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  • Today we turn to Kant’s reply to Aristotle.

  • Kant thinks that Aristotle just made a mistake.

  • It’s one thing, Kant says,

  • to support a fair framework of rights

  • within which people can pursue their own

  • conceptions of the good life.

  • It’s something else and something that runs the risk of coercion

  • to base law or principles of justice

  • on any particular conception of the good life.

  • You remember Aristotle says in order to investigate the ideal constitution

  • we have first to figure out the best way to live.

  • Kant would reject that idea.

  • He says that constitutions and laws and rights

  • rights should not embody or affirm or promote

  • any particular way of life.

  • That’s at odds with freedom.

  • For Aristotle the whole point of law,

  • the purpose of polis

  • is to shape character,

  • to cultivate the virtue of citizens,

  • to inculcate civic excellence, to make possible a good way of life.

  • That’s what he tells us in the politics.

  • For Kant, on the other hand,

  • the purpose of law, the point of a constitutiion

  • is not to inculcate or to promote virtue.

  • It’s to set up a fair framework of rights within which

  • citizens may be free to pursue their own conceptions of the good for themselves.

  • So we see the difference in their theories of justice.

  • We see the difference in their account of

  • law or the role of a constitution, the point of politics,

  • and underlying these differences are

  • two different accounts of what it means to be a free person.

  • For Aristotle we are free insofar as we have

  • the capacity to realize our potential.

  • And that leads us to the question of fit.

  • Fit between persons and the roles that are appropriate to them.

  • Figuring out what I’m cut out for.

  • That’s what it means to lead a free life, to live up to my potential.

  • Kant rejects that idea and instead

  • substitutes his famously demanding notion of

  • freedom as the capacity to act autonomously.

  • Freedom means acting according to a law I give myself.

  • Freedom is autonomy.

  • Part of the appeal, part of the moral force

  • of the view of Kant and of Rawls consists in

  • the conception of the person as a free and independent self

  • capable of choosing his or her own ends.

  • The image of the self is free and independent

  • offers a, if you think about it, a powerful liberating vision

  • because what it says is that as free moral persons

  • we are not bound by any ties of history

  • or of tradition or of inherited status

  • that we haven’t chosen for ourselves,

  • and so were unbound by any moral ties prior to our choosing them.

  • And that means that we are

  • free and independent sovereign selves.

  • Were the authors of the only obligations that constrain us.

  • The communitarian critics of Kantian and Rawlsian liberalism

  • acknowledge that there is something powerful

  • and inspiring in that account of freedom,

  • the free independent choosing self,

  • but they argue it misses something.

  • It misses a whole dimension of moral life and even political life.

  • It can’t make sense of our moral experience because it can’t account

  • for certain moral and political obligations

  • that we commonly recognize and even prize.

  • And these include obligations of membership, loyalty,

  • solidarity, and other moral ties that may claim us for reasons

  • that we can’t trace to an act of consent.

  • Alistair McIntyre

  • gives an account what he calls a narrative conception of the self.

  • It’s a different account of the self.

  • Human beings are essentially storytelling creatures, McIntyre argues.

  • That means I can only answer the question

  • 'what am I to do?' if I can answer the prior question

  • of what story or stories do I find myself a part?

  • That’s what he means by the narrative conception of the self.

  • What does this have to do with the idea of community and belonging?

  • McIntyre says this,

  • Once you accept this narrative aspect of moral reflection

  • you will notice that we can never seek for the good

  • or exercise of the virtues only as individuals.

  • We all approach our circumstance as bearers of particular social identities.

  • I am someone’s son or daughter,

  • a citizen of this or that city,

  • I belonged to this plan, that tribe, this nation.

  • Hence, McIntyre argues, what is good for me

  • has to be the good for someone who inhabits these roles.

  • I inherit from the past of my family, my city, my tribe, my nation

  • a variety of debts, inheritances, expectations, and obligations.

  • These constitute the given of my life, my moral starting point.

  • This is in part what gives my life its moral particularity.

  • That’s the narrative conception of the self.

  • And it’s a conception that sees the self as

  • claimed or encumbered, at least to some extent,

  • by the history, the tradition,

  • the communities, of which it’s a part.

  • We can’t make sense of our lives,

  • not only as a psychological matter, but also as a moral matter

  • in thinking what we are to do

  • without attending to these features about us.

  • Now, McIntyre recognizes that this narrative account,

  • this picture of the encumbered self,

  • puts his account at odds with contemporary liberalism and individualism.

  • From the standpoint of individualism

  • I am what I myself choose to be.

  • I may biologically be my father’s son

  • but I can’t be held responsible for what he did

  • unless I choose to assume such responsibility.

  • I can’t be held responsible for what my country does, or has done,

  • unless I choose to assume such responsibility.

  • But McIntyre says this reflects a certain kind of moral shallowness

  • even blindness.

  • It’s a blindness at odds with the full measure of responsibility which sometimes,

  • he says, involves collective responsibility or responsibilities that may flow

  • from historic memories.

  • And he gives some examples.

  • Such individualism is expressed by those contemporary Americans

  • who deny any responsibility for the effects of slavery upon black Americans saying

  • "I never owned any slaves."

  • Or the young German who believes

  • that having been born after 1945 means

  • that what Nazis did to Jews has no moral relevance

  • to his relationship to his Jewish contemporaries.

  • McIntyre says all of these attitudes of historical amnesia

  • amount to a kind of moral abdication.

  • Once you see that who we are

  • and what it means to sort out our obligations

  • can’t be separated, shouldn’t be separated

  • from the life histories that define us.

  • The contrast, he says, with a narrative account, is clear,

  • For the story of my life is always embedded in the story

  • of those communities from which I derived my identity.

  • I am born with the past and to try to cut myself off from that past

  • is to deform my present relationships.

  • So there you have in McIntyre, a strong statement of the idea

  • that the self can’t be detached, shouldn’t be detached,

  • from its particular ties of membership history,

  • story narrative.

  • Now, I want to get your reactions

  • to the communitarian critique

  • of the individualist or the voluntarist,

  • the unencumbered self.

  • But let’s make it concrete so that you can react

  • to more than just the theory of it by looking at

  • the two different accounts of moral and political obligation that arise

  • depending on which of these conceptions of the person one accepts.

  • On the liberal conception,

  • moral and political obligations arise in one of two ways.

  • There are natural duties that we owe human beings as such.

  • duties of respect for persons qua persons.

  • These obligations are universal.

  • Then, as Rawls points out,

  • there are also voluntary obligations.

  • Obligations that we owe to particular others

  • insofar as we have agreed

  • whether through a promise or a deal or a contract.

  • Now, the issue between the liberal and communitarian accounts of the self,

  • is there another category of obligation or not?

  • The communitarian says there is.

  • There is a third category that might be called

  • obligations of solidarity or loyalty or membership.

  • The communitarian argues that construing all obligations

  • as either natural duties or voluntary obligations

  • fails to capture obligations of membership or solidarity.

  • Loyalties whose moral force consists partly in the fact

  • that living by them is inseparable from

  • understanding ourselves as the particular persons we are.

  • What would be some examples?

  • And then I want to see how you would react to them.

  • Examples of obligations of membership

  • that are particular but don’t necessarily flow from consent

  • but rather from membership narrative community, one situation.

  • The most common examples are ones to do with the family.

  • The relation between parents and children, for example.

  • Suppose there were two children drowning.

  • You could save only one of them.

  • One was your child, the other was a stranger’s child.

  • Would you have an obligation to flip a coin

  • or would there be something morally obtuse

  • if you didn’t rush to save your child?

  • Now, you may say, well, parents have agreed

  • to have their children.

  • So take the other case, the case of children’s

  • obligation for their parents.

  • Now, we don’t choose our parents.

  • We don’t even choose to have parents.

  • There is that asymmetry.

  • And yet consider two aging parents, one of them yours,

  • the other a stranger’s.

  • Doesn’t it make moral sense to think that you have a greater obligation

  • to look after your aged parent than to flip a coin or to help the stranger’s?

  • Now, is this traceable to consent? Not likely

  • Or take a couple of political examples.

  • During World War II, French resistance pilots

  • flew bombing raids over occupied France.

  • One day, one of the pilots received his target

  • and noticed that the village he was being asked to bomb

  • was his home village.

  • He refused, not disputing that it was as necessary as the target he bombed yesterday.

  • He refused on the ground that he couldn’t bring himself.

  • It would be a special moral crime for him to bomb his people

  • even in a cause that he supported, the cause of liberating France.

  • Now, do we admire that?

  • If we do, the communitarian argues,

  • it’s because we do recognize obligations of solidarity.

  • Take another example.

  • Some years ago there was a famine in Ethiopia.

  • Hundreds of thousands of people were starving.

  • The Israeli government organized an airlift to rescue Ethiopian Jews.

  • They didn’t have the capacity to rescue everyone in Ethiopia.

  • They rescued several hundred Ethiopian Jews.

  • Now, what’s your moral assessment?

  • Is that a kind of morally troubling partiality, a kind of prejudice?

  • Or as the Israeli government thought, is there a special obligation of solidarity

  • that this airlift properly responded to?

  • Well, that takes us to the broader question of patriotism.

  • What, morally speaking, is to be said for patriotism?

  • There are two towns named Franklin.

  • One is Franklin, Texas,

  • and the other is just across the Rio Grande River, Franklin, Mexico.

  • What is the moral significance of national boundaries?

  • Why is it, or is it the case

  • that we as Americans have a greater responsibility

  • for the health and the education and the welfare and public provision

  • for people who live in Franklin, Texas,

  • than equally needy people just across the river,

  • living in Franklin, Mexico?

  • According to the communitarian account, membership does matter.

  • And the reason patriotism is at least potentially a virtue

  • is that it is an expression of

  • the obligations of citizenship.

  • How many are sympathetic to the idea that there is this third category of obligation?

  • The obligations of solidarity or membership.

  • How many are sympathetic to that idea?

  • And how many are critical of that idea?

  • How many think all obligations can be accounted for

  • in the first two ways?

  • All right, let’s hear from the critics of the communitarian idea first.

  • Yes.

  • My biggest concern with the idea of having obligations

  • because youre a member of something or because of solidarity

  • is that it seems that if you accept those obligations as being

  • sort of morally binding, then there is a greater occurrence of overlapping obligations