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Reasonable impartiality : toward a foundation for moral education Priestman, Scott 2005-12-31

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R E A S O N A B L E IMPARTIALITY: T O W A R D A FOUNDATION FOR M O R A L E D U C A T I O N  by SCOTT PRIESTMAN  B.A. The University of Victoria, 1996 M . A . The University of British Columbia, 1999  A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL F U L F I L M E N T OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE D E G R E E OF  DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE F A C U L T Y OF G R A D U A T E STUDIES (Philosophy of Education)  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH C O L U M B I A September 2005 © Scott Priestman, 2005  Abstract This thesis develops a conceptual framework for one aspect o f moral education, moral reasoning. It begins with the assumption that any adequate program o f moral education must equip students with the abilities (broadly defined to include skills, dispositions, attitudes and intellectual capacities) that w i l l enable them to reason through the kinds o f moral problems they w i l l encounter in their lives. Following the work o f many ethicists and moral educators, I look to practical reasoning as the basis o f such an education.  This thesis also builds on previous work that undertakes to establish defensible standards o f good moral thinking. Working within a Popperian framework, I propose impartiality as the test to evaluate the adequacy o f our moral judgements and actions. A s I conceptualize it, impartiality is met i f no one can reasonably object to my moral judgement or action. Accordingly, the thesis outlines a number o f tests to determine i f an objection is reasonable or not. B y comparing my conception o f impartiality to other common ones (as developed by Kant, M i l l , Rawls, Hare and Habermas) and defending it against critics of impartiality (like Iris M a r i o n Young) I articulate a common ground that retains something that is fundamental to the concept yet avoids the problems that many see with it. I conclude by suggesting how a pedagogy o f critical engagement with these standards (both how they are generated and how they are applied) w i l l help foster moral growth.  Table of Contents  ABSTRACT  .II  TABLE OF CONTENTS  Ill  CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION.. i  1  I. T H E P R O B L E M  7  II. C O N T E X T U A L I S M A N D T H E M O R A L C O N T E X T  8  III.  IMPARTIALITY  10  IV. I M P A R T I A L I T Y : CRITIQUES  11  CHAPTER 2: M O R A L EDUCATION  16  I. M O R A L R E L E V A N C E A N D M O R A L C O N F L I C T P R O B L E M S II. M O R A L E D U C A T I O N  :  16 :  19  i. Approach 1: Do Nothing. ii. Approach 2: Indoctrinate/Condition Certain Values...: iii. Approach 3: Clarify Values iv. Approach 4: Teach Specific Values or Virtues  20 22 23 25  a. Whose Values, W h i c h Virtues? b. Interpretation of Virtues and Applying Them  .26 29  v. Approach 5: Kohlberg and Teaching Through Moral Dilemmas  31  a. Kohlberg Critiqued  vi. Approach 6: Care vii. Approach 7: Ethical Theories.:  34  , ,  a. Problems  43  viii. Approach 8: Nash's 'Real World'Ethics III.  47  CONCLUSION  CHAPTER 3: CONTEXTUALISM  37 41  48  ,  50  I. C O N T E X T U A L I S M : G E N E R A L ORIENTATION  50  II. C O N T E X T U A L I S M : S T E P - B Y - S T E P  53  III.  C O N T E X T U A L I S M : A POSSIBLE OBJECTION  ....:  58  IV. V A L U E S , F R O M W H E R E D O T H E Y C O M E ?  60  V . DETAILED EXAMPLE...  63  CHAPTER 4: OTHER CONCEPTIONS OF IMPARTIALITY I.  71  IMPARTIALITY T H R O U G H T H E A G E S  71  a. Mill and Consequentialist/Utilitarian Theories... b. Kant and Deontological Theories  72 75  . II: M O D E R N CONCEPTIONS OF IMPARTIALITY  a. Rawls and the Original Position b. R.M. Hare and Universalizability  78  78 80 iii  I l l : H A B E R M A S A N D D I S C O U R S E ETHICS  82  I V . R E P L Y TO H A B E R M A S  84  a. Determination of Reasonableness b. Dialogical vs. Monological Approaches c. The Pragmatics of Assent d. The Nature of Reasons (Reasonable Pluralism) e. Moral Maturity and Sophistication.  55 86 90 91 98  V . CONCLUSION  ...98  C H A P T E R 5: J U S T I F Y I N G  IMPARTIALITY A SA NECESSARY FEATURE O F  M O R A L REASONING  .  