Equality and Tradition: Questions of Value in Moral and Political Theory
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This collection of essays by noted philosopher Samuel Scheffler combines discussion of abstract questions in moral and political theory with attention to the normative dimension of current social and political controversies. In addition to chapters on more abstract issues such as the nature of human valuing, the role of partiality in ethics, and the significance of the distinction between doing and allowing, the volume also includes essays on immigration, terrorism, toleration, political equality, and the normative significance of tradition.
Uniting the essays is a shared preoccupation with questions about human value and values. The volume opens with an essay that considers the general question of what it is to value something - as opposed, say, to wanting it, wanting to want it, or thinking that it is valuable. Other essays explore particular values, such as equality, whose meaning and content are contested. Still others consider the tensions that arise, both within and among individuals, in consequence of the diversity of human values. One of the overarching aims of the book is to illuminate the different ways in which liberal political theory attempts to resolve conflicts of both of these kinds.
that X is valuable might here be understood, compatibly with the buck-passing account, as asserting that X has properties in virtue of which all people have reasons for behaving in certain (minimum) ways with regard to it. On a second, perhaps more plausible interpretation, it might be understood as the claim that X has properties in virtue of which (1) all people have reasons for behaving in certain (minimum) ways with regard to X, and (2) some people have reasons for additional actions with
of one’s agency. What I have in mind is this. To see oneself as subject to norms of responsibility is to see oneself as having reason to bring one’s conduct into conformity with those norms. But bringing one’s conduct into 6. The last several sentences have been taken, with only minor modiﬁcations, from my article “Distributive Justice and Economic Desert,” in Desert and Justice, Serena Olsaretti (ed.) (Oxford: Clarendon, 2003), pp. 69–91, at pp. 70–71. 84 individuals conformity with norms
defensible. Insofar as it is feasible to do so, we should embrace a more inclusive understanding of our responsibilities. We should see ourselves as more responsible for the plight of strangers, more responsible for things that happen far away, more responsible for preventing and not merely avoiding the inﬂiction of harm, more responsible for the foreseeable but unintended consequences of our actions. By circumscribing the boundaries of our responsibilities, limiting norms serve to insulate us,
problems they can solve, and to the social roles that they play. In short: new social forms may require new moral norms. Of course, this slogan is too simple, for these new moral norms may in turn require the modiﬁcation of the new social forms or even their replacement by still newer forms. But the direction of inﬂuence runs two ways: moral norms may require changes in existing institutions and practices, but changes in existing institutions and practices may also create new forms of agency and
Clarendon Press, 1989], chap. 3), who absorbs it into (what might be called) his “egalicentric” narrative of the history of political philosophy. Kymlicka argues that Rawls’s theory of justice is motivated by inadequacies in the utilitarian conception of equality, and that Dworkin’s theory of justice is then motivated by inadequacies in Rawls’s conception of equality. (“Dworkin’s theory was a response to problems in Rawls’s conception of equality, just as Rawls’s theory was a response to problems