refer to different perspectives within a culture; between culture and sub-culture, each having marginally different moral systems. This is also called internal pluralism. These aspects are also present in descriptive moral relativism and normative moral relativism. The argument of external pluralism is obvious in the sense that there cannot be an Archimedean ethical standard from which one can judge the practices of all cultures. This complication is part of interpersonal conflict resolution though we have laid some hope on the idea of Sen’s positional objectivity. According to this idea, objectivity of something like ethical value judgments depends upon the position of the observer(s). From that position, every agent should be able to see the things in a similar manner. This analysis is very much applicable to even internal pluralism as well. Sen rightly argues that certain wrong social practices also are positionally objective ones. To identify such wrong social practices or rationalized views these positional objective principles are prone to transpositional evaluations. But these transpositional evaluations would not be much helpful if they do not consider the multiplicity of criteria. Pluralism values the primacy of that critical rational thinking that recognizes multiplicity in preferences, values, and beliefs. One of the major claims of substantial pluralism is that multiplicity and ethical consideration need not lead to unity of moral principles. With this kind of an approach, it is possible to take note of the significance of ideal nature of the abstract moral principles on the one hand, and the concrete differences on the other. Justification arises from the agents’ understanding of the significance of the diversity of certain spheres of interpersonal life.

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Pluralism would accommodate into its notion the idea of frameworkdependent morality. In any domain of deliberation, there is a possibility of reaching an objective agreement. This type of agreement is not transdomain in nature. The idea here is that persons can make their state of affairs better or worse in the process of interaction. Both shared reasons and common good are grounded in such understanding. Hence, under the principle of conflict resolution a situation of basic conflict cannot be replaced by another basic conflicting situation, however, one may admit the possibility of settling for not so basic conflict in place of basic conflicts. It should not be such that while working out pragmatic solutions the diversity is undermined and unity is enforced by unreasonable method. If it happens, then the deliberative processes have not taken care of multiplicity and hence the process is unethical. Multiple yet equally competing principles of morality upheld by pluralism do not weaken one’s moral argument simply because they lead to moral skepticism. This moral argument depends upon whether we take relativism to be descriptive, normative, or epistemic.9 Relativism takes into consideration epistemic diversity and alternative logics; a strong sense of equivocation that does not rule out the possibility of counter reason for every reason on any issue. Contrary to universalism, both pluralism and relativism object to the primacy of framework-independent moral principles. Relativism prioritizes the inevitability of time dependent incommensurable frameworks whereas pluralism retains time independent incommensurable frameworks partially. Ethical relativism or moral relativism, maintains that the value of the individual, their autonomy etc. depends on other individuals or contexts. Pluralism can be attributed the synchronic character. This feature does not negate the impact of historicity of moral principles. Pluralism recognizes that moral judgments do not depend merely on contextualized principles. Rationality in this sense enables an agent to recognize the diverse worldviews. Raz mentions an interesting argument: “The spirit of pluralism in affirming the values of different cultures, their practices and


According to the Descriptive Moral Relativism, as a matter of fact there are deep and wide spread moral disagreements across different societies and these disagreements are much more significant than whatever disagreements may be. argues for Normative Moral Relativism that the truth or falsity of the moral judgments or thier justification is not absolute or universal, but is relative to the tradition, convictions, or practices to the group of a persons.


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ideals, run the risk of offering contradictory values.”10 Further he remarks that social dependence theory may not accommodate the true spirit of pluralism. This is very true that certain moral principles exists through our own construction despite being embedded in the social practices are not. If one assumes that the relativism’s diachronic argument is apt, then one can make a bold objection against the nature of morality manifested in dictatorial and fanatic cultures, which have the absolute notion of morality. The counter claim to this is that certain set of moral principles can have their stake independent of social conditions. Besides, moral principles are grounded in the plurality of human condition rather than conceiving countless relative principles. The weakness of the relativist argument is that if reason, morality and standards differ from culture to culture, then it fails to notice the distinctness of persons. Distinctness of persons is necessary to conceive responsibility of choices and actions. Relativists would argue that there is a similar taken-for-granted assumption in both Neo-Kantian and pluralism. In the Neo-Kantianism, it is taken for granted that the principles of higher-order will take care of diversity and pluralism. There are horizontal considerations among the competing values. Some values prevail over others always. This is driven by the motivation of moralism. The unity of moral principles would themselves bring reasonableness to the agreements among the negotiating parties over right and wrong. In this sense, conflicts can be rationally resolved idealizing the resolvability conditions. For relativists, pluralism also takes for granted that the combination of rational thinking and recognition of diverse forms of life would bring optimal or reasonable outcomes. This pertains to the arguments of the realms of morality, domains of deliberation and irreducible pluralism. The skeptics to pluralism would argue that there would not be better off situations from the irreducible claims of the agents. Unlike the Universalists, pluralists do not totally depend on the intrinsic value of the moral principles. As moral reasoning and moral deliberations face the problem of fairness, mere consideration of principles will not themselves resolve the conflicts. Even one could be skeptical about how fair interpersonal deliberations are. Due to this reason, moral bargaining and moral negotiation become important in moral deliberations. They are possible because agents are supposed reach some reasonable conclusions. But this legitimacy is not guided by the search for one single legitimate 10

“The Practice of Value,” p. 137.

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principle that outweigh all other value-claims. Not that they have to reach a multiple principle, but not an absolute principle that undermines the importance of other contesting principles. As long as justification is given preference legitimacy is also given preference. There are deliberations in some or the other forms among the individuals who are supposed to reach some or the other acceptable reasonable agreement. Moreover, there are many issues that require individuals’ mutual reconciliation without deliberation. Individuals, as part of a complex society11 need to realize that no value can be imposed on others as legitimate ones. Instead, individuals have to realize that pluralism is the underlying principle of an interpersonal framework. Assuming that there are issues such as ends-means conflicts, conflicts of interest-maximization, conflicts of value-assertions, conflict of moral judgments, and asymmetries in intersubjective communication, there are certain aspects that persons are not supposed to impose on others. This is the reason why pluralism retains the distinction of public and private morality as one of the requirements of moral pluralism. One may say that this kind of a position would be in line with the Rawlsian proceduralism or anti-perfectionism. We have argued that public and private morality cannot be reduced to procedural claims. This is the central argument of public and private morality. Legitimacy is only one of the dimensions of interpersonal public life. Society is not just constituted with legitimate relations. Relativism would come into picture and claim that in this domain also cultures, community, and groups are important emphasizing on the emotive aspects. Pluralism does not comply with the relativists here. In any framework of human life, reason cannot be exempted taken away from the thought process of individuals. Only then we would be able to recognize appropriate and inappropriate values and beliefs. In the words of Sen, some wrong cultural things could prevail as positional objective values. Any social interaction cannot avoid the insideoutside view. Neo-Kantians are right in this regard. Reason and rationality can be retained in the pluralistic framework because most of the interpersonal issues of conflict we are concerned with are not really cultural conflicts. They are issues of basic liberties and substantive freedoms. It can be reflected in our support to Gilbert Harman where he argues that what is moral or rational is understood in relation to a 11 Any free democratic society could be complex society. We are not considering any other kind of society here.


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particular moral framework, which need not be related to cultural problems. Defining a framework is itself a difficult task when certain realms and spheres overlap and intersect. Relativism is subject to criticism as it violates the principle distinctness of persons. For relativists, our freedom is bound by cultures and contexts (group-based moralities and authority-dependent). For them, difference in moral understanding depends on context. Autonomy and distinctness of persons are very important even though relativism does not count it. Any moral-rational agent has the right to hold a critical point of view within the moral system s/he belongs to. Pluralism retains the power of reason because of which it is possible for the pluralists to view morality differently. It means that an intersubjective framework generally has multiple rationalities, but will have reconcilable relative claims. Particularism is an important determinant of the nature of social morality. But morality has to be properly tied to temporal and contingent aspects. For Paul Taylor, an ethical relativist would state that it is sheer narrow mindedness if one assumes that moral principles of one society are advanced, enlightened, or truest than those of another society.12 This view is partially defendable. An agent in a complex social framework cannot make arbitrary unethical remarks over other cultures or groups. But, there are certain moral ideals that all complex social frameworks ought to imbibe. Moral ideals such as freedom, autonomy, rights, justice, equality, reason, rationality, and reasonableness are important for all social frameworks. For instance, one need not deny that one’s moral consciousness is dependent on one’s social environment in which s/he grows. Within that social environment, one can have a rational understanding of whether a society should be free and well-ordered or not. Paul Taylor’s ethical relativist should also think about internal hierarchy of values within a single moral system. Raz maintains that evaluative judgments remain significant in the context of pluralism also. Values depend upon the people who value them and they are idle and ideal unless engaged in a social context. This differentiates relativism from moral pluralism. Though every agent is engrossed with particular of her or his own self, family, or group there is no escape in totality from evaluative judgments. The important question is: Can there be neutral moral systems? According to the imperative theory of ethics, moral statements are not really statements at all. They do not express propositions that are true or 12

Paul W. Taylor, “Four Types of Ethical Relativism,” The Philosophical Review, 63(1954):500-516 at 501.

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false, they express emotions or commands that are neither true nor false.13 Universalism, pluralism, and relativism face an important question: Should one hold that something is right or wrong with respect to a social framework or can they be independent of any social framework? Universalists would say that as far as first-order moral language is concerned, we have independent notion of right and wrong. The relativists would claim that right and wrong would be made with respect to the social frameworks. For the former, ethical statements seem to be imperative and for the latter emotive. We have already discussed about the difficulty of moral imperatives and emotive moral principles. On the contrary, pluralism takes care not to slip into either absolutism or relativism. It scores over both these two extreme views because it recognizes the distinctness of persons, emphasized by Rawls, which makes it possible to give sanctity to pluralistic framework. The question here is that how is morality understood if universalists, pluralists and relativists all share minimal universalism? Still morality will have varied positions in these three paradigms. Cultural relativism to a certain extent lives under general values of that particular culture. Raz rightly points out that the relativist argument that values are socially dependent themselves should be socially relative.14 The differences in life patterns or worldviews create a condition where one has to have reasonable justification. Taylor presents theoretical or logical relativism: moral statements can be rationally justified but only by presupposing the value of reasonableness, which cannot itself be justified.15 Agents cannot make claims that cannot be justifiable by any principle in any possible world. For instance, egalitarianism draws an invisible limit beyond which any one agent’s share will violate the share of another. Similarly, when an agent makes a substantive claim it has to be justifiable by plural principles. We cannot presuppose the sense of reasonableness without the consideration of moral standpoints of the persons involved. Taylor seems to be arguing for reasonableness for its 13

See Paul W. Taylor, “Four Types of Ethical Relativism,” p. 503. You and me are involved in a discourse, when we make conflicting claims to our dispositions, the dilemma is that we can neither let moral-nihilism prevail nor do we restore faith in a single judgment. 14 “The Practice of Value,” p. 114. 15 It asserts that a person who attempts to justify moral statements by giving reasons for them can claim to be true only by presupposing the value of reasonableness. See “Four Types of Ethical Relativism,” p. 510.