100  I. M E A N I N G OF T H E T E R M M O R A L  102  II. F U N C T I O N A R G U M E N T  105  III. D E M O C R A T I C A R G U M E N T  107  IV. CONCLUSION  108  CHAPTER6:  REASONABLENESS.....  109  I. S T A N D A R D S OF G O O D P R A C T I C A L R E A S O N I N G  110  a. Sufficiency and Accuracy of Information b. Consideration of Alternatives c. Assessing Reasons and Scrutinizing Relevant Values  Ill 113 114  II: J O H N R A W L S ' S C O N C E P T I O N OF R E A S O N A B L E N E S S  116  III: J O H N K E K E S ' S P R I M A R Y A N D S E C O N D A R Y G O O D S  120  a. Extent of Responsibility...: b. Metaphysical Problem  124 125  ,  I V : M I C H A E L PHILIPS'S D O M A I N E T H I C  -..>.  130  V . CONCLUSION  135  C H A P T E R 7: F E M I N I S T / P O S T M O D E R N I S T C R I T I Q U E S I. Y O U N G  138  ".  a. Argument 1 b. Argument 2.....  138  :  i. The Difference Set a. Critique 1 b. Critique 2 c. Critique 3. i i . The Negative Consequences Set a. Critique 4 b. Critique 5 c. Critique 6  138 140 .  141 141 145 148 150 150 151 152  II. C O N C L U S I O N C H A P T E R 8: C O N C L U S I O N I. PURPOSE OF T H E THESIS II. D E F E N D I N G M Y R E A S O N A B L E N E S S C O N C E P T I O N  a. Arguments in Summary  154 1  160 ,  160 162  162 iv  b. Possible Objections -:. i . Overly Formal—Relativistic i i . Overly Substantial—Not Respecting Diversity c. Does it Work?  164 164 167 171  III. E D U C A T I O N A L IMPLICATIONS  178  I V . CONCLUSION  184  R E F E R E N C E LIST  186  v  Acknowledgements and Dedication This thesis would not have possible, nor as fun, without the support, encouragement and distraction o f many people. I am grateful to all who have had a hand in this. Y o u are far too many to mention by name, but I would like to extend a very heart-felt thank you to: Jerry Coombs, from whose work my work grows, who has been a wonderful guide throughout my graduate career and who very kindly agreed to stay on as supervisor after he retired. Daniel Vokey, who very capably stepped into a supervisory role when he joined the department and, without whose guidance, I would not have been able to finish this thesis, nor finish it so well. B i l l Bruneau, who also joined the project part way through, who also kindly stayed on after his retirement and who has contributed a valuable perspective on the work. Also, thanks are in order to Murray Elliot and Pamela Courtenay H a l l who helped get the project off the ground. John, not only the best friend I could hope to have, but someone who has become more of a brother than I would have thought possible again. The many wonderful friends around town who have helped remind me that there is a world to enjoy in addition to grad scewle: K a m a & Cary, Scott & Lea, Christianne, Maegen & Harry, Maddie & W i l l e m and Megan and the many other folks who made Green College such a fun place to live, the zoology/softball/bridge crowd, Shaun and Joan, and especially Paige, who inspires me in so many ways to stay open to the richness and wonder o f life. The many valued colleagues and friends around the department who have helped make this a very enjoyable place to work: Amanda, my comrade thru so many things, Anne, Don, Shauha, John, Jon Eben, Hart, Mark, le Pidge, Dennis of the filth, Anita, the F-Troop and on and on. A l l those who made my sojurns to Madison so enjoyable. Fran Schrag, Dan Pekarsky and Michael Olneck who welcomed me into the department there. A n d especially to Suzanne, who has become not only my most valued colleague but also a wonderful friend. The great teachers o f my past who have helped get me to a point where I could do and enjoy this work; especially Dan Sherman and Rodger Beehler. A l l of the students who have inspired and challenged me and kept my reason for being at the university ever clear.  Bea and Simone, both o f whom were enormous and joyful parts Of my life at various stages of this project. The family on Denman who have offered so much these past fifteen years, helping me to find a home in B C and stay grounded, but also helping me to grow in so many different ways. A n d last but not least, to all my family who have offered so much and provided an unwavering foundation from which I venture forth into the world.  