Equality and Diversity: Value Incommensurability and the Politics of Recognition

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From a Kantian perspective, the reply to this objection, concerning its foundations, is the subject of practical reason as the subject of an independent will, able to make choices that are not empirically conditional. This, however, poses a problem: to justify this view of the subject, a metaphysics of the transcendental moral subject would be needed, which, however, being noumenal, is not an unattainable object of knowledge, as it were. A Hume-like deontology, where basic principles are derived from a hypothetical situation of discernment, the original position [25] characterised by conditions bound to produce a certain result suitable for real human beings.

According to Sandel, Rawls fails in his attempt: the original position, a highly abstract hypothesis, only revives the incorporeal and noumenal subject it is trying to avoid [26]. As far as Mill and utilitarianism are concerned, Sandel underlines how he reaffirms the primacy of justice starting from a vision according to which having a right means having something whose possession society must guarantee [27]. The reason of such duty on the part of society lies in general usefulness [28].

Justice is therefore considered by Mill as the most sacred and binding part of morals, because its requirements are at the top of social utility and are the most binding of all [29]. In addition, the principles of justice, like other moral principles, are teleologically oriented towards the pursuit of happiness, which is the only desirable thing in terms of ends. Hence justice is what utility requires and if, in some specific cases, another moral duty may prevail over some principles of justice, it is because it depends on happiness [30].

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The conclusion Sandel makes is, very shortly, that the primacy assigned to justice by liberalism, in its variety and in its presumption of neutrality with respect to notions of good life, lies in a particular conception of person and of the abstract and disembodied moral subject of the strictly deontological view by Kant and Kantians; this appears to be too focussed on a teleological view where justice maintains its primacy because it is useful to the pursuit of individual and social happiness in the utilitarian approach.

According to Sandel, both versions of liberalism fail to effectively answer the question on what type of subjects we should be in order to make sense of justice rather than reduce it, on the one hand, to pure proceduralism, and, on the other, to calculations of social welfare utility [31]. Since individuals are situated rather than abstract subjects the primacy assigned to justice by the various forms of liberalism is misleading. Hence the fundamental function he assigns to thecommunity.

It defines not only what individuals have as fellow citizens, but also what they are, not a relationship they choose e. The question of neutrality is indeed crucial for answering the objections made by communitarianism and by Sandel in particular. First, this question needs to deal with the nature of politics and of its relationship with morals. I believe the following statement by Larmore provides a good summary of a liberal view I personally share:. What I mean is our thinking on politics aiming to establish the rules and principles of political society in such a way that those entering this political partnership will be able to see, discuss and recognise these principles; in this sense I intend political aims.

More specifically, while the result of a debate outside the political sphere may not necessarily be bounding, also because it is not to be taken for granted that agreement or shared views are reached, in politics decisions binding for all citizens and the latter consider it legitimate to have recourse to force, coertion and sanctions to ensure behaviours conform to rules decided on by politics. This also takes into consideration that political decisions have feedback on our private lives and may influence them so much that our freedom may be significantly limited or increased.

What has been said on the nature of political decision making allows for more clarity on the neutrality principle. It should not be intended in absolute terms, but as an exclusively political principle only related to controversial reasonable conceptions of good life [36].

Poverty and Inequality

When it is not about abstaining from doing something, but acting in a certain way, if there is no danger for social peace, there should not be legal constraints [37]. It must be emphasised that, however specific political decision making is, it is based on deontological or consequentialist moral reasons. The political neutrality principle establishes itself as a deontological principle: when one is called to making political decisions they should take it as a duty to observe this principle as one of the foundations of political decision making.

By the Seventeenth Century, it had become clear that those who are not willing to concede tolerance when they constitute a majority cannot claim tolerance for themselves and their own group when they constitute a minority [38]. In addition, those who are not willing to accept the principle of political neutrality as a deontological principle pave the way for those who have political recourse, at least on some topics, to all the truth they think they are entrusted with, when they are enabled to do so.

The duty of respecting the neutrality principle also makes it possible to preserve the moral principle by which we cannot demand that others do what we are not willing to accept for ourselves, that a given behaviour is imposed by force of law on me that I do not share in terms of deep moral loyalty.

The Dichotomy of Diversity

Mill of the person as a progressive subject perfecting themselves by having an opportunity to experiment life projects [40]. The second strategy enacted by communitarians , the one on which Baroncelli dwells the most , consists in a theory and practice defending the cultural minorities the liberal enemy cannot and will not defend.

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The answer is that communitarian arguments applying to minorities will then apply in the same way to majorities. This is because, from a communitarian perspective,every culture, even the most blatantly majority, may be conceived at all times by somebody within this culture as having the same urgencies as a minority. In other words, if the central reason is the defence and survival of cultures, communitarians do not have arguments against defending majority cultures.

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If the individualism and cosmopolitarianism typical of liberal thinking cannot but give up to this transformation — the death of cultures — the indefinite survival of a given culture implies the possibility of supporting arguments against tolerance by basing them on the right to survival and by presenting them rationally within that culture. The historical examples of higher tolerance than a liberal regime may ensure feature peaceful coexistence of religious communities such as the millet system in the Turkish Empire [45].

Without discussing in detail whether this is an actual case of tolerance, at least in the modern sense of the term, I would like to emphasise two aspects: the former, considered by Baroncelli too, states that both the examples made and the ideal proposed by communitarians takes it for granted that individuals outside the community to which they belong are nothing and have no rights. They do not exist because they are not allowed to, and have no exit rights:. Either the individual or the community. As a consequence, while the recognition of rights to individuals may grant to those who identify with a particular community some typical advantages of communitarian life, it is not possible to grant anything to individuals as such under a communitarian perspective.

In addition, systems such as the millet hold as long as a strong central authority imposes them and make sure that they are complied with. In short, with its sophistry, the rhetoric of communitarianism posing itself as a political theory and practice the aim of which is to defend weak, marginalised and neglected identities, ends up by making up arguments to the advantage of extremist, intolerant views in which the part the individual is subordinate to the whole.

Sen suggests, identity and, in particular, monoidentity, especially of a religious nature, can kill — and kill with abandon [47]. An impossible synthesis. Provided that communitarian analyses on the limits of liberalism must be taken seriously and, as shown above, are important to make the limits of some liberal views comprehensible, I would look into some detail into a question, to which Baroncelli replies negatively in the light of the above-mentioned considerations, that is, the possible integration between the communitarian and the liberal logic to give birth to a new and improved synthesis.

Under this perspective, a comparison with C. His attempt consists in relating them to make the limits of liberalism apparent and proposing a new form of liberalism that may be able to overcome individualism and valorise belonging and, with it, cultural rights. Although his appears to be the most serious effort to integrate liberalism and communitarianism, it is not convincing for two reasons: 1.

It does not effectively counter criticism such as that advanced by Baroncelli; 2. It cannot utterly deal with the questions posed by otherness.

Steven R. Smith

Identity is partially shaped by recognition, but also by lack of recognition on the part of other people or groups. Taylor underlines how recognition is a consequence of modernity in the light of two factors: 1. The collapse of social hierarchies made legitimate by honour as opposed to the universalist and egalitarian notion of human dignity ; 2. The rise of individualised identity which can be expressed as an ideal of authenticity and loyalty to oneself.

Referring explicitly to Herder and, more generally, to Romantic expressivism, Taylor highlights how each person has their own measure, and therefore not being faithful to oneself makes one lose their main reason for living, what being human is to them: every single voice of ours has something unique to say. Everybody has their own originality and culture. A people, like an individual, should be faithful to oneself. We define our identity by negotiating with, and sometimes fighting against, what significant others want from us. Therefore identity connotes itself as the background against which our tastes, desires, opinions and wishes acquire a meaning.

The politics of difference redefines non — discrimination as something that compels us to make of distinctions the basis for different treatment. Classical liberalism cannot cope with the politics of difference because, from an ethical point of view, its commitment is procedural: we are compelled to treat one another equally, independent of the idea we have of our aims; on the other hand, the substantive commitment regarding life aims and what we deem worthy of fighting together is neglected.

But this proceduralist liberalism, pursuing politics of equal respect among individuals, would not welcome difference, would impose a uniform application of rules defining rights, would view collective rights with suspicion and would not be able to accommodate the aspiration to survival of societies separated on the basis of the different conceptions of good life characterising them.


Against Multiculturalism | New Humanist

In addition, Taylor believes liberalism itself is not completely neutral: the separation of State and religion is incomprehensible in other contexts, such as the Islamic culture. A new kind of liberalism therefore becomes necessary, which he defines Liberalism 2 , which maintains the habeas corpus , but distinguishes fundamental rights from the wide variety of immunities and presumptions of equal treatment. It is not a procedural liberalism, but one founded on judgments concerning good life, and in this sense these are judgments in which the integrity of cultures plays an important role.

As a consequence, in a context where societies are increasingly multicultural and open to multinational migrations, what is needed is not only that cultures survive , but also that everybody recognise the equal value of different cultures and take note that they are precious. The criterion for recognition refers to all those human cultures which have nurtured whole societies for a considerable lapse of time and have something important to say to each human being.

Taylor highlights how this is a presumptive thesis, that is, an assumption with which we should approach the study of any other culture while aware that a real value judgment presupposes the fusion of normative horizons ; it also presupposes that studying the other has transformed us so much that we do not judge by our original criteria any more. This transformation would be possible through the presumption of value of cultures.


All cultures that have given a meaning horizon to a large number of human beings for a long time deserve respect and admiration. For this reason, we should become aware of the limits of our part in the entire history of humankind, also through comparative cultural studies. My main argument is that this type of value conflict and incommensurability, is philosophically defensible and, with some elaboration, helps make plausible the normative claims associated with the political slogan that 'differences should be celebrated'.

This slogan, endorsed, amongst others, by those within contemporary social movements, to be sure, is a political gambit to protect what might be termed the 'identity interests' of the marginalised and disadvantaged, but I argue can be understood philosophically in so far as it reflects the incommensurability of promoting the values of both equality and diversity.

Following this understanding, I defend my other main normative claim, that through various social and political policies and practices, we should encourage and engage in reciprocal or mutually beneficial relations with equal others, but recognising we also often lead incomparably different lives. AB - There are two central premises of this book; that the values worth promoting across communities, including those associated with promoting equality and diversity, are often conflicting and incommensurable or incomparable; and individuals in these communities are agents who have lives which reflect commitments to incommensurable 'valued objects' both between individuals and groups and across an individual's life.

Learn more Check out. Abstract This article is mainly concerned with the notion of value pluralism. Citing Literature.

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