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own sake. Imbalance in reasonable positions occurs out of skepticism and lack of mutual reciprocity among the persons. Similarly, Kekes argues that morality has a harder center and softer periphery. Whatever changes occur are natural but only peripheral, center being unaffected.16 The above argument would defend the view that pluralism does not escape from making moral judgments. Our moral judgments as right and wrong depend on the values we accept. Assuming for the moment that one is attracted to the liberal version of reasonable pluralism, the question that naturally arises is how and on what grounds can one set the limits to values?17 This question is vital for understanding how agreement through judgments of each other’s actions and dispositions can be achieved. It is very much the basic concern of New-Kantian liberalism. The concern is in arriving at general normative principle through public practical reason, which would be acceptable to all negotiating reasonable persons. Even in this case, reasonableness is taken for granted where all agents possess this characteristic. In the case of liberal philosophers this notion of reasonableness need not be further questioned under the principle of infinite regress. Two questions arise here: is it essential to be moral and what are the reasons for I should be moral?18 As argued earlier morality becomes a principle of reciprocity. An agent finds adherence to morality too obscure if other agent(s) do not reciprocate to them. It does not validate the argument that I need not be immoral if others do not reciprocate the sense of morality. How do we assess the moral behavior of a persona in a collusive and of the collective itself? This is the challenge that morality faces. Mutuality occurs because there are differences in our moral standpoints Liberal philosophers emphasize upon certain common or universal principles of conduct. Pluralists maintain that it is evident that the contexts in which our lives are constituted are not easily commensurable, yet there is scope for agreement of a different kind. For instance, every single plan of life has certain set of changeable and unchangeable convictions. When two or more persons interact, the process in which interpersonal conduct 16

John Kekes, The Morality of Pluralism p. 15. This question is borrowed from the review of John Kekes’s book The Morality of Pluralism reviewed by Deal W. Hudson, “Pluralism Without Relativism,” First Things 49 (January 1995): 72-74. [] 18 David A. J. Richards, A Theory of Reasons for Actions (Oxford: At The Clarendon Press, 1971). Kai Nielsen, “Why I should be Moral,” pp. 279-292. 17

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gets manifested is obviously always vibrant. Apart from this, moral significance even relies on the reciprocity of a higher level, where agents have to reconcile that conflict cannot be avoided in the interpersonal framework. This reconciliation draws a sense of morality, a morality tied to the obligation of valuing others. Pluralism can score over the other two extremes universalism and relativism. Agents ought to be in a position to revise their beliefs over any particular issue. This should be one of the principal objectives of intersubjective communication or social contract. In response to many apprehensions over the clarity of distinction between relativism and pluralism, Berlin argues that pluralism has an upper hand, as it believes in moral communication and understanding of moral views among all persons. Besides, pluralism accepts a basic core of human values in comparison to relativism, which does not have any core value, and other values adopted in a particular context fall within a common moral horizon in pluralism.19 Common moral principles are possible provided when agents properly reciprocate with one another. What we would like to emphasize here is that pluralism makes use of plurality of options available to a person in making decisions rather than making morality too contingent and temporal one like relativism. In this regard, Susan Wolf argues very rightly about the difference between the two doctrines. Pluralism admits disagreement without relativist assumptions and also accepts a kind of subjectivism. It does not claim that the legitimacy of values is simply left to the individual discretion only. This takes us to the final point of distinction and defense of pluralism. Wolf argues that pluralism is not offered as a challenge to absolutism, but as an option for those who find absolutist stand unacceptable.20 This may be purely a defensive argument in the sense that there is no open rejection of absolutism. We need to explicitly confess that moral pluralism is genuinely uneasy with the concept of absolutism. An opposition to absolutism keeps the debate on moral-value alive. To maintain moral pluralism is not to make morality insignificant. This can be inferred from the argument of some of the philosophers of pluralism. According to Susan Wolf, there seems to be a limit to how much morality we can withstand. This point has been emphasized at several places in this thesis. Wolf compares a moral saint and a person 19 20

From the Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy “Two Levels of Pluralism,” p. 798.


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with common sense morality. What Wolf argues is admissible to a certain extent that we cannot avoid the expectation of reasonable behavior from a person. This may not be impartial in the extreme sense but moderate impartialism. This point has to be seriously considered. What impartialism puts forward is that rational principles treat all persons equally. The point that impartial equality misses is that the abstract moral principles do not possess the capacity to serve several concrete considerations.21 Pluralism is aware of what is morally required or obligatory, but expresses its uneasiness over the too demanding nature of moral foundationalism. What is morally required cannot merely depend upon the evaluation that a person’s action is morally best action considered from all point of views. Moral requirement is thus defined accordingly in different spheres. The tension is between the maximal demand of morality and flexible conception of morality. In arguing for morality and its demands one should also think of morality and its limits.22 Samuel Scheffler and Shelly Kagan explain this in an effective manner. The mention of different spheres adds strength to our argument as it explicates the actual condition where persons as individual or representative agents interact with each other over several contending issues. But the interacting agents are obligated to play two roles, i.e., as a rational agent and as a moral agent. Pluralism lays emphasis on the latter characteristic because agents put forth irreducible claims. It lays the foundations for both revision and acceptance of each other’s dispositions. Moral philosophers thus encounter an explanatory-dilemma between the pervasive sense of moral realism and moral relativism. Morality stands on a sensitive account here. We prefer to have an irreducible account of our claims, yet they could be moral. This is possible for two simple reasons. One, moral absolutism and moral relativism cannot be defended. Secondly, the content of the first-order moral principles are very important. As already discussed, moral philosophy should take into account the degrees of conflicts and realms of conflict. The intention behind this proposal is, ‘moral disagreements can be brought to a level of commensurability by offering a two-level agreement process. Agreement of a general kind that satisfies public reason and to hold autonomous 21 See Susan Wolf, “Moral Saints,” Journal of Philosophy, 79.8(Aug 1982): 419439. Also her “Morality and Partiality,” Philosophical Perspectives, Ethics 6(1992): 243-259. 22 Samuel Scheffler, “Morality’s Demands and Its Limits,” The Journal of Philosophy, 83.10(October 1986): 531-537.

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judgment about the same deliberated issue. This approach seems interesting yet remains inconclusive as we keep several moral questions open. This is an indispensable aspect of moral pluralism. As mentioned earlier, all universalized principles are not treated as fair and final principles in themselves. This draws the contestation between priority of person and priority of principle. It can be explained as a contention between the personal point of view and the rational/moral point of view. Moral equality is not to be confused as a principle that gives priority to person only. Pluralism takes a different approach. An agent’s claims, as argued in the Kantian and Neo-Kantian frameworks, ought to reflect reasons that are admissible to others. Admissibility reflects justifiability through the principle. My claims are admissible because they are derived from certain intelligible principles. But the reasons, whether rational or moral, do not come from totally independent criteria. The criteria for admissibility or justifiability of an agent’s claims begin with the idea that agents’ life-worlds are at certain level incompatible if not totally incommensurable with others. Pluralism prefers to have wider criteria for the validation of value-claims. If every aspect of interpersonal life is dictated by the independent rational morality at the cost of diversity, we will not have normative principles that possess wider criteria. This would make several of the agents’ claims invalid and impermissive. Degrees of conflict and the frameworks of deliberations take account of these contingent conditions. As mentioned earlier, pluralism defended here does not reduce morality to mere personal point of view. Nagel’s impartiality is not totally deniable. Several of the interpersonal issues demand an impartial approach to bring justifiable and just outcomes. Impartial moral system is not all-pervasive. Public reason demands the arbitration of interpersonal conflicts by a set of determinate rules. Pluralism has a challenge here. If it is not relativism, then how determinate is its conception of public reason? This can be answered only when realms of conflicts, kinds of conflicts and degrees of conflicts are further substantiated. Principles that guide an agent’s actions are not to be taken as all pervasive. Realms or domains of conflicts support this statement. We began our argument questioning the transcendental sense of morality. Domains of conflict explain that different domains present conflicts in their own fashion. Many a times, these incommensurabilities are not compatible to each other. Criteria for resolution differ from domain to domain. For instance, religious domain


Chapter Six

may not give enough freedom to question the absurdities categorized as universal moral principles. Whereas in domains such as economic, social or political, the conception of ultimate principle does not apply in the strict foundational sense as it determines the ethical domain. Each domain of conflict is further characterized with degrees of conflict. Within the socioeconomic domain, we encounter several contending questions pertaining to egalitarianism and maximization. We have seen that interpersonal goalfulfillment involves conflict of rights-claims whether or not one’s rights satisfaction intrudes into the domain of another.

Moderate Pluralism Alan Gewirth’s assumption is that pluralism draws a defensive explanation against the search for the justificatory reconciliation between universalism and particularism.23 This cannot be attributed to all forms of pluralism. From the argument made above for retaining pluralism’s distinction from relativism, pluralism argued by John Kekes and Isaiah Berlin, though substantive in nature, does not propose to resolve the dispute altogether. The following arguments will show that despite its tensions with moral foundationalism, pluralism can remain attached to minimal universalism. The linking of ethical universalism with ethical particularism explains what is obvious and what is not so obvious in human condition, even as emphasized by the communitarians.

Kekes on Pluralism without Relativism John Kekes’s notion of morality is interesting because it has a fine blending of both personal satisfaction and moral merit. With respect to the goodness of lives, Kekes states that one can derive personal satisfaction and yet maintain moral merit of the individual lives. For him, these do not conflict because they coincide with each other due to the eudaemonic notion of goodness of life. In explaining this, he introduces internal goods as well as external goods. Internal goods mean acting according to one’s own conception of the good. And external goods are satisfactions derived from rewards to the actions performed.24 If internal goods are so important 23

See Alan Gewirth, “Ethical Universalism and Particularism,” The Journal of Philosophy, 75.6(June 1988): 283-302. 24 John Kekes, “What Makes Good Lives?,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 48.4(June 1988): 655-668 at 666. David Schmidtz puts forth a similar argument in his notion of moral dualism, where personal interest and moral requirements can go together. See his Rational Choice and Moral Agency

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then it will be in alignment to our position on the agent-based or agentcentered notion of the life-project that has interpersonal justifiability. We can have such a comparison because even for a life-project, every agent desires to form goals and preferences based on what one values, rather than just being influenced by the independent values of these goals and preferences. These are important, as they resemble our personal commitments also. On the other hand, external goods have significance to make the position of persons better off and even well off in many cases (it may constitute interpersonal appreciation or social reward). In this sense, Kekes qualifies internal and external goods as private and public goods. Another principal concern of Kekes is actions of agents which are prone to approval and disapproval. He assumes the dispute between this involves the distinction between choice-morality and character-morality. Choice morality means that one chooses only those things that are moral, which springs from the question: what ought I to do? It is mostly Kantian in kind. Character morality means that a person chooses what is moral only when s/he possesses the moral character. Its central question is what sort of person I ought to be and is Aristotelian in kind.25 Most of the critics of moral foundationalism have understood morality as a virtue implicit in a tradition. To treat morality as a virtue is fine but to attribute historicity to it may not suffice the whole argument. One can also say that morality can sustain from tradition to tradition only when it is autonomous. Interestingly, Kekes assigns stronger quality to the Kantian choice morality and weaker quality to the Aristotelian morality. Pluralists would in fact combine the morality and character as implicit features of a moral agent. This combination of morality and character is inevitable for the resolution of the interpersonal conflicts to sustain the decent status of morality. In understanding both the types of morality, where one is grounded in the rational and the other is grounded in the virtuous; the important question is what is at stake when we judge people morally. Kekes asks the question whether we judge persons on the basis of what they have become through their choices or on the basis of character of how they come to possess these choices.26 We can critically analyze this point. According to Kekes, a (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), “Moral Dualism,” pp. 119-211 at 196. 25 John Kekes, “Ought Implies Can and Two Kinds of Morality,” The Philosophical Quarterly, 34.137(October 1984): 459-467 at 461. 26 Ibid., p. 462.


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person of good character will automatically do what is right. Rightness comes from the virtuous character of a person. For instance, we have to take it for granted that all virtuous persons are well aware of and heed to the principle of limits of interest-maximizations. A virtuous person will not for granted do wrong things. There is no denial that a social framework will yield pluralistic sense of harmony. Character-morality overburdens the person with the demand of too many good qualities. It is not reasonable to claim that persons with good character will not commit wrongs. Let us suppose that all persons with good character are reasonable persons. However, reasonable persons can perform wrong actions or make wrong choices from some or the other dimension. One can again reflect on the assumption that moral choices are made by those who have moral character. Then, it would mean that all moral persons would make morally right choices. In some sense this is similar to the Kantian assumption that rational-moral agency involves priority of right over the good, excepting that Kekes and other theorists of charactermorality link this to the priority of good over the right. If one makes a serious observation here, we can fix the focal point of choice-morality and character-morality in their respective places. In the case of the former, autonomy and moral responsiveness make individuals make appropriate choices in many particular instances of life. It also constitutes their choices of one good or tight thing instead of another. On the contrary, the good determines the nature of collective life, yet constituted with right principles only. In the case of Kekes, the supposition that right choices are determined by moral character should be able to treat virtues as domainspecific.27 In the framework of virtue ethics, it is assumed that the virtuous nature of a person is reflected in deeper aspects and forms of life. In this sense, a virtuous person is also a rational person. If this is understood in another way, then persons have to choose right principles because they are rational and virtuous. Kantians would also say that only rational and virtuous persons could make right choices. Kantians might have to say that initially a principle is discovered to be a duty through reason and by practice this principle can become the part of the personality, i.e., is internalized and every time similar action is performed by choice without universalizing it again and again. In this sense rationality can be part of the virtue, or 27 Neera K. Badhwar, “‘The Limited Unity of Virtue,” Nous, 30.3(September 1996): 306-329.