Vll  For my parents, whose kindness and love have made so much possible  and  For my brother Andy, who lives on in so many different ways  viii  Chapter 1: Introduction What kind o f moral training should schools offer the young o f our society? Few educational questions are more contentious or demanding o f attention, than this. A s N e l Noddings writes, "The need for moral education is apparent to everyone, but concerns about the form it should take induce paralysis" (1988, p. 218). One reason for this divergence of views on form is that people cannot agree on what the aims o f moral education should be. This thesis presents a view o f moral reasoning that answers (at least i n part) what the aims and the substance o f moral education should be. It begins with the assumption that a fundamental goal o f moral education should be to equip young people with the tools they w i l l need to grapple successfully with the moral problems they w i l l face i n their lives. Whatever else we might want to do in moral education (acculturate the young, instill particular values, condition certain behaviours), at the very least we need to help students develop the ability to make sensitive, intelligent and appropriate decisions when faced with moral problems. One way o f understanding my project here is to think o f what it would mean to be a good critical thinker about moral problems/issues. In most aspects o f schooling, the development o f critical thinking is either an explicit goal o f a curriculum or something that is believed to be desirable. But what exactly is meant by critical thinking? According to Harvey Siegel, the critical thinker is one who is appropriately moved by reasons (Siegel 1988 pp. 55-61, 1997, p. 4).  1  But what are we to make o f this normative term "appropriate"?  According to Israel Scheffler (1966, p. 99-114), what constitutes good thinking (and here good thinking and critical thinking are one and the same) is, in part, a function of a particular discipline. There is a logical sub-structure common to all good thinking that provides a foundation for reasoning. Further, each discipline (subject area) has different  Siegel's conception is not the only way to think of critical thinking of course. However, it is a good way to think of it and one that is useful for elucidating my project here. I take his usage hence as not the only word on the subject, but as a way of clarifying what I am aiming to achieve in this thesis. 1  1  standards o f what constitutes good thinking. Good thinking i n history is unlike good thinking in chemistry. Within history, for example, there is a belief o f what constitutes good evidence , how that evidence can be used, what kinds o f inferences one can draw, what sort 2  of conclusions one can reach. Chemistry w i l l rely on different kinds o f evidence, different ways o f drawing inferences and conclusions. Finding a journal written by an explorer in 1750 w i l l provide interesting historical evidence but w i l l not be useful evidence at all in a study o f chemistry. Agreement on these kinds o f issues help to define and set the boundaries of a discipline. A s Scheffler argued (along with many others) the goal o f education should be to initiate students into these various traditions (disciplines). W e do not want to simply teach students dates and names. Rather, we want them to be able to think like an historian (or a chemist, a physicist, a literary scholar, and so on). Said in another way, we want to have students who are capable o f thinking critically about issues in various subject areas. But one can only do this critical thinking within the standards that govern any particular discipline. For Scheffler, this is equally true o f moral education as o f education in any other discipline, "The challenge o f moral education is the challenge to develop critical thought in the sphere of practice and it is continuous with the challenge to develop critical thought in all aspects and phases o f schooling" (1973, p. 143-44). In most cases, the standards that underlie a particular subject are well established and relatively uncontroversial (especially as they are taught in elementary and high schools). This is not the case with morality, however, where much disagreement exists regarding how we determine what good thinking is. To address this lack, this thesis outlines standards to help determine when thinking about moral issues has been done well; in other words, to help clarify what it means to be a critical thinker in the domain o f morality. Why are such standards lacking in morality? There are many possible reasons for this, two of which I w i l l speak to. First, throughout much o f the western philosophical tradition, many have not seen morality as a field requiring practical judgements.  3  Instead,  There can, occasionally, be some disagreements about certain kinds of evidence. Until recently, most historians believed that only what was written could count as evidence. Now, many historians will accept oral narratives as good evidence. In this way, disciplines evolve and grow—but slowly. Obviously there have been exceptions to this, Aristotle being one notable example.  2  3  2  many ethicists have approached morality in a systematic way, looking for one or a few basic principles that could give rise to all our moral knowledge. Instead o f searching for standards that would determine good thinking about morality, these ethicists sought some foundation from which one could deduce answers to moral problems.  4  A second reason why such standards are lacking in morality is because o f the sheer difficulty o f finding consensus (or even anything remotely close) on them. In our pluralistic societies, there are innumerable views on what is morally appropriate. Some arise from religious traditions; other from the perceived nature o f society; others views o f human nature. Given this diversity, it is enormously difficult to find common ground to begin to discuss these standards. It is necessary that we do, however, because without some unifying moral foundation, societies w i l l fragment. If everyone merely has her own view about what is morally good, we fall into relativism and moral decay. O n the other hand, i f we are too narrow in our proclamations about what is morally good (especially in schools and any other state-run institution) then we fail to respect the pluralism o f society that is the hallmark of any democracy. This thesis aims to find in these standards a foundation that w i l l appeal to as wide an audience as possible without privileging any particular view; thus offering a middleground between universalism and skepticism. One cannot, however, start from nowhere. To even begin to discuss moral reasoning is to presuppose some understanding o f what we are talking about when we use the term "moral". In so doing, I necessarily privilege this understanding o f morality while excluding any that does not follow from this conception. M y wish is to begin from as broad and uncontroversial a conception o f morality as possible. Acknowledging this limitation, there are some basic assumptions that I make that are best laid on the table from the outset (though I w i l l deal with them in more detail in chapter 5). M y concern is teaching students in modern, pluralistic, democratic societies. Although there might be an ethical argument to be made that all children should be given this education, the argument holds more weight in a democratic society. Related to this, I have something like a Kantian notion o f moral personhood in mind when I speak o f morality: other people matter, they have value as beings in themselves and our actions must respect  4  For a more detailed discussion of this 'great systems' approach, see chapter 2 , section VII.  3  others' worth. A s the reader w i l l notice this is all quite vague: others matter, but how much? others matter, but what follows from this? when have I shown adequate respect? how do I . recognize their value? It is in these details that the substance o f morality comes through. A n d although I start from a Kantian position on moral personhood, my view o f details departs quite drastically from Kant's moral thinking. A third assumption is that reason matters in morality. This is not to imply that one must reason about everything, nor that someone lacking in any sophisticated kind of moral education cannot be a morally good person. Rather, I assume that i n order to grapple with complex, difficult moral problems, individuals w i l l be in a better position i f they are able to reason through a situation. This 'training students to be appropriately moved by moral reasons' is, I shall argue, necessary in moral education. L i k e Kant, I focus rely on a conception o f impartiality.  Unlike many common  understandings o f impartiality, my conception— which I call the Reasonableness Conception of Impartiality (hereafter RCI)—is normative. B y this, I mean that impartiality is not an either/or state o f affairs. Rather there is a continuum along which moral judgements can be seