AuthorVan Schoelandt, Chad
AdvisorGaus, Gerald F.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractA common conceptual framework depicts morality as an alien force commanding us from on high; in contrast, this dissertation presents a picture of morality that is deeply social. It is not an abstract morality that commands us, but we who place demands on each other. On this picture, we are equal participants in morality, rather than mere subjects of morality. This participation has fundamentally important implications for the shape and structure of morality; or so this dissertation argues. By way of introducing the work as a whole, I will here note some of the key facets of the social nature of morality that the dissertation develops. Our participation is primarily as enforcers, rather than followers, of morality. We hold people accountable to moral requirements through emotional responses like resentment, as well as actions and relations that follow from that attitude. As I argue, these emotions carry an important representational content, displaying the other person as having shown ill will. This ill will can be best understood as a disregard for relevant moral considerations that are available to the resented agent. Despite the negative tone of resentment, it is an aspect of being in community with each other. Someone who can be resented is a co-member of a community with us upon whom we can make demands and who can make demands upon us. We may not share community with some people regarding some issues, such as across religious divides, while still seeing them as people with whom we share at least some form of community, as within the system of basic liberal rights. There are people, as I discuss, who fail to be eligible for responsibility to even basic demands. With such people we have no community; they are to us like forces of nature, and the most dangerous of them are for us monsters. Though many endorse conceptions of community focused on shared experiences or values, I argue that such a notion of community is not appropriate for modern, diverse societies. In modern, particularly liberal, societies, we cannot expect to share religion, occupation, views of the good life, or the like, so these cannot constitute community among the members of society. A shared moral framework, however, provides a promising conception of community for diverse societies like our own. Our shared morality may thus be among the most important forms of community we can have on the large scale of modern society. That same diversity, however, raises problems for a shared morality. As I argue, our interpersonal moral demands will have to be justified to each other, given our different perspectives, and such justification may be difficult. I address both the nature of this interpersonal justification, as well as the difficulties of achieving it, within this dissertation. This dissertation shows that morality is social in yet another way. Focusing on justice, as a central part of the morality, I argue that the content of the principles to which we hold each other accountable itself emerges from our social institutions as those develop over time through our interactions. The diverse members of society must be able to share an understanding of their mutual expectations, but such members tend to disagree about how to interpret and apply moral values and principles. Social institutions, such as legal systems with courts to interpret law, can provide a common interpretation of expectations. If the rules that emerge from these institutions are justified to the members, then those rules may constitute justice within that society. This dissertation, then, presents a picture of morality that is social through and through. Morality is constructed within our social institutions, enforced interpersonally, restricted to what is mutually justified to society’s members, and ultimately constitutes one of our primary forms of community.
Degree ProgramGraduate College