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character. Kekes states that individuals are responsible for their actions that have a deeper connection to their character. One may note the relation between Kekes notion of pre-moral character and the moral agency in the Kantian framework. One of the principal reasons for such kind of attributions is that moral approval and disapproval comes from the pre-moral characteristics for Kekes. It may mean that if a person’s pre-moral character is good, then all the actions performed by him/her are morally approved. Moral progress too depends upon such good pre-moral characteristics. Moral progress is treated as moral development here. Kekes seems to have argued that all the sources of conflicts are traceable to the pre-moral characters of persons. Due to numerous differences in the pre-moral characteristics, one can see that different persons have different understanding of the different issues of life. Personhood and moral agency are simply a fact of life in Kekes’s notion of character-morality.28 His conception of personhood seems to be similar to that of the communitarian philosophers. Everyone is born into a moral tradition and undergoes moral training. This is important because before a child becomes a rational adult, s/he has to go through the process of socialization and moral development. This aspect is very much the basis of social rights theories while it is taken for granted in the liberal and the Kantian choice-morality framework. The understanding of Kekes seems to be that all moral traditions are right in themselves or those traditions are right that are moral in nature. Thus, for him, moral agency is implicit in all persons. But as far as morality remains central to our discussions, rationality and choice cannot be separated from the framework of morality. Character morality becomes a limited doctrine here since traditions are those that produce moral agents, it follows that all agents are to be assumed to be having a moral character and hence naturally make right and moral decisions. This is plainly a simple assumption since there are many immoral persons in any society. This theory by definition will not recognize any interpersonal moral conflicts though the conflict could be between moral and non-moral according to this perspective. One of the principal arguments of Kekes is that pluralism can be distinctly viewed from relativism. In arguing for a particular form of pluralism, Kekes puts forward six theses of pluralism: First, the plurality and 28

Ibid., p. 465.


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conditionality of value; second, the unavoidability of conflicts; third, the nature of reasonable conflict resolution; fourth, the possibilities of life (of moral imagination); fifth, the need for limits, and finally, the projects of moral progress.29 We may now turn to each one of these points. First, plurality of values is not due to different sources and recipients of the associated benefits and harms but also due to different reasons for seeking or avoiding them. There are some values whose importance all reasonable people would recognize as primary values, whereas, the importance of other values varies with moral traditions and the individual conceptions of life as secondary values. Pluralism of this kind prioritizes some set of context-independent and some set of context-dependent values.30 Both the primary and secondary domains of values are plural in nature. The reconciliation of the diversity of values must be the principal account of a reasonable moral theory. We are trying to place plural values as fundamental to human life, and hence the values could differ even at the fundamental level and not merely between cultures and traditions. This indicates that internal diversity is as important as external diversity. What we would like Kekes to answer is whether the primary-secondary categorization effectively manages to explain the principle of justification that determines mutuality among diverse interests. Within the pluralistic framework, it may be difficult to say that what is a basic value and what is secondary in the sense a basic value might be treated as secondary in another perspective or vice versa. For instance, when a perspective upholds capital punishment, we see that the right to life is treated as basic and those who oppose capital punishment are those who argue for the basic right to life. One might note that without the right to life, the talk of liberty, equality, autonomy etc. do not make sense. Kekes distinction between hard core and softer periphery does not seem to hold water in the context of pluralism even if pluralism recognizes that there are some values within a perspective, treated as basic. That is to say the list of basic values is not the same across the pluralistic points of views. The list of what is a basic need might be different for different schools of thought. Nevertheless, all these schools of thought need to satisfy the universal principle of minimum good.


John Kekes, The Morality of Pluralism, pp. 17-38. John Kekes, Against Liberalism, 160.


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In placing the values in primary and secondary domains, we can go further towards understanding the nature of values by understanding the nature of persons. Though Kekes says that this is possible only to a certain extent, this position is rooted in the conception of character-morality. All the secondary values that are at the mercy of traditions and practices also ought to pass through the test of minimum sense of good. In satisfying the minimum conception of good all secondary values, for Kekes, are dependent on the primary values. The aspect that is absent and would have added strength to his position is the way these primary and secondary values are prone to interpersonal mutual recognition in the context of several forms of interaction, deliberation, and negotiation. In such categorization, there is no one value that has an overriding value over all other values. There are multiple values that are equally overriding in nature which one may call basic. From the arguments made by Kekes, it is clear that contingency is internal in the sense that these two categories take care of the changing situations especially the secondary values. One needs to come out of the illusion that one should always be guided by the notion of moral good in the unconditional sense. Imagine a situation where everyone in a moral framework comes up with respective understanding of unconditional moral principles and respective notions of good life. There is no possibility of any kind of agreement or compatibility of these principles in such situations if pluralism is right. Both primary values and secondary values can conflict. The conflict is basically between the context-independence and the context-dependence. For Kekes, when primary and secondary values conflict, the former prevail over the latter for the mere reason that whatever value an agent internalizes ought to possess the minimum sense of universal good. One may not confuse this position with Nagel’s position where he states that when interpersonal conflicts reflect the conflict between personal and impersonal preferences, the latter prevails. But one must doubt whether Kekes assumes the sense of good in the primary values to be stronger than that of the sense of the good in the secondary values. The preference to primary values for Kekes is based on the assumption that there is a certain amount of resolvability of the conflicts. Second, it is right that one cannot avoid conflicts. These conflicts are concrete at the personal level, and abstract at the social level. Kekes may be referring to the personal dilemmas and interpersonal conflicts. The ambiguity can be stated to be less in the former than the latter. It is part of


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common sense understanding that values of the self conflict with values of the social order. Kekes only talks about conflicts of values as part and parcel of routine and ordinary social processes. However, not only values conflict but also preferences and value judgments conflict. But conflicts of this kind are not only ordinary and part of routine social life, but there are also deeper conflicts that are always at odds and resolute enough to be compatible or commensurable. That individual self and the social order are always at odds may have become an ordinary or a routine understanding of the interpersonal context. But the conflicts between the individual and the collective on the one hand and within a collective on the other, are not ordinary in any sense. Individual prioritization of values and preferences will not be similar to the collective ordering of preferences. One can ask here whether pluralism denies the rational ordering of collective values. Pluralism would respond to this in the negative. It would say that rational ordering of collective values and preferences may not include in its ordering the possible divergent values and moral systems. By referring to conflicts as concrete and abstract Kekes argues that the former depends on the personal commitments to ends and preferences, whereas the latter depends upon convictions with the influence of traditional factors. The important issue is whether the personal commitments and social convictions have a converging point or not. The tension between the personal commitments and social convictions is a regular condition. Unlike that of the Kekes’s perspective, these can be looked independent of traditions. Kekes rightly states that the ranking of values does not only depend on values themselves, but also on the attitudes towards them.31 Third, Kekes believes that the conflicts are to be resolved using reasonable process. He emphasized on the reasonable conceptions of good life that would not underdetermine the sense of plurality. Like Galston and other pluralists, Kekes argues that pluralism allows the necessity of reasonable conceptions of good life and allows plurality of secondary values unlike that of monism. In the process of ranking one’s values and preferences, acceptability does not disappear if this ranking differs from others. Such difference in ranking also involves an agent’s choice of some preferences, values, and holding on to certain beliefs in place of some other and also possibly different from some if not all.


Ibid., p. 75.

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Preferences, values and beliefs are dependent on one’s personal commitments. Hence, one cannot say that there can be real perfect sense of rational ordering of our commitments. The indication is the presence of several incommensurable preferences and ethical quandaries that question the extent to which overriding is relevant as a principle.32 Sandel questions that if incommensurability is conceded the choice of one in place of other is not possible.33 Sandel’s position cannot be admitted here. Agents make respective choices of some in place of some others without making their preferences overriding in nature or commensurable. Kekes rightly responds by stating that pluralism realizes that its conception of good life is one among the plurality of reasonable options from the disengaged point of view. Unlike conflicts, certain disagreements are needed to avoid onedimensional understanding of the life at large. Fourth, Kekes talks more about the moral imagination as part of conceiving various possibilities of life. Sufficient emphasis is given to moral imagination for a deeper understanding of pluralism. His emphasis on the moral imagination is that an agent should have an understanding of oneself and that of others simultaneously.34 Moral imagination is a widely used concept within moral universalism. According to this perspective, the virtue of rational-moral agency is that one can have moral imagination and speculative reasons. With these faculties in concern, a rational-moral agent can come to know what is important to one and others. In the universal framework, all rational-moral agents will realize the importance of common sense morality. Moral imagination, thus, becomes one of the requirements of morality. It is not so simple that it is in itself having a concern for others, like the Kantian categorical imperative or the NeoKantian hypothesis. Fifth, Kekes talks about the need for limits in the understanding of pluralism. According to this idea, pluralism must be committed to accept the reasonable limits of the deeper convictions that are determined by the independent primary values, i.e., minimum sense of universal good. But, if Kekes means to say that all reasonable agents would have the sense of good and evil independently of their views on other matters, then it is not different from the liberal philosophical understanding of the certain basic interests that are shared by all reasonable agents under all ideal conditions. 32

Andrew Pincoffs, Quandaries and Ethics Michael J. Sandel, Liberalism and its Critics. University Press, 1982). Ibid., p. 94. 34 Ibid., p. 101. 33

(Cambridge: Cambridge


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The difference can be that Kekes does not talk about unconditional morality and supreme good as discussed in the liberal philosophical framework. Lastly, Kekes is faced with the problem of conflict between the moral and non-moral values. The question is whether all moral values take precedence over all non-moral values. In the moral foundational framework, morality always prevails over non-moral considerations. The issue is those extra-moral considerations that sometimes influence our understanding of how s/he should live. This understanding should also take into account that the non-moral consideration involves the clash of competing and incompatible claims. Kekes rightly argues that the champions of morality have to look into accounts of conflicting actions. He is also right in arguing that reasonable answers to the moral questions are not to be confined to the universalizable and important obligations. His intention might be that there are certain non-moral considerations that equally matter for every agent. This argument of Kekes is plausible because it does not go contrary to the notion that reasonable answers must be action-guiding to have deliberative priority. A rational agent should think that other agent(s) can differ over certain issue and overlap on some other. The complementary nature of primary and secondary values is thus significant in the understanding complex nature of morality. It is aptly argued that all forms of life should be guided by some minimum sense of universal good. This point itself confirms that limited universalism and minimal objectivity are retained in the pluralistic framework. In the previous section we have argued that plurality does not escape choice among multiple alternatives. This is sufficient enough to defend that pluralism does value certain principles as primary. It also means that commonality over primary values does not mean that there is commonality over the substantive values. Even at times, questions within the purview of primary or basic values would pose many challenges in the process of moral decisions. The life goes on is an indication to suggest that the conflicts are minimally resolved irrespective of how difficult or the deep is the conflict. Moreover, the survival instinct of the society or culture is more basic than a particular viewpoint of a group. This is the reason why we claim that pragmatics will eventually prevail. It might be necessary for the members to agree and agree to disagree and carry on the business. One might indicate that a certain civilization has come to an end. It might be true, but the point of

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our argument is that a civilization does not cease to exist because of the lack of rationality and conflicts; it would have come to an end because of extraneous factors such as earth quake or famine or external invasion.

Berlin’s Pluralism That human life is constituted with multiple goods that encounter the problem of choice of one in place of another is explained at different stages of this study. Autonomous choice is justifiable by an agent’s reasonable reasons acceptable to others in the interpersonal context. Reasonableness results from the interpersonal context, where there is recognition of both diverse worldviews and common moral universes. Both of these are important to pluralism. The arguments of Kekes discussed above could be kept as one of the basic arguments for liberalpluralism. We believe that the questions we have raised repeatedly in this study are within the liberal democratic framework. We may mention that the principal ideas of Isaiah Berlin are also relevant to the construction of the idea of liberal-pluralism. The main idea of Berlin is that reason without unification is the nature of pluralism. His idea is worth considering because he is one of the foremost philosophers to have a strong thesis for pluralism. Berlin’s pluralism is based on the non-interference principle of choice of ends for the selfrealization of one’s goals. The emphasis is on negative conception of freedom. According to his pluralistic approach, freedom is a hallmark of society guided by this freedom of choice among the conflicting yet equally competing ends. Interpreters of Berlin opine that his notion of choice takes note of the difference between a preference and a rational choice. Berlin’s notion of choice calls for the agent-relative desires and preferences valuing the notion of agent-relative life-project. In other words, reasons for my desires are justifiable because they belong to personal commitments. As discussed elsewhere, those personal commitments are not justifiable whose choice is harmful for the interpersonal framework. For instance, project-independent goals and preferences need not be always similar to an agent’s goals and preferences. There could be project-dependent goals and preferences. Agents’ choices depend on values and beliefs about the lifeworld that are diverse in nature. Such agent-relativity could be retained, as one’s choices are not necessarily bound by ultimate preferences or choices. Choices can be appropriate or rationally and morally right even if one chooses non-ultimate preferences. Nevertheless, these preferences resemble the conflict of substantive ends. Berlin’s philosophy of pluralism seems to have a reason for suspecting the validity of moral absolutism.


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The fundamental idea of pluralism of Berlin is seen in what he calls as “Ionian Fallacy.” The fallacy that Berlin refers to is that the modern moral philosophy attempts to derive one true answer for every moral problem. His argument is that this approach is fallacious as it treats other alternatives as unreasonable. All human goods are compatible is an unreasonable presupposition since for him human goods are irreducibly plural, frequently incompatible and sometimes incommensurable with one another. This incommensurability creates the problem of choice. Berlin’s pluralism is the rejection of moral monism. This idea takes another route than arguing that a single principle acts as a generic basis for deriving all principles. He argues this point in detail in his The Crooked Timber of Humanity that the modern western writers for a long time stood on the fundamental platonic notion of one ideal universal moral principle. His opposition is to the unifying notion of modern philosophical approach. The conflict is located in the beliefs about how life should be lived, what men and women should be and do through a mode of moral inquiry. Conflict is further seen in the duel between monism-pluralism in offering stable normative rules that mediate interpersonal moral principles. Berlin’s pluralism opposes the idea that there is one single rational answer for moral and value conflicts. The choices and preferences of values are only multiple and equally conflicting in nature, but not countless so that no kind of reasonable agreement is possible. There are multiple values where one has the responsibility to understand them as different from one’s own. This point has a strong notion of reciprocity of values. Kekes too argues similarly in the context of explaining moral imagination. Not only moral imagination is a device to understand oneself and others from the point of external pluralism. Such kind of moral imagination also acknowledges the value of internal pluralism. It can result in a better form of public or interpersonal justification. Further, Berlin’s pluralism would mean that to tolerate others’ values is not to relativize them. We have argued that deliberative toleration means not just tolerating the intolerable. And it also does not mean that one has admitted that all values are equally important. That all values are equal is imaginary. We have earlier argued that recognition of others values does not mean that one has embraced others’ values. When we are concerned about the tension between interpersonal justification and normative principles, we prefer to maintain that agents should recognize and give importance to them, which they deserve. Understanding others and recognition of their values lead to the accommodation of these values. But

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it does not convey that every value is justified in the interpersonal domain. Berlin is also right in arguing that accommodation of values does not mean that all values are equally important. Accommodation of various interests is to admit moral variance and the willingness to cooperate.35 Despite providing convincing arguments that pluralism is not relativism, some theorists would claim that this distinction is not necessary. This has been attributed to Berlin also. The assumption might be that the distinction does not make any difference as, for them, pluralism and relativism stand on delicate distinction. Berlin explains relativism in this manner: “Relativism takes it to mean a doctrine according to which the judgment of a man or a group, since it is the expression or statement of taste, or emotional attitude or outlook, it simply what it is, with no objective correlates which determined its truth or falsehood.”36 Berlin is right in his understanding because as rational moral agents we are not merely concerned with tastes and attitudes. Interpersonal conflict resolution is not arguing for reduction of every personal commitment to mere tastes and attitudes. Objective correlates are important because conflicting and incommensurable values in the process of moral persuasion would make agents recognize certain values and resist other values. The merit of Berlin’s argument is that for each value there is an equally competing value to be chosen in its place. There would be anticipation of resolvability of the moral conflicts if one makes the distinction between pluralism and relativism. The ideas of Berlin and Kekes have to be carefully understood. There is a reference to two important aspects in arguing for pluralism. One, the extent of difference and conflicts present in the interpersonal framework; and second, the extent of resolvability of these conflicts determine the nature of pluralism. Pluralists try to show that there is plurality at the fundamental level. Yet as these pluralities are guided by the sense of minimum universal good, some of the conflicts can be resolved while recognizing some and accommodating others. An interpersonal context always constitutes conflict and reasonable agreement as these two aspects are opposite and yet equally compelling in nature. It becomes inevitable that conflict is to be presupposed because pluralists would believe that 35 For the arguments of this paragraph see Morton J. Frisch, “A Critical Appraisal of Isaiah Berlin’s Philosophy of Pluralism,” The Review of Politics, 60.3(November 1998): 421-433. 36 Peter Lassman, “Liberalism and Pluralism in the thought of Isaiah Berlin” [Typed Draft]:9


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plurality and conflicting values are permanent social conditions. Hence, when Berlin and Kekes argue for pluralism without relativism, it does not mean that conflicting issues are resolved altogether. It is not just as simple as Rawls notion of intergenerational justice, or communitarians’ notion of shared meanings of life or the historical aspects of cultural theorists. Berlin believes that freedom of choice through non-interference is the most important thing for any person. The argument is how choice is possible if agents are not guided by any standard commensurable principles like moral absolutism or utilitarianism. We have to consider this at both the individual and the collective levels. For an individual to resolve moral incommensurability is comparatively less complex than making the resolvability criterion as a universal principle for all agents. Similar is with the case of judgments. Moral judgments are not strictly objective at the interpersonal level due to different agents’ value-preferences, beliefs, and personal commitments are not one and the same. All of these put together can be called as background commitments. But how one’s personal commitments affect the interpersonal deliberation is the most important aspect that would explain the nature of cooperation, reciprocity and fairness. The hope is that Berlin’s pluralism would not affect interpersonal deliberations. Apart from this stand, one need not particularly say how each individual hard case is to be resolved. For Berlin, liberty and equality are not straightforwardly compatible principles due to many incommensurable conflicts. Strauss, Ronald Dworkin and Sandel criticize Berlin in this regard. For Strauss, the crisis within liberal philosophy is due to its abandoning of the absolutist basis. We have argued that moral absolutism cannot serve the purpose of interpersonal conflict resolution. Drawing a criticism of Berlin’s account of value-conflict, Dworkin argues that Berlin’s position pushes him away from liberalism proper. His argument is that liberal societies is not characterized by such an intense and need not abandon monism for value pluralism. Sandel unjustly tries to give a relativist account of Berlin’s pluralism. For him, Berlin’s pluralism comes dangerously close to relativism.37 His argument is that if one’s convictions are relatively valid, 37

See Ronald Dworkin, “Do Liberal values Conflict?” in Mark Lilla, Ronald Dworkin, & Robert Slivers eds., The Legacy of Isaiah Berlin (New York: New York Review of Books, 2001), pp. 73-90. Also see Avery Plaw, “Why Monist Critiques Feed Value Pluralism: Ronald Dworkin’s critique of Isaiah Berlin,” Social Theory and Practice, 30.1(Jan 2004): n.1, 105 & 108. Main argument of Sandel is, “If all our convictions are only relatively valid, why stand for them

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then there is no need to stand for them in a committed way. Dworkin begins the argument with the definition of liberty comparing his notion with Berlin’s. Berlin’s idea is that liberty and equality are incompatible values. On the other hand, Dworkin’s definition notes that liberty and equality are compatible values. Liberty and equality are not naturally compatible. Liberty pleads for maximization of freedom and equality speaks of constraints on freedom. They are compatible values grounded in the assumption of ‘equality of right-claims’. The examples Dworkin takes such as taxation, distributive justices etc. reflect on the point that liberty and equality are not compatible values. Further, qualifying this depends on the domain of argument. Sandel’s point represents the typical communitarian point that by-virtue of a community life, all our differences get resolved and get integrated into a single common social life. Adopting any kind of integrated approach will go against the principles of pluralism. Differences among agents exist due to several reasons and reconciliation of this particular fundamental aspect makes pluralism a plausible doctrine. We take a stand quite contrary to what Dworkin advocates; the idea that Berlin’s pluralism does not illustrate irreconcilable value conflict. Our stand is that Berlin’s account of pluralism rightly throws light on the irreconcilable value conflicts. In concluding that Berlin’s account does not strictly speak about this, what is Dworkin’s expectation from a pluralist account of our value differences? He argues that it is reasonable to think that our most important values normally hang together in the right way need not conflict tragically.38 This position of Dworkin is unrealistic. With regard to conflict of right-claims and mutual reconciliation, there are two kinds of conflicts; conflicts that can be controlled through some alternative principles and deeper conflicts that are in the actual sense tragic. In understanding the interpersonal context, one should realize that there are different kinds of conflicts, with varying intensity and in different spheres. One may argue that there are no such visible spheres or domains in social life. If these spheres are not natural to collective life, then also one should have such an understanding of collective life. In response to Dworkin’s position, Avery Plaw makes two points: The first point that Plaw argues is that Berlin should not be interpreted the way Dworkin does unflinchingly?” See Michael J. Sandel ed., Liberalism and its Critics (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1984), p. 8. 38 Avery Plaw, “Why Monist Feed Value Pluralism,” p. 107.


Chapter Six

of Berlin as relativist. Rather Berlin provides arguments for true and genuine value conflicts, some of which are really tragic. Through out his writing Berlin strongly maintains that relativism is to be separated from his version of pluralism. The second response of Plaw is the way Berlin understands liberty, and its incompatibility with equality, which captures our intuitions.39 This point makes it clear that Berlin’s pluralism speaks about the conjunction of incommensurability and ultimate notion of values. Though Dworkin stresses on the point that the presence of value-conflict is not so tragic among human beings, it exposes an impasse of choice to be made out of equally absolute and equally ultimate choices. At times, deeper conflicts are not just resolvable through rational decisions or effective choices. The options that an agent expects may not be inclusive in the available options. For Berlin these conditions are part of normal human situations.40 This is true to an extent. If we consider both the domain of our right-claims, i.e., basic liberties and substantive freedoms, are important to every agent. The solution presented by Berlin is that the inconsistency can be softened as we cannot attribute equal force to every right-claim. Besides this, Plaw presents another alternative. Pluralism emphasizes the limitedness of solutions that are logical and rational. The point of diversion is towards reflection or reflective judgments that do not strictly depend on rules and methods.41 As argued earlier, the issue is to reach a conclusion for admitting certain trade-offs and sacrifices between competing values. This problem again refers to the tension involved between individual choice and collective preference. The normative conditions that result out of collective preference may also result in the loss of genuine right-claims and deeper commitments. Plaw mentions four kinds of conflicts: shallow, deep, radical and tragic conflicts. For a moment let us suppose that a society adopts pluralism as its basic structure that investigates into the reasonable moral principles with a wider criterion. Liberal pluralism’s stand is that as all claims cannot be pursued with equal force, the result would be unpleasant to some. If this is the negative condition that any kind of human deliberation cannot avoid,


Ibid., p. 110. “The Originality of Machiavelli” in Isaiah Berlin’s, The Proper Study of Mankind (London: Pinilico, 1998), pp. 269-325 at 320. 41 Avery Plaw, “Why Monist Feed Value Pluralism,” p. 113. 40

Moral Pluralism


then liberalism also should fall prey to the inadequacy of ideas.42 The arguments of main liberal philosophers provide us with a different picture. Liberalism never wholeheartedly approves the priority of pluralism per se. It is very much evident with what is expressed as the liberalism of fear; fear about treating much deeper issues on equal plane. The fact that liberalism too cannot entail pluralism is seen in Larmore’s biased expression. He argues that if liberalism is based upon the doctrine of value-pluralism, then it is in danger of becoming one more partisan ideal.43 Plaw considers three principal features in Berlin’s account of pluralism referring to Mill; the highest values are liberty, variety and justice, and diversity of opinions for its own sake.44 These three characteristics are very much necessary for what we consider as mutual reconciliation of conflicting values. Berlin’s argument could be related to the value of fullness of life to be realized. To a substantial extent this is mediated by one’s own values and deeper commitments, which have both the characteristics that are overlapping and differing. If liberals maintain a deontology of objectivity, then pluralism reflects on the true human condition and conflict. The strength of pluralism lies in viewing things in multi-valued dimensions.


Ibid., p. 116. See “Political Liberalism’, Political Theory. In some or the other sense liberalism wishes to stick to its older ideal of objectivity and neutrality. 44 Avery Plaw, “Why Monists Feed Value Pluralism”;121. 43

CONCLUSION LIBERAL-PLURALISM Discussions in the previous chapters collectively make one simple argument: ‘moral’ pluralism possesses some epistemic value. Also it is not insignificant and anti-theory, except in hard cases, we have to admit relativism for several issues. Morality gets defined likewise in those situations. This is how we heed to ‘contextualism’, and approach moral consensus, determined by common good and common morality, with caution. The underlying common idea of the arguments in the previous chapters is that reasoning process should acknowledge the importance of multiple rationalities. A significant observation may be made here. Kantian and Neo-Kantian liberal philosophers offer moral and political alternative theories to resolve fundamental incommensurable differences among persons. They believe that each person has respective rational plan of life, with objective justification for ordering of preferences and choices. The question is what should be the role of moral principles, specifically in the interpersonal context, where persons agree and disagree over their set goals, preferences, and the substantive plans of life. As moral judgment is not driven by this principle: justification is the result of agreement to principles that all ideally agree. We have emphasized open-mindedness as one of the essential attributes that participants should possess to reach reasonable agreement. This indicates that an agent has two different moral commitments as independent yet moral. A substantive moral-commitment cannot be qualified to be morally invalid on the mere reason that a rational agent is not consonant with another rational agent. According to these philosophers, liberalism can never be compatible with pluralism. To list the principal claims made by these philosophers: First, there is no reconciliation of the heterogeneity of values in the liberal philosophy that effectively explains the significance of incommensurability of value-claims. It is to explain that agents need not come to a common agreement on all conflicting issues. Second, liberal notion of equality is inconsistent with its own ideal of individual self-actualization. Third, liberalism violates the plurality condition with its preference to rational ordering of values. Pluralism denies any value to be the first virtue of



institutions. Fourth, if liberal is neutral, it cannot be plural. If liberalism and pluralism are merged together, then it cannot remain neutral in the foundational sense. Recognizing plurality, yet preferring objectivity is at times problematic because the reciprocal value that is attributed to the shared reasons may not substantially account for the individual differences. It seems contrary to self-actualization justifies certain retention of subjective values. That is to say, a rational agent is expected to agree with others valuing their autonomy as a moral agent even if s/he differs from them. The interpersonal context will be defined by the nature of the values we prioritize. Most precise example would be that of the conception of a wellordered society by Rawls. The conception of a just society combines several other different values. What pluralism has to oppose is the formation of one single overriding principle that acts as the sole criterion of an interpersonal framework. Though ranking of values is inescapable, yet it cannot avoid the regret of loss of some values while validating some others. We have stated that pluralism should not negate ordering of values, both individual and collective, but should take care that the loss is minimized in the process of interpersonal deliberation. The moral disagreement could be of two different kinds: the conflict in the hierarchy of values and the conflict of agents’ value-claims. Individuals organize the former, the hierarchy of values differently. We cannot be happy stating that our choices and values possess higher and lower attributes. The differences in the latter need not emerge always from the agents’ beliefs and attitudes. Related to the former, we have stated that values that are overriding have only restricted applicability in the normal lives of individuals. Any society driven by ideological assumptions claims its value system as morally superior to other systems. This has reference to the point that pluralism is not committed to any such kind of ideology. This provokes us to question the idea that we can conceive a political framework bereft of any ideological commitments. Most of the political philosophers have admitted that ideology is basic to society. If post II world war scenario of the western societies is considered, almost all the societies are influenced by either the liberal-capitalist philosophy or the socialist-communist ideals. Some theorists opine that pluralism overstates the difference between normative grounding of their own doctrine and that of liberalism. They ask whether the pluralism is right in assuming the all values as equally



valuable and justifiable. But unlike liberalism, pluralism provides wide range of values that are equally important. Arguments presented in chapters respond to the problem of reasonable morality. The summary of these arguments is that pluralism does not ground its arguments in arbitrary reasoning. This issue is not very easy to address. They make two presuppositions. First, how a person collectively can reasonably and freely subscribe to a common morality when there is difference of opinion. And secondly, in spite of different rational capacities of the individuals, how does one treat opinion of others equally. That is to say, an individual has the capacity to agency proportionately to his rational capability. The idea of realms and spheres of conflict and morality are relevant here. What these indicate is that issues pertaining to interpersonal domain are very complex. They have to be seen in different realms according to the nature of the issue and conflict. We also have mentioned that the available perspectives cannot be put in binary values, i.e., they either resolve the issues or complicate them further. We claim that conflicting issues are not to be seen in the light of mere right and wrong. This indicates that it is not only difficult to anticipate what is reasonable from others’ point of view, but also tough to determine what is reasonable to all the parties. The point we make is that conflicts and disagreements are to be treated beyond ultimate moral principles. It is very much necessary to construct the idea of liberal-pluralism. Universalism and pluralism can be viewed as antagonistic to each other or positive towards each other based on these considerations. Under the idealization process, one attempts to bring an optimally expected and justifiable outcome with the ideal conditions of reasoning and subsequent agreement. Idealization assumes that we need to overlook all the morally irrelevant information from the domains of deliberation. Specifically, deliberation to resolve interpersonal conflicts takes note of the ideal conditions of reasoning, of interaction and of reasonable agreement. All these conditions put together are considered to possess the potential to bring optimal outcomes. Idealization as understood by Kantians may be very expensive since it takes the individuals to unreasonable level of rationality and abstraction. We do not expect deliberative frameworks to constitute perfect ideal conditions of agreement. However, at the same time, to assume that conflict resolution is possible in complex concrete contexts is unreasonable since conflicts continue to persist. Therefore, minimum level of abstraction through idealization is inevitable for finding a compromising pragmatic principle.



Hence, idealization does not mean that one has to draw unrealistic assumptions about what agents agree and disagree objectively. Otherwise we may miss out the relevant facts in the process of weeding out irrelevant information. Liberal theory seeks stable and epistemologically justifiable answers to the contending questions. It can be viewed as a conflict of the two principal realms: ideal versus non-ideal and perfect versus imperfect conditions. This difference in views is crucial to both moral deliberation and interpersonal agreement. Neither liberalism could afford to forgo the ideal or perfect realms nor can pluralism afford to be mere reductionist. Liberalpluralism should be conceptualized on such indispensable considerations. Liberalism presupposes ideal conditions that expect all agents to come to an agreement. For the liberals, equality and justice requires standard principles of morality. These standard principles set aside the inconsistent and ambiguous assumptions. The process of idealization is to seek rational answers. In both Kantian and other forms of liberalism, ideal conditions are the base assumption for universalization. If all the agents ideally agree, then there is no reason for disagreement. Liberals understand that all rational-reasonable agents objectively agree to shared reasons and common morality. We have referred to the idea of reconciliation of the other’s point of view. We have questioned the assumption of contemporary liberal philosophy that the principle of higher abstraction will take care of all the plural condition. It also, like the Kantian framework, lays too much burden on the agents to reach an agreement. Pluralism, on the contrary, searches for those amicable conditions where co-operation is conceived to exist irrespective of whether all agree or disagree. Moreover, a social union is not constituted by only genuinely agreed principles. The legitimized rules need not be genuinely right one’s or these may be wrongly legitimized. It happens because deliberation is not always for absolute consensus. Pluralism recognizes that the legitimacy principle should stand on the idea of divergence. Yet a condition of total disagreement and absolute dissension is unreasonable. It treats non-ideal or imperfect conditions as implicit in a discourse analysis. If these non-ideal and imperfect conditions prevail that does not necessarily eliminate the possibility of compatible principles. It contests the categorization of higher and lower interests that does not suffice to capture the diversity of our preferences and choices. Especially, the justificatory principle should genuinely consider this diverse human condition. Some perspectives of liberalism draw rational conception of



these higher-order principles. These higher-order principles, treated as true-in-themselves, also mutually conflict with each other. Reciprocity can be more aptly conceived only when agents have the capacity to treat others equally. It is understood as the manner in which agents treat each other, rather than whether agents’ value claims is justified with reference to universal principles. Reciprocity follows from the exchange of reasons and beliefs that may justify actions interpersonally. Agents necessarily violate morality and rationality if fairplay and mutual reciprocity is not the guiding principles of moral deliberation. Fairness means that agents make an effort to understand the merit of each other’s claims in justifying them as valid. Pluralism holds that liberalism’s moral objectivity, ‘‘all-agreeable’ and after all things considered are not reasonable.’’ Agents will not compromise if they sense there is no real co-operation. The optimum condition is co-operation of different agents with different value claims than mere co-operation of those who come to common agreement. Rather the ideal-reasoning conditions should involve a true sense of reciprocity, i.e., give decent social space for all with respect to fulfillment of goals and forming their own belief system and values. This notion of reciprocity is an improvement over Rawls’s notion of social minimum. It takes into consideration not only basic liberties but also substantive comprehensive issues. Reasonable agreement constitutes a finer conception only if it is morally imaginative enough to incorporate the true sense of plurality. Three concepts need to be explained here regarding the resolvability issue. They are open-ended principles, context over-determination, and irreducibility. Open-ended moral-ethical principles are those that are subject to revision and change. However, it does not that agents in the interpersonal contexts are not subjected to rules for the mere fact that they are open-ended. Open-endedness means that substantial amount of questions pertaining to the interpersonal domain do not possess simplistic answers. Universal principles do not provide satisfactory answers to many perplexing questions. In other words, there is no implicit method within the liberal universal framework that alone can provide reasonable answers. This is because the absolute answers and the pluralistic views are incompatible. In an attempt to resolve the conflicts, new universal moral principles may emerge as a new arbitrator in the place of the old ones. It is very encouraging to have such a new arbitrator in the case of interpersonal justification of choices of ends, value-claims, and beliefs.



An ethical context may be over-determined by moral theories. That is to say, many ethical principles may be applicable to the same context from within an ethical system or from two or more different systems. This point explains that there are several contexts of interpersonal deliberation where the abstract principles are too good to resolve the conflicts. In these contexts, universal principles do not provide fair solutions acceptable to all agents. It is significant that multiple agents need to reconcile in order to reach a reasonable agreement. In other words, they may not be able to judge properly the actions or claims. In this sense, principle point of view becomes a limited condition for deliberation and conflict resolution. The above two notions strengthen the claim of irreducibility. The claim is that in the process of justification of what we choose, what we believe, and what we claim, what we owe to each other, an agent’s set of values are not irreducible to one other. Nor are they subjected to arbitrary rules and principles. It indicates plurality of value-preferences. There is an abstract rock-bottom limit to any form of reducibility. To emphasize on irreducibility is to explicate that the interpersonal context does not mean that agents do not share reasons that all agents agree. This pertains to all spheres of human activity. Irreducible pluralism shows that some issues are resolved easily, some others are resolvable with extreme difficulty and some are irresolvable. It is also concerned about the process of intersubjective justification to assess the outcomes of deliberations. Irreducibility is one of the characteristics of a deeper understanding of interpersonal relationships. Nevertheless, it is not an overriding principle that obscures all forms of compatibility. It cannot take us to the other extreme situation that anything and everything is irreducible and valuable in itself. The number of views cannot equal the number of individuals in the society. A proper conception of irreducibility comparatively makes things clear as to when agents should be willing to compromise and when they need not. The first feature of liberal-pluralism is that both common good and common morality are not to be treated as simple. And also all the conflicts cannot be provided with genuinely indisputable rational answers. It is assumed that the application of rules is different in single and multi-agent frameworks. The ultimate moral-rational principles that are action-guiding for an individual may not be ultimate for all individuals. Human beings have the power of reason. This faculty is not directed towards principles that all rational agents agree in all instances. Rather, it is directed to realize the variety of life and its value. Hence, justifiability to others does



not always emanate from impartial considerations. Besides, we have stated that an agent’s wronging other is problematic. Nevertheless, agents can choose among the set of reasonable ends. All these principles do not similarly apply to all agents. Pluralism claims that the multi-agent frameworks pose different kinds of problems where individual disagreement is taken to be vital. Independent conception of rights, though handles many crucial questions, misses the idea of the good. To understand the interpersonal context, both right and good are essential. We have argued that the notions of right cannot distinctly be seen from the notions of good. Both are important because the former indicates justifiability and the latter indicates cooperation. Our contention is that life-project cannot be conceived without the concept of the good for an individual. But even a theory of good has to have concern for agents and their choices. This is required while arguing for social space. So, rational-moral agency and personhood with respect to social space is a vital factor here. It is assumed that by virtue of rational agency conflicts involved in the maximization of interests and values are resolved. The notion of personhood is defined in terms of rational agency that values both interpersonal relationships and mutual reciprocity. Personhood is explained with an attribution of binary roles, i.e., autonomous being and social subject. Neither good nor right choices are totally fixed a priori. Autonomy denotes rational agency and the embedded self indicates social agency. The self with these two characteristics is defined as a constitutive self. It helps us in a proper understanding of interpersonal life where persons treat each other in different ways. The pursuit of a life-project involves the formation of interpersonal relationships that definitely have an impact on an agent’s rational-moral system. Not only reason but also the discovery of principles that direct collective life have a major role to play. The constitutive self has both the elements in it: autonomy being the individual and the social agency being the part of the collective. The idea of a constitutive self has the ability to make right choices. Liberalism talks about only rational self, libertarianism prefers methodological individualism and communitarians speak of embedded self. Keeping each one of the notions distinct and separate make personhood an incomplete and inadequate concept. The constitutive self is relevant in the context of not only rationally choosing proper ends for oneself, but also acquire the ability to guide others over the ends of life. This notion of self not only reconciles the importance of a proper



autonomous life-project, but also values that this pursuit of life-projects is guided by egalitarian principles. The reason is, like most of the theorists of good propound, good reflects agent-based priorities too. Constitutive self has a better explanation for the interpersonal comparison. Further, the constitutive self is concerned with the substantive aspect of the interpersonal relationships. But it meets the communitarians’ demand for the shared meanings of life and common good. Common good is important here as it signifies certain virtues. This good can be an independent conception that embraces autonomy. The idea is that the good is not an a priori concept. That is, justifiably good for all cannot be presupposed in a holistic sense. But it does not completely associate with the former notion of common good. Besides social agency, constitutive self portrays individual autonomy as vital. If right is equally important as good, then we owe certain justification for our choices. At the same time, if priority of individual is retained, that is to say, the claim to rights are given priority, the choices may turn out to be conflicting. If agents are free to form respective life-projects, then they will have comprehensive views of the world in their perspectives. It means that agents in any kind of interpersonal deliberation should presuppose this plural situation. Neither have we agreed with the liberal idea of shared reason the manner in which they present, nor the communitarian idea of common good that subdues individual autonomy. By stating this, we would like to support Rawlsian independent notion of good that takes note of distinctness of persons as well as social good. This is because we firmly believe that constitutive self has the ability to accommodate multiplicity of reasons and rationality. At the same time, we believe that life projects are different for each individual and hence cannot be similar to the communitarian notion of common good. It is convincing to say that individuals have autonomy to develop different value orientations. Recognition of this autonomy would lead to agents’ mutual reconciliation of possibility of conflict and disagreement in some unforeseen. For the communitarians, what is agreeable to one and all evolves through historical conditions that discover these appropriate rules of behavior. For them, personhood is synonymous with embedded self. We have argued that this does not clarify why one should not have disagreement with others, why should one treat others equally all the time and why not judge others differently. The rational aspect of the constitutive self will not stop exercising its freedom and choice. How and in what way one should live is



also not totally determined by a context. Both individual rights and collective rights co-exist in a society. To assume that one can resolve once and for all this tension between the individual and collective is a mistake. On the contrary, there ought to be a reflection of how we live, what we choose and what we believe. The rational and the social are connected this way. We should note two important points here. One, one should arrive at the construction of agreed recognition rules that concern all agents. And secondly, the way our differences get sorted out in the collective life is also important. The emphasis on the discovery of principles of common good should have concern for three important aspects: First, social space is limited yet can serve the interests of many. That is to say, that minimum advantage for all concerned should be the uncompromising principle. Secondly, a proper approach to what is to be retained and what is to be negated is necessary. In the process of discovery of an interpersonal principle, what can be retained as agreed point and what are to be dropped from the list of options is to be carefully chosen. In this process, both moral deliberation and interpersonal deliberation should have an antecedent assumption of inevitable pluralistic conditions. Thirdly, it is important to conceive of a pluralistic social order that values tolerance, co-operation, egalitarian structures, open-endedness and a just social system. These aspects are vital for explaining judgmentalism and justification of agents’ preferences and values. The idea of discovery of interpersonal principles constitutes a process of reasoning together. But it would be a futile exercise if its outcome were similar to that of moral foundationalism that agents agree to principles that are applicable only in ideal conditions and not in concrete situations. This position counters two important ideals of Kantian and Neo-Kantian moral philosophy: moral consensus and discourse consensus. It is doubtful how far the device of collective discovery can anticipate the newer circumstances of the future that eventually may question the validity of these principles. Besides, collective life also acknowledges certain crucial asymmetrical differences. It also does not undermine the significance of the context. If individual and social is so deeply connected, one wonders whether it is possible to reason in such a way that the interpersonal conflicts are resolved. Collective reasoning is important because it influences both moral deliberation and intersubjective communication. These are



determined by plural considerations. It also creates a condition for mutual exchange of reasons and values. Liberal-pluralism gives equal importance to both individual and social, which believes in the inevitability of reciprocal interactions. Apart from the shared meanings of life, distinctness of persons is very important as Rawls argues. It forms a crucial premise for the intersubjective communication. We do not have distinctness or individuality of the individuals in utilitarianism and communitarianism when we speak of common good. However, as opposed to these, we in the liberal pluralism retain the distinctness of individual though we speak of the collective. The issue that arises here is that choice is also applicable in the case of conflict of moral judgments. Defenders of universalism claim that conflict among agents indicate that choices are morally weak and grounded in insignificant reasons. We have seen earlier that moral conflicts are an indication of the tension between what the agent desires and what morality demands. Yet there can be partial compatibility between the principle point of view and the personal point of view. This tension could be due to conflict between the priority of partial view over the priority of universal principle. The idea of realms of moral deliberation is to put forth the idea that there cannot be a Kantian conception of exemplary validity of claims, that is, claims justified by unconditional morality. Our conception of liberal pluralism holds that moral deliberation is guided by the principle that minimum sense of rationality, reason and good is fundamental to any context of moral decision. It is that one ought to be moral remains as a consistent a priori condition in all the frameworks. The practical aspect of deliberation is that if agents do not reciprocate each other they lack cooperation and the sense of fairness. But the presupposition of what is moral and what is not moral makes universal morality a contestable doctrine. This is because different domains cannot fall under the purview of any one universal moral or ethical principle. For instance, the criterion for justice and equality in economic domain is determined differently from that of religious or moral domain. Moral conflicts are such that they are not resolvable through the traditional ideas of moral consistency and generalization since a criterion for one domain may not be criterion for the other. What needs to be done to know what is morally relevant and what is morally irrelevant for moral deliberation in the interpersonal context. Is there any way other than the rational way of knowing whether a principle or a value applies to a context or not?



Moral difference might surface where all agents do not objectively agree on right or wrong on many issues of deliberation. Human affairs are not necessarily determined by total resolution or complete disagreement. Any form of deliberation can result in both overlap of opinions and disagreement. Though we cannot concretely list which issues overlap and which divulge, domains of conflicts take care of this condition. There are certain realms where agents exhibit sufficient reason to come to a justifiable outcome. The notion of moral difference refers to different senses of morality. If we grant that there can be different moral systems, then we are compelled to grant the possibility of two individuals differing from one another. Thus, moral difference has reference to moral sense of inequality across the moral systems. Moral difference suggests that morality is not to be guided by the supreme moral principles. It provides every agent a right to justify her/his value-claim. Rightness or wrongness of beliefs, claims and actions are not determined by a strict generalization and universalization principle. The point that whether others judge me right is always doubtful. Every agent tries to maximize her/his value assertion. It needs to be argued in this way because if two or more agents differ over the moral status of an issue, an agreement is probable only if these agents’ background information and knowledge are more or less the same. Each individual ranks the values differently giving rise to a sense of relativism in the value framework. As argued earlier, the ends we pursue, as part of our life projects also constitute non-ultimate goals. This aspect may not go well with the above liberal claim that higher-order values are ultimate ends. However, life-projects cannot be formulated without ranking the preferences and values. Liberal-pluralism would take note of the possibility of ranking at the individual level can be different from the collective. The idea behind this claim is that a rigid understanding of ranking of values leads to two consequences. First, a general understanding of the values as higher and lower, the way liberals do, but this does not serve the purpose of a deeper understanding of a life-project. Secondly, each agent judges his/her own view on his belief system. If s/he uses the same criteria in judging claims of others, s/he may sometimes wrongly judge them. What would this amount to is not being so fair to others. Ethics demands one should be fair to others. That is to say, in order to reach minimum condition for interpersonal conflict resolution, one ought to adopt the others’ criteria and belief system for judging the claims of others. This platform, once reached, would be cohesive for mutual exchange in the deliberative framework.



Moral necessity can be restricted to a specific explanation, but is not to be treated as irrelevant. Pluralism takes that relevance of moral necessity into account. It values worthiness, duties to others, and morality. It reiterates that an interpersonal justification is to be taken as essential. It means that differences in our views are not always resolved through agent-neutral principles. This should not be taken to mean that differences in our views are to be resolved using agent biased principles. What we emphasize is that the principles that are used are not stale objective principles irrelevant to the context. Freedom to disagree is implicit in every domain of deliberation. An agent even in a deliberative framework is autonomous and has the freedom to agree or disagree or agree to disagree. This is the core of liberal-pluralism explained here. Moreover, the pragmatic approach to the issues of interpersonal concern need not violate moral principles. Deliberative outcome is important for us since human beings do perform interpersonal deliberation with the hope to find a solution to the dilemma or interpersonal conflict. A pragmatic approach is inevitable because interpersonal deliberation or discourse interactions reconcile that agents interact within different moral systems. This pragmatic approach indicates the shift from truth assertion to workable principles of the collective life. Neo-Kantians believe that agents come to an agreement with the sense of public justification. In other words, reasons are only public, not private at all. That is to say, any reason offered in the public domain must be reasons for other members of the society objectively justified. Thus, one can say that a justified reason is necessarily reasonable. The main idea is that the publicity condition by itself enables agents to distinguish what is agreeable and what is conflicting among them. From this they hope to arrive at moral and discourse consensus. They logically link this idea to impersonal rules that explain interpersonal principles. This understanding is more or less common to Nagel, Scanlon, Rawls, and Habermas. Contrary to their view, we have claimed that reasonable, impartial, neutral, and universally valid principles cannot be constructed from the fact of pluralism. We have also claimed they are wrong in their understanding of consensual justification. On the one hand, we admit that agents need to make reasonable claims on any issue of interpersonal value. On the other hand, we also admit that it is difficult to arrive at standard sense of reasonableness over several issues of interpersonal concern. In such conditions, rejection of certain claims may prove arbitrary use of reason. It is unrealistic assumption to think that the motivation of the agents to be moral would make them reasonable.



Reasonable rejection cannot lead to a situation where conflicts get resolved in a fair way. Necessarily negation of a principle does not lead to affirmation of another principle. Given this, what is important is to arrive at a principle of acceptance. Instead of making rejection as a basic principle, it is better to have the commitment as the basic principle of deliberation. Unless one has shown what one’s commitment, rejection per se is always possible. This is what often a skeptic does without committing himself to any stand s/he would use his intellect to reject everything that is proposed. For, instance, a solipsist or for that matter rule-following skeptic rejects even what is reasonable. One cannot bank on the honesty or sincerity of a skeptic and therefore, we would like to put it positively by stating that the fair and just principles in the interpersonal contexts have to be accepted and committed by all the parties concerned. Though contractualism can be taken as advancement over Kantian theory, its recognition of plurality is driven by a fear of fragmentation of values. This is the reason why Scanlon admits that relativism can be accepted if it can imbibe principles of impartiality. We believe that even if the agents have full information about each other, it is doubtful whether these highly general principles and values can truly accommodate different interests of the agents. In contrast to reasonable rejection, reasonable acceptance or recognition is understood as a consequence of an appropriate sense of reciprocity. A true sense of reciprocity of value-claims can be explained this way: In a deliberative framework, agents often have a personal point of view which need not overlap with the collective. To have no view is not the same as having a neutral view. At times, agents are ready to modify their core claims to come to an agreement because of this reciprocity in interpersonal deliberations. In explaining equality and morality, Nagel treats most of the conflicts as conflicts between personal and impersonal values. Taking this into account, he prefers that agents should internalize impersonal values, which he calls as personalizing the impersonal. This sense of agentrelativity is made compatible with the conception of agent neutrality. But this idea of personal cannot be partial point of view. He also argues that while understanding morality one should have a view from nowhere. All this is related to his idea that whatever one claims should have impersonal value to have interpersonal value. His assumption is that to have cooperation of other agents in what one endeavors to fulfill a life project, impersonal preferences are inevitable. He reaches this conclusion despite his recognition that modern society is infested with irreducible difference.



The connection of impartiality to the domains of human interactions seems to be incompletely addressed in the Nagel’s framework. It is right to think that in issues of common concern, we endeavor to define shared reasons that have collective value. For instance, we may have shared value as to how to run an educational institution or a university in an impartial way. On the other hand, there are several other occasions like values-opinions where agents interact but do not share objective values and reasons. Agents are autonomous to have subjective point of view. Rather, agents put forth respective subjective values for recognition in an interpersonal dialog. In such situations, it is difficult to define an overriding principle of impartiality. We have argued that moral deliberation encounters persistent new contexts that demand the revision of existing moral-rational values or discovery of a new principle taking account of new situations. However, holding preference to impartiality seems to offer too simplistic and unrealistic solutions. The critics of liberal theories of justification argue that liberal philosophy provides too simplistic answers to the very complex issues of social framework. For example, Walzer in his book Spheres of Justice shows the limitations in the methods of distributive justice put forth by Rawls and others. He observes that liberalism has an ordinary understanding of inequalities that exist among human beings. His idea is that inequalities and injustice have to be viewed in different spheres. For instance, an economically well to do person cannot be given more privileges in social and economic domains. Another criticism against liberals is that this theory ambiguously states that those inequalities are to be retained which are to the greatest advantage to the greatest disadvantaged. Similarly, if we consider democratic theorists, they also have a crucial point to make: In holding the view that it is possible to arrive at liberal neutral principle, the theory has a very simplistic understanding of a complex modern society. It is misleading to believe that these issues are mere procedural; in fact, most of them are substantive issues involving agent-centered values. Moral understanding should be guided by the notion that neither agent-neutrality nor agent-relativity constitutes overriding characteristics. Rawls’s notion of impartiality, neutrality, and reasonableness has similar assumptions. What is more attractive is the dualistic framework that maintains a distinction between the principles of justice applicable to individuals is different from principles that are applicable to institutions. It is reasonable to hold such a view because it maintains a distinction between public and private, which is a pre-requisite for liberal-pluralism.



Since individual differences are one of our primary concerns, as publicprivate distinction is essential to explain the nature of agreement and disagreement at various levels. Interpersonal domain has to take this distinction into consideration to explain the reasons for disagreement among agents over certain issues. Further, the distinctions between public and private enable agents to hold a two-level agreement. An agreement at the general level where agents come to common agreement as part of the collective or for the sake of the general agreement itself from the pragmatic point of view. At the same time, agents can hold a personal point of view without pressing for it over the same issue that is different from common agreement. The notion of objectivity and interpersonal reasonableness is achieved in Habermas through the Kantian principle of universalizability. His idea of intersubjective communication puts forth a procedure for consensus and justification. The idea of consensus is strongly present in his theory where he argues that only those norms are valid that are acceptable to all participants in a discourse. The consensus is sought because the public sphere is adequately determinate to bring objective agreement over public norms. Consensus is also for Habermas due to priority given to dialog. He asserts that agreement among agents is sought by arriving at communicative forms of life. Habermas refers to a concrete discourse where agents involve in a dialog. He believes that better argument would prevail and would have naturally justificatory force. However, critics indicate that the arguments that have justificatory force could be due to the communicative power of the agents. A common criticism of Habermas’s method is that it is only applicable to those frameworks where the competence-level of the deliberating agents is high. We can also say that it is not clear whether Habermas’s discourse method includes different domains of deliberation. Reference to domains is inescapable because we have noted that it is not enough to find one standard answer to all moral issues in different aspects of society. Several criteria to judge what is just, when it is a matter of judging across the domains, are needed. The same analysis can be extended to the notions of fairness, equality and freedom across the domains. If we need to make the intersubjective or interpersonal communication model a more reasonable method for deliberation of different conflicting claims, we need to include the issues of different domains and criteria to judge them. The reason is that there cannot be one acceptable principle for all agents across the domains.



Through universal pragmatic justification, Habermas assumes that it is rational for everyone to accept those norms that are universalizable. He attempts to derive normative foundations of social life, which are guided by legitimate procedures. This justificatory method presupposes specific procedures of interaction that locates rational within the social. This pragmatic discourse method of Habermas itself is strictly normative since he gives it as a principle to be followed by all the agents. This procedure also presupposes rationality to be shared by all in the communicative situation. Thus, this method is invariably a search for foundational moral truths that would attempt to explain universal morality. One positive aspect of this method we may note here is that it treats different conflicting agents as discussants only but not rivals. However, it is not sure whether to treat different points of views of different agents as adversaries. This point is well taken in liberal-pluralism where different opinions of different agents are not to be treated as really antagonistic, but only as a point of opposition. In their later works, Rawls and Habermas emphasize on the political aspect of public sphere. It is clear from their writings that they emphasize on the formation of legitimate procedures that could handle these conflicts properly. On the contrary, we argue that as far as the moral aspect is concerned and moral agents are involved in the constructive aspect, nonpolitical conception of a public realm is also important. It makes both background culture and weak publics primary to the understanding of interpersonal domain. Background culture and weak publics are important because the discovery of procedural and non-procedural principles takes place in these domains. These domains are related to the political conception of public realm too. The nature of interpersonal principles depends upon the deliberations in the background culture and in the domain of discovery. Agents are motivated to be active in the deliberative process for interpersonal recognition of value claims. The sense of cooperation and fairness depend on the reciprocal values and reasons that agents are willing to offer. As argued extensively in the chapter, reciprocity meets the minimum sense of universalization and judgmentalism that are linked to the recognition of different values. Reciprocity is there in this deliberative framework in the sense that if one recognizes one’s own value and justification for it and if one recognizes that others differ from oneself then it follows that they too must have the right to their values and their justifications. One should not wrongly think that a mere recognition of



these values would free the interpersonal domain from all kinds of conflicts. However, it has the potential to lessen the intensity of interpersonal conflicts on the one hand, and increase the scope of conflict resolution on the other. Reciprocity, cooperation, and fairness are not to be understood in the manner in which negotiation takes place: I shall cooperate only if others cooperate first. As a responsible moral agent, we are expected to have reciprocity, cooperation, and fairness in our deliberation and interactions. This applies to both issues of everyday life and substantive issues. It guides the agents by the principle of rational self-interest, i.e., agents are autonomous to hold a justifiable belief system and maximize their interests, yet cooperate with one another. The rational self-interest is operational only when agents have the capacity of self-reflection. Individual autonomy and social agency are achieved simultaneously in our framework. Thus, cooperation is necessarily linked to the principles of difference. Our notion of person as constitutive self is also suitable to this kind of a framework. Rights, equality, justice, fairness, reciprocity, and cooperation are principal ethical values of collective life. Deliberation for resolving conflicts should not lose sight of these values at any cost. All the above ideas refer to tolerance as one of the most significant pre-requisite conditions of interpersonal deliberations. These arguments also indicate that tolerating is not tolerating the intolerable. It only indicates accepting the possibility of different viewpoints on any issue of deliberation. It deals with interpersonal comparison of value claims that could be reasonably accepted by mutual reciprocity. The big dilemma here is to draw a single substantial ethical principle that could reflect the multiple points of view. For example, any attempt to establish an acceptable unified principle about the hard cases is one such an attempt with or without success. This is a situation where testing of the tolerance towards others takes place. Toleration also calls for an open-ended framework to draw reasonable agreement from the agents in any domain of deliberation. A tolerant conception of interpersonal framework faces a big challenge here: earlier in our arguments, we have referred to two kinds of burdens of agents One, the burden of being a moral agent; second, the burden of accepting diverse points of view. It is indeed difficult to fix the problem when two particular agents have totally opposite views. Taking this into consideration, the agents have the responsibility of accommodating the



others’ points of view in the interpersonal framework. This is the characteristic feature of an open-ended democratic framework. Yet one can uphold the view that in such situations judgmentalism is possible subjective to moral persuasion: the scope of judgment being comparatively bigger. Though there is difference in agents’ understanding of the human condition, they should follow certain common universal principles speaking from the principle point of view. On the contrary, from the actual point of view, relevant facts should be the basis for conflict resolution if principles are inadequate to deal with the interpersonal conflicts. In the arguments above, we have seen that either of the dimensions have certain limitations. Most important among them is that these principles are derived neither from absolute values nor are they down to earth like factual situations. Hence, we need to combine the principle point of view and the contextual point of view to explain a reasonably tolerant interpersonal framework. The main characteristic of this framework is that as agents, persons do not forgo their capacity to view things independently from each specific situation. This capacity is backed by another ability of understanding the practical situations. Agency, thus, connects the principle and the context. This power of reason can be explained as “reason without unification.” conflicts related to rights, equality and justice call for fixation of efficient normative rules to resolve these conflicts. On the other hand, we prefer an open-ended domain where we have a moral right to hold different opinions on questions such as what is moral, what is rational etc. Liberal-pluralistic framework values both the normative rules necessary for resolving conflicts implicit in rights, equality and justice, and at the same time it permits agents to hold different notions of moral rationality from the aspect of moral equality. In the current democratic framework, where deliberation is possible, where agents can revise and reform their value claims, these two aspects are very much necessary to deal with the interpersonal conflicts. To achieve a tolerant interpersonal framework that enables the kind of deliberation that we have explained above, discovery, background culture and weak public have to be considered seriously. We can reflect upon this point here: Like Rawls had stated that procedural justice should be the basic structure of a society, with the above three ideas, we argue that liberal-pluralistic framework could be the basic structure of the social framework. It would take care of both the domains of basic liberties and substantive freedoms. The complexity of an open-ended democratic



framework has to include equality, tolerance, reasonableness, cooperation, coexistence, reciprocity, and social-respect as its characteristics. For this it requires the principles of pluralism.


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agent relative, 106 agent relativity, 43, 52, 106, 111 agent-neutrality, 20, 32, 38, 48, 50, 51, 52, 55, 56, 61, 134, 243 autonomy, 2, 14, 15, 24, 25, 27, 31, 32, 34, 44, 45, 48, 49, 55, 57, 58, 61, 63, 67, 68, 69, 73, 74, 75, 77, 83, 84, 87, 88, 89, 92, 94, 109, 117, 126, 132, 134, 138, 142, 164, 173, 174, 177, 187, 193, 196, 205, 208, 216, 218, 231, 236, 237, 246 background culture, 26, 168, 169, 185, 186, 189, 245, 247 basic liberties, 1, 30, 35, 36, 38, 39, 43, 46, 47, 51, 72, 91, 101, 124, 160, 163, 164, 184, 207, 228, 234, 247 berlin, isaiah, 4, 23, 27, 34, 39, 41, 43, 95, 103, 115, 118, 119, 177, 178, 197, 199, 211, 214, 223, 224, 225, 226, 227, 228, 229, 249, 255, 256 bohman, james, 162, 188, 190, 191, 249 burdens of judgment, 10, 93, 130, 164, 165, 167 categorical imperative, 2, 5, 90, 113, 138, 179, 221 character-morality, 13, 17, 79, 215, 216, 217, 219 choice-morality, 15, 27, 79, 215, 216, 217 common good, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 24, 31, 32, 58, 59, 60, 65, 66, 88, 120, 136, 183, 205, 237, 239 common morality, 11, 12, 136, 142, 167, 172, 232, 233 communicative rationality, 170

communicative reason, 186 Communitarian, 32, 58, 59, 252 compelling, 7, 24, 55, 81, 110, 129, 145, 147, 148, 149, 184, 187, 195, 200, 225 comprehensive doctrines, 10, 117, 164, 166, 168 conscience, 26, 160, 163, 165, 178 constitutive self, 24, 67, 68, 94, 123, 236, 237, 246 constructivism, 56, 91, 120, 153, 162, 165, 166, 167, 168, 169, 176, 182 contextual, 31, 32, 84, 105, 247 contingent, 44, 46, 70, 147, 202, 208, 211, 213 contractualism, 20, 25, 40, 129, 132, 144, 145, 148, 149, 150, 151, 152, 154, 155, 242 copp, david, 18, 68, 250 disagreement, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 17, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 28, 51, 52, 74, 83, 90, 93, 96, 105, 109, 110, 116, 118, 122, 125, 126, 127, 141, 146, 160, 165, 167, 170, 172, 176, 178, 180, 185, 193, 211, 231, 233, 236, 237, 240, 244 discovery, 24, 26, 27, 33, 71, 72, 78, 120, 123, 127, 143, 167, 176, 185, 189, 192, 236, 238, 243, 245, 247 distinctness of persons, 15, 47, 206, 208, 209, 237, 239 domains of morality, 97, 202 Doppelt, 66, 69, 71, 72, 251 dworkin, ronald, 4, 39, 75, 77, 183, 226, 227, 228, 251, 256 embeddedness, 27, 32, 63, 66

260 fact of pluralism, 19, 128, 156 fairness, 5, 7, 10, 12, 13, 15, 21, 22, 25, 26, 28, 35, 47, 48, 60, 65, 68, 88, 101, 117, 127, 140, 150, 154, 156, 159, 160, 161, 162, 163, 165, 168, 169, 184, 185, 186, 206, 226, 239, 244, 245, 246 force of the better argument, 170, 174 galston, william, 23, 95, 103, 116, 183, 184, 198, 199, 201, 220, 251 generalization, 2, 25, 95, 96, 98, 100, 125, 196, 239, 240 gewirth, alan, 25, 34, 41, 58, 75, 76, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 214, 251, 254 habermas, jurgen, 19, 20, 26, 90, 92, 107, 130, 131, 147, 152, 156, 157, 160, 161, 162, 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175, 176, 177, 178, 179, 180, 181, 182, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 241, 244, 245, 249, 250, 251, 252, 253, 255, 258 hampshire, stuart, 95, 123, 198, 199, 252 harman, gilbert, 9, 25, 101, 107, 108, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 121, 139, 152, 153, 162, 197, 207, 252 herman, barbara, 2, 9, 128, 252 higher-order, 7, 19, 24, 42, 43, 63, 90, 140, 141, 152, 234 highest Good, 94 idealization, 72, 132, 148, 160, 174, 190, 232 Impartiality, 23, 25, 77, 88, 103, 128, 129, 133, 139, 140, 251, 253, 256 impersonal, 19, 25, 40, 42, 49, 50, 51, 57, 61, 63, 64, 86, 92, 105, 106, 115, 123, 129, 131, 132, 133, 134, 136, 137, 138, 140, 141, 144, 145, 147, 152, 219, 241, 242

Index incommensurability, 7, 12, 39, 67, 114, 118, 126, 221, 224, 226, 228, 230 incompatibility, 7, 39, 63, 76, 202, 228 interpersonal, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 15, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 38, 39, 41, 42, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 54, 55, 56, 58, 60, 61, 63, 64, 65, 67, 68, 70, 71, 72, 75, 76, 78, 81, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 92, 94, 96, 99, 100, 101, 102, 104, 105, 106, 107, 109, 110, 112, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 131, 132, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 140, 141, 142, 143, 145, 147, 148, 149, 151, 153, 155, 156, 158, 160, 162, 163, 167, 168, 169, 172, 173, 174, 175, 180, 182, 184, 185, 186, 190, 191, 192, 193, 194, 195, 196, 198, 201, 203, 204, 206, 207, 210, 213, 215, 217, 219, 220, 223, 224, 225, 226, 227, 230, 232, 233, 234, 235, 236, 237, 238, 239, 240, 241, 242, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247 Interpersonal deliberation, 125 intersubjective, 20, 22, 26, 28, 51, 52, 132, 160, 169, 170, 172, 174, 175, 176, 177, 178, 179, 180, 182, 187, 192, 193, 201, 207, 208, 211, 235, 238, 244 Judgmentalism, 2, 85, 202 Justificatory Liberalism, 25, 26, 128, 158 kant, immanuel, 13, 14, 19, 71, 82, 88, 90, 91, 92, 94, 95, 112, 114, 115, 120, 132, 138, 179, 182, 187, 249, 255 Kantianism, 13, 206 kekes, john, 12, 13, 23, 27, 37, 95, 103, 197, 199, 202, 210, 214,

In Defense of Liberal-Pluralism 215, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 221, 222, 223, 224, 225, 226, 253 korsgaard, christine, 19, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 167, 187, 253 kymlicka, will, 39, 40, 42, 65, 66, 73, 164, 253 larmore, charles, 165, 182, 183, 185, 229, 254 liberalism, 10, 12, 13, 24, 27, 32, 43, 48, 52, 59, 60, 63, 66, 67, 68, 69, 73, 74, 78, 88, 100, 130, 131, 132, 142, 158, 159, 161, 163, 166, 168, 169, 172, 173, 183, 184, 185, 186, 189, 191, 210, 226, 229, 231, 233, 243 liberal-pluralism, 27, 28, 143, 223 life-project, 1, 11, 14, 27, 30, 32, 33, 34, 35, 39, 48, 50, 61, 76, 77, 106, 111, 130, 161, 215, 223, 236, 237, 240 logical relativism, 152, 209 macintyre, alasdair, 12, 65, 69, 74, 120, 121, 146, 254 minimal universalism, 214 moral agency, 20, 42, 45, 154, 155, 216, 217, 221, 236 moral conflict, 80, 122, 125 moral deliberation, 2, 4, 5, 8, 12, 16, 22, 28, 44, 51, 81, 83, 85, 91, 93, 97, 99, 102, 109, 112, 120, 127, 136, 157, 193, 196, 201, 233, 234, 238, 239, 243 moral dilemmas, 2, 7, 16, 78, 86, 107, 111, 112, 119, 120, 125, 141, 143, 150, 196, 202 moral disagreement, 83, 93 moral foundationalism, 3, 13, 54, 81, 83, 101, 119, 127, 197, 204, 212, 214, 215, 238 moral imagination, 2, 8, 82, 92, 173, 198, 218, 221, 224 moral pluralism, 10, 79, 82, 125, 194, 197, 207, 208, 211 moral relativism, 18, 82, 197, 204, 205, 212


mutual reconciliation, 23, 32, 53, 62, 71, 110, 137, 177, 180, 181, 207, 227, 229, 237 nagel, thomas, 18, 19, 20, 25, 34, 49, 50, 53, 55, 56, 61, 63, 64, 65, 105, 131, 132, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 142, 143, 144, 149, 152, 156, 157, 161, 166, 171, 187, 191, 213, 219, 241, 242, 243, 255, 258 Neo-Kantian, 2, 10, 17, 20, 21, 24, 130, 131, 132, 194, 196, 206, 213, 221, 230, 238 normative, 12, 14, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 26, 37, 48, 49, 61, 76, 78, 89, 91, 92, 101, 107, 121, 123, 124, 126, 134, 145, 150, 151, 152, 153, 155, 157, 158, 159, 160, 166, 167, 170, 172, 174, 179, 182, 187, 188, 190, 197, 198, 204, 205, 210, 213, 224, 228, 231, 245, 247 nozick, robert, 29, 61, 65, 67, 255, 258 objectivism, 114 overlapping consensus, 70, 162, 165, 166, 169, 183, 187 particularism, 102, 125, 214 perfectionism, 161, 173, 182, 183, 184, 207 personalizing the impersonal, 25, 134, 242 pluralism, 3, 4, 7, 9, 10, 14, 16, 18, 19, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 32, 33, 37, 41, 57, 63, 70, 79, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 101, 102, 104, 109, 110, 112, 113, 114, 116, 117, 118, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 131, 132, 137, 141, 143, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 154, 156, 157, 158, 159, 160, 162, 163, 164, 165, 167, 168, 169, 172, 173, 174, 177, 178, 179, 180, 185, 188, 190, 193, 194, 195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 200,

262 201, 202, 203, 204, 205, 206, 207, 208, 209, 210, 211, 213, 214, 217, 218, 219, 220, 221, 222, 223, 224, 225, 226, 227, 228, 229, 231, 232, 233, 235, 239, 241, 243, 245, 248, 256 Pluralism without Relativism, 197, 214, 252 Political Liberalism, 10, 19, 41, 43, 47, 74, 159, 161, 162, 163, 164, 165, 166, 168, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 229, 251, 252, 254, 255, 256, 257, 258 Positional Objectivity, 23, 53, 257 practical reason, 19, 53, 88, 92, 112, 114, 119, 128, 145, 159, 161, 165, 166, 174, 210 primary values, 218, 219, 221, 222 Principle of Categorical Consistency, 97 principle of generic consistency, 98, 100 priority of right, 15, 31, 69, 100, 194, 216 procedural, 22, 26, 48, 93, 141, 151, 158, 159, 163, 164, 169, 170, 176, 185, 186, 189, 190, 191, 203, 204, 207, 243, 245, 247 public deliberation, 160, 161, 164, 190, 192 public justification, 19, 25, 128, 130, 131, 134, 139, 142, 164, 167, 187, 191, 241 public realm, 20, 26, 112, 133, 142, 159, 160, 161, 162, 164, 169, 186, 245 public reason, 19, 20, 117, 129, 131, 132, 134, 160, 161, 182, 183, 187, 189, 212, 213 public sphere, 120, 132, 144, 167, 168, 169, 171, 174, 182, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 191, 244, 245 rational agency, 5, 23, 31, 71, 83, 84, 88, 93, 122, 165, 236 rawls, john, 6, 10, 18, 19, 20, 23, 24,

Index 26, 35, 41, 43, 45, 46, 47, 48, 50, 65, 66, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 91, 93, 101, 112, 116, 117, 118, 131, 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 162, 163, 164, 165, 166, 167, 168, 169, 170, 171, 173, 176, 177, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 187, 189, 190, 209, 226, 231, 234, 239, 241, 243, 245, 247, 250, 251, 252, 255, 256 raz, joseph, 10, 23, 27, 35, 40, 46, 59, 95, 103, 119, 122, 143, 147, 183, 198, 199, 202, 205, 208, 209, 256, 258 realms of morality, 5, 16, 17, 25, 28, 85, 94, 101, 112, 127, 131, 196, 198, 206 reason without unification, 23, 27, 223, 247 Reasonable pluralism, 161 reasonable reason, 44, 91, 131, 155, 156, 157 reasonableness, 10, 12, 13, 15, 21, 22, 25, 28, 66, 67, 68, 70, 101, 129, 131, 133, 145, 148, 149, 150, 151, 156, 157, 158, 167, 169, 184, 196, 201, 204, 206, 208, 209, 210, 241, 243, 244, 248 reciprocity, 5, 7, 12, 13, 15, 21, 28, 30, 36, 42, 45, 46, 65, 68, 69, 70, 73, 77, 85, 88, 90, 92, 98, 101, 114, 117, 124, 125, 126, 127, 133, 140, 147, 150, 160, 163, 166, 167, 186, 188, 210, 211, 224, 226, 234, 236, 242, 245, 246, 248 reductionist, 73, 119, 233 relativism, 4, 18, 23, 25, 54, 56, 62, 79, 82, 95, 106, 107, 108, 112, 113, 114, 116, 123, 152, 156, 195, 197, 198, 199, 202, 203, 204, 205, 206, 208, 209, 211, 212, 213, 214, 217, 225, 226, 228, 240, 242 rescher, nicholas, 22, 95, 100, 101,

In Defense of Liberal-Pluralism 172, 195, 256 sandel, michael j., 12, 24, 63, 65, 66, 67, 69, 71, 72, 185, 189, 221, 226, 227, 256 scanlon, t. m., 18, 19, 20, 25, 49, 50, 56, 65, 91, 92, 128, 131, 132, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 154, 155, 156, 157, 163, 171, 241, 242, 249, 254, 255, 256, 258 scheffler, samuel, 4, 5, 29, 57, 120, 121, 137, 147, 212, 257, 258 secondary values, 218, 219, 220, 222 self-actualization, 24, 40, 67, 230, 231 subjective, 4, 11, 20, 23, 36, 43, 50, 54, 57, 72, 80, 81, 83, 105, 115, 136, 137, 139, 147, 171, 197, 231, 243, 247, subjectivism substantial pluralism, 10, 114, 143, 146, 159, 185 substantive freedoms, 1, 27, 33, 35, 36, 38, 39, 51, 78, 101, 163, 184, 207, 228, 247 supreme moral, 3, 88, 99, 119, 240 taylor, charles, 65, 67, 191, 208, 209, 258


Toleration, 246, 258 transpositional, 26, 27, 53, 54, 55, 56, 139, 156, 204 unconditional, 3, 8, 17, 24, 42, 83, 84, 89, 90, 91, 95, 99, 122, 127, 171, 200, 219, 222, 239 unity of morality, 5, 17, 55, 129, 146, 150, 166, 195 universalism, 3, 15, 25, 70, 79, 82, 83, 85, 87, 102, 114, 120, 126, 127, 132, 141, 147, 156, 157, 160, 171, 196, 197, 198, 202, 203, 205, 211, 214, 221, 222, 239 Universalization, 12, 95, 98 waldron, jeremy, 34, 44, 58, 93, 99, 100, 258 walzer, joseph, 52, 191, 243, 258 williams, bernard, 13, 43, 47, 49, 87, 95, 103, 107, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 139, 144, 155, 160, 164, 174, 182, 198, 257, 258 wolf, susan, 103, 115, 198, 199, 211, 212, 258 wronging others, 2, 22, 25, 131, 154, 155, 156