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Tag Archives: autonomy
Punishment is the most comprehensive monograph on the subject available. It is accessible for readers coming to the topic for the first time with new arguments and developments in each chapter that will be of interest to those already working in the field, including the defence of a new theory of punishment: the unified theory of punishment and its ideal of punitive restoration.The blurb: “Punishment is a topic of increasing importance for citizens and policy makers. Why should we punish criminals? Which theory of punishment is most compelling? Is the death penalty ever justified? These questions and many others are addressed in this highly engaging guide. Punishment is a critical introduction to the philosophy of punishment offering a new and refreshing approach that will benefit readers of all backgrounds and interests. This is the first critical guide to examine all leading contemporary theories of punishment, including the communicative theory of punishment, restorative justice, and the unified theory of punishment. There are also several case studies examined in detail including capital punishment, juvenile offending, and domestic abuse.
At the end of Chapter 17 we saw that the argument from abstraction cannot provide the determinate moral rules that are needed for social coordination. Members of the public are left with a set of optimal eligible interpretations of the abstract rights presented in Chapter 17. In Chapter 18 we see how that set can be further narrowed.
Gaus begins with a discussion of the function of rights and an attack on the common taxonomy of choice vs. interest theories of rights. Rather than give a theory of the necessary conditions of something being a right, Gaus is concerned with what he calls the jurisdictional function of rights. Gaus’ concern with rights is practical; he is concerned with what rights do, not with giving a theory that specifies the necessary and sufficient conditions of rights.
In so many places in OPR, we have seen Gaus put aside the traditional metaphysical and epistemological concerns with reasons, morality, and responsibility to focus on the practical problems that arise from an attempt to make sense of individual reason and social morality. The distinctiveness of Baier-Strawson view (which should really be just called the Gaus view) is primarily this focus on the essentially practical nature of the philosophical enterprise.
Gaus sees rights as a solution to the practical problem of the incommensurability of values. How is it possible to find a collective choice or social agreement between persons when their fundamental values so often conflict? In the last section we saw that one solution may be to abstract or idealize to find out what common standards we share, but as we have seen, this solution only has limited usefulness. Another solution is to “partition the moral space” (372) so that each individual is the rightful decision maker in his or her own defined sphere. In effect, why not privatize social morality in a publicly justified way so that not all value questions are open to social choice? In each individual’s sphere, they are sovereign and others may not override their decisions.
The contrast to what might be called the devolution of moral authority is what Gaus calls the centralizing response. The centralizing response hold that when faced with evaluative diversity, the proper response is look to commonalities in values to try to regulate and organize social morality with an overarching standard. The problem with this solution to the problem of diversity is that, as we saw in the last section, it is indeterminate. In contrast, by devolving moral authority each individual has a determinate authority over a determinate sphere. This solves the problem of seeking a common standard for the basis of public moral authority by relocating that authority in the rules of devolution rather than in the substantive claims of public moral authority itself.
With the publication of A Theory of Justice in 1971, John Rawls not only rejuvenated contemporary political philosophy but also defended a Kantian form of Enlightenment liberalism called “justice as fairness.” Enlightenment liberalism stresses the development and exercise of our capacity for autonomy, while Reformation liberalism emphasizes diversity and the toleration that encourages it. These two strands of liberalism are often mutually supporting, but they conflict in a surprising number of cases, whether over the accommodation of group difference, the design of civic education, or the promotion of liberal values internationally. During the 1980’s, however, Rawls began to jettison key Kantian characteristics of his theory, a process culminating in the 1993 release of Political Liberalism and completing the transformation of justice as fairness into a Reformation liberalism.
This post provides an overview of Section 14 and explains the relationship of this section with previous sections; I make some critical comments in separate posts linked below. I hope I haven’t gone overboard, in terms of the total length of the posts, but section 14 is important because it lays the groundwork for Jerry’s conception of public justification. At the same time, it is the conclusion of the previous 100 or so pages of argument about the moral emotions. So I want to summarize the main claims of section 14, but also explain how they follow from earlier sections. And of course I have some questions and criticisms.
Section 14 defines the “Basic Principle of Public Justification” (BPPJ) and lays out “the deliberative model” that specifies the principle. The BPPJ provides a necessary condition for a moral imperative to be authoritative. The assumption is that an imperative “?” is made in a particular context C based on a rule L. The condition is (1) that each normal moral agent has sufficient reasons to internalize L and hold that L requires ? in circumstances C, and (2) that moral agents do generally conform to L.
The BPPJ provides a rule-based standard for assessing particular moral demands in context, and so has as one of its components a criterion for determining when a rule counts as a bona fide moral rule; each and every normal moral agent must have sufficient reasons to internalize the rule. The idea of a normal moral agent (NMA) has figured in Gaus’s earlier discussions of moral psychology. A person is a moral agent if they have the capacity to understand and care about following social rules for its own sake; such an agent is normal if they have the cognitive capacities of a fully-functioning but still boundedly-rational human being. Thus some people do not qualify as NMAs, either due to lack of cognitive capacity (young children, severe mental disabilities) or lack of ability to internalize rules (young children, psychopaths). The reasons an NMA “has” are not the reasons there truly are, nor simply the reasons that agent thinks she has. On the one hand, Gaus argues that there is no point in saying that I “have” a reason if it is completely inaccessible to me, given my epistemic situation. On the other hand, he accepts that I have a reason not to cross the bridge in front of me even if I don’t think I have such a reason, if a reasonable amount of investigation and reflection would reveal the bridge to be unsafe (234-6). The reasons a NMA has are thus the reasons she would have if she engaged in a respectable amount of good reasoning based on what she currently believes (summarizing 250). ((For doubts about the idea that we have reasons that we would recognize if we deliberated more, see Alexander Moon’s comment to the previous installment of the discussion group))
My apologies for posting this a little bit late. I came down with something and couldn’t get the comments put together as quickly as I had hoped and then ran into some compatibility issues with Word Press and my browser. Anyway, on to section 12.
If sections 4 – 11 have been primarily descriptive, section 12 is where the book begins to take a distinctly normative turn. Having sketched over the last three sections an account of how his positive and normative projects relate to one another, in section 12 Gaus expands the discussion he left us with at the end of section 11 in order to bring his descriptive work to bear on some of the questions he set out at the beginning of the book.
As I pointed out in my earlier comments, Gaus concludes section 11 with a brief discussion of the relationship between guilt, moral authority, and moral autonomy and as I said above, section 12 is primarily dedicated to developing this discussion further. Gaus emphasizes that guilt is part of the mechanism through which we internalize moral rules and on his view this is important for two closely related reasons:
(i) When an individual feels guilty for violating a moral rule, that guilt carries with it an implicit recognition of the authority of those who make demands on her that she comply with the rules of social morality. In this way, guilt complements resentment and indignation in Gaus’s Strawsonian account of how the moral emotions constitute the practice of social morality; guilt being the mechanism that gives standing to others to make demands on us, whereas resentment and indignation are (among) the mechanisms through which we make the actions of others our business. This is Gaus’s focus in 11.4.
(ii) By facilitating and ultimately manifesting our internalization of moral rules, guilt expresses our moral autonomy. When it is directed at a moral rule (and not simply a taboo), guilt typically indicates that an individual accepts the authority of the rule over her and is capable of appreciating the reasons why the rule applies to her. This, as opposed to (i), is Gaus’s focus in section 12.
Although Gaus spends a lot of time discussing the importance of guilt, he begins section 12 by discussing the moral emotions more generally. In particular he emphasizes that the moral emotions have built in appropriateness conditions, meaning that they typically require (or at least entail) that the person subject to a moral emotion has certain beliefs about the person towards whom her reactive attitude is directed (12.1). As we saw in section 11, on Gaus’s view the moral emotions are a constitutive part of our social morality and in this section he argues that this insight, combined with evidence from moral psychology undermines the rationalistic picture of morality on which reason allows us to overcome our passions. Gaus’s emphasis on the appropriateness conditions of the moral emotions though distinguishes him from ‘the new sentimentalists’ who argue that our moral judgments and practices are grounded primarily in our affect and that our moral emotions do not (and more importantly, need not) carry a substantial amount of cognitive content. On Gaus’s view, both reason and affect are important, and more important still is that our emotions engage our reason in the right sort of way. Ultimately Gaus will argue that it is only when this is true, that our practice of social morality can be consistent with our nature as free and equal moral persons.
In emphasizing the importance of our emotions engaging our reasons, Gaus’s point is not that beliefs about those whom our emotions are directed towards are always prerequisites of the moral emotions, but rather that they are typically required in order for our emotions to be sustained. To illustrate this Gaus directs us towards the concept of responsibility, asking what sorts of beliefs and emotions are required to sustain our practice of holding one another accountable to the demands of social morality. Gaus argues that responsibility requires more than just the ability to identify that a moral rule has been broken and the capacity to blame others for violating those rules. Specifically it requires that the individual being held responsible has certain beliefs and that we know her to have these beliefs. It is hard to sustain blame (and similarly hard to maintain resentment) if we come to doubt that the person we are blaming lacked either the requisite knowledge of the moral rule in question, recognition that the rule applies to her, or an understanding that her actions in fact violated that rule.