Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • We ended last time talking about the narrative conception of the self.

  • We were testing the narrative conception of the self

  • and the idea of obligations of solidarity or membership

  • that did not flow from consent,

  • that claimed us for reasons unrelated to a contract or an agreement

  • or a choice we may have made.

  • And we were debating among ourselves

  • whether there are any obligations of this kind

  • or whether all apparent obligations of solidarity and membership

  • can be translated into consent or reciprocity

  • or universal duty that we owe persons qua persons.

  • And then there were those who defended the idea of loyalty and of patriotism.

  • So the idea of loyalty and of solidarity and of membership

  • gathered a certain kind of

  • intuitive moral force in our discussion.

  • And then, as we concluded,

  • we considered what seems to be a pretty powerful counter example to that idea.

  • Namely, the film of those southern segregationists in the 1950s.

  • And they talked all about their traditions,

  • their history, the way in which their identities were bound up

  • with their life history. Do you remember that?

  • And what flowed from that history, from that narrative sense of identity

  • for those southern segregationists?

  • They said we have to defend our way of life.

  • Is this a fatal or a decisive objection to the idea

  • of the narrative conception of the self?

  • That’s the question we were left with.

  • What I would like to do today

  • is to advance an argument and see what you make of it.

  • And let me tell you what that argument is.

  • I would like to defend

  • the narrative conception of the person

  • as against the voluntarist conception.

  • I would like to defend

  • the idea that there are obligations of solidarity or membership.

  • Then, I want to suggest

  • that there being such obligations

  • lends force to the idea, when we turn to justice,

  • that arguments about justice can’t be detached,

  • cannot be detached after all, from questions of the good.

  • But I wanted to distinguish two different ways

  • in which justice might be tied to the good

  • and argue for one of them.

  • Now, the voluntarist conception of the person of Kant and Rawls

  • we saw was powerful and liberating.

  • A further appeal is its universal aspiration.

  • The idea of treating persons as persons

  • without prejudice, without discrimination,

  • and I think that’s what led some among us to argue that,

  • okay, maybe there are obligations of membership but they are always subordinate.

  • They must always be subordinate

  • to the duties that we have to human beings as such, the universal duties.

  • But is that right?

  • If our encompassing loyalty should always take precedence

  • over more particular ones,

  • then the distinction between friends and strangers

  • should ideally be overcome.

  • A special concern for the welfare of friends would be a kind of prejudice,

  • a measure of our distance from universal human concern

  • But if you look closely at that idea,

  • what kind of a moral universe, what kind of moral imagination,

  • would that lead you to?

  • The enlightenment flows from Montesquieu

  • gives perhaps the most powerful, and I think,

  • the ultimately, the most honest account

  • of where this relentless universalizing tendency

  • leads the moral imagination.

  • Here’s how Montesquieu put it.

  • He said, "A truly virtuous man would come to the aid

  • of the most distant stranger as quickly as to his own friend."

  • And then he adds, listen to this,

  • "If men were perfectly virtuous, they wouldn't have friends."

  • But it’s difficult to imagine a world

  • in which persons were so virtuous that they had no friends,

  • only a universal disposition to friendliness.

  • The problem isn’t simply that such a world

  • would be difficult to bring about, that it's unrealistic.

  • The deeper problem is that such a world

  • would be difficult to recognize as a human world.

  • The love of humanity is a noble sentiment

  • but most of the time we live our lives by smaller solidarities.

  • This may reflect certain limits to the bounds of moral sympathy,

  • but more important, it reflects the fact

  • that we learn to love humanity, not in general,

  • but through its particular expressions.

  • So these are some considerations.

  • Theyre not knock-down arguments,

  • but moral philosophy can’t offer knock-down arguments,

  • but considerations, of the kinds that we've been

  • discussing and arguing about all along.

  • Well, suppose that’s right.

  • One way of assessing whether this picture of the person

  • and of obligation is right, is to see

  • what are its consequences for justice.

  • And here is where is confronts a serious problem,

  • and here we go back to our southern segregationists.

  • They felt the weight of history.

  • Do we admire their character, these segregationists,

  • who wanted to preserve their way of life?

  • Are we committed to saying,

  • if we accept the idea of solidarity and membership,

  • are we committed to saying

  • that justice is tied to good in the sense that justice means

  • whatever a particular community or tradition says it means,

  • including those southern segregationists.

  • Here it’s important to distinguish two different ways

  • in which justice can be tied to the good.

  • One is a relativist way.

  • That’s the way that says,

  • to think about rights, to think about justice,

  • look to the values that happened to prevail

  • in any given community at any given time.

  • Don’t judge them by some outside standard,

  • but instead conceive justice as a matter of being faithful to the shared understandings

  • of a particular tradition.

  • But there’s a problem with this way of tying justice to the good.

  • The problem is that it makes justice wholly conventional.

  • A product of circumstance,

  • and this deprives justice of its critical character.

  • But there is a second way in which

  • justice can be tied with or bound up with the good.

  • On a second non-relativist way of linking justice with conceptions of the good,

  • principles of justice depend for their justification not on the values

  • that happened to prevail at any given moment in a certain place,

  • but instead on the moral worth or the intrinsic good of the ends rights serve.

  • On this non-relativist view the case for recognizing a right

  • depends on showing that it

  • honors or advances some important human good.

  • The second way of tying justice to the good

  • is not strictly speaking, communitarian,

  • if by communitarian you mean,

  • just giving over to a particular community the definition of justice.

  • Now, what I would like to suggest

  • that of these two different ways of linking justice to the good,

  • the first is insufficient.

  • Because the first leaves justice the creature of convention.

  • It doesn't give us enough

  • moral resources to respond to those southern segregationists

  • who invoke their way of life, their traditions,

  • their way of doing things.

  • But if justice is bound up with the good in a non-relativist way,

  • there is a big challenge, a big question to answer.

  • How can we reason about the good?

  • What about the fact that people hold different conceptions of the good?

  • Different ideas about the purposes of key social institutions.

  • Different ideas about what social goods and human goods

  • are worthy of honor and recognition.

  • We live in a pluralist society, people disagree about the good.

  • That’s one of the incentives to try to find principles of justice

  • and rights that don’t depend

  • on any particular ends or purposes or goods.

  • So is there a way to reason about the good?

  • Before addressing that question,

  • I want to address a slightly easier question.

  • Is it necessary, is it unavoidable, when arguing about justice

  • to argue about the good?

  • And my answer to that question is yes, it’s unavoidable.

  • It's necessary.

  • So for the remainder of today, I want to take up...

  • I want to try to advance that claim,

  • that reasoning about the good, about purposes, and ends,

  • is an unavoidable feature of arguing about justice,

  • it’s necessary.

  • Let me see if I can establish that.

  • And for that I’d like for us to begin a discussion of same sex marriage.

  • Now, same sex marriage draws on, implicateds,

  • deeply contested and controversial ideas,

  • morally and religiously.

  • And so there’s a powerful incentive

  • to embrace a conception of justice or of rights

  • that doesn’t require the society as a whole to pass judgment,

  • one way or another,

  • on those hotly contested moral and religious questions.

  • About the moral permissibility of homosexuality.

  • About the proper ends of marriage as a social institution.

  • So, clearly, if there’s an incentive to resolve this question,

  • to define people’s rights in a way that doesn’t require the society as a whole

  • to sort out those moral and religious disputes

  • that would be very attractive.

  • So what I would like to do now is to see,

  • using the same sex marriage case,

  • whether it’s possible to detach one’s use

  • about the moral permissibility of homosexuality and about

  • the purpose, the end of marriage,

  • detach those questions from the question of

  • whether the state should recognize same sex marriage or not.

  • So let's begin.

  • I would like to begin by hearing the arguments of those

  • who believe that there should be no same sex marriage

  • but that the state should only recognize marriage between a man and a woman.

  • Do I have volunteers? I had two.

  • There were two people I asked,

  • people who had voiced their views already on the justice blog.

  • Mark Loff and Ryan McCaffrey where are you?

  • Okay, Mark. And where is Ryan?

  • Alright, let’s go first to Mark.

  • I have sort of a theological understanding of

  • the purpose of sex and the purpose of marriage.

  • And I think that for people like myself, who are a a Christian and also a Catholic,

  • the purpose of sex is, one, for its procreative uses,

  • and two, for a unifying purpose between a man and a woman

  • within the institution of marriage.

  • You have a certain conception of the purpose or the telos... - Yeah.

  • ...of human sexuality, which is bound up with procreation.

  • Right.

  • As well as union. - Yeah.

  • And the essence of marriage, the purpose of marriage as a social institution

  • is to give expression to that telos

  • and to honor that purpose, namely, the procreative purpose of marriage.

  • Is that a fair summary of your view? - Yeah.

  • Where is Ryan? Go ahead.

  • Do you agree more or less with Mark’s reasons?

  • Yes, I agree.

  • I think that the ideal of marriage involves procreation.

  • And it’s fine that, homosexuals would go off and cohabitate with each other

  • but the government doesn’t have a responsibility to encourage that.

  • All right, so the government should not encourage

  • homosexual behavior by conferring the recognition of marriage.

  • Yeah, it would be wrong to outlaw it but encouraging it is not necessary.

  • Who has a reply?

  • Yes.

  • Hannah?

  • I just like to ask a question to Mark.

  • Let’s say you got married to a woman,

  • you did not have sex with her before marriage,

  • and then when you became married it became evident that

  • youre an infertile couple.

  • Do you think that it should illegal for you to engage in sex

  • if children will not result from that act?

  • Yeah, I think that it is moral and that’s why I gave the two-fold purpose.

  • So like a woman, say...

  • I think older couples can get married,

  • someone... a woman who’s beyond...

  • she has already had menopause and who can’t have a child,

  • because I think that sex has these...

  • It has purposes beyond procreation.

  • I hate to be uncouth but have you ever engaged in masturbation?

  • You don’t have to answer that.

  • Right, make your...

  • I’d like to respond to that.

  • Wait. Weve done pretty well over a whole semester

  • and were doing pretty well now dealing with

  • questions that most people think can’t even be discussed to any university settting

  • and, Hannah, youve got, you have a powerful point.

  • Make that point as a general argument rather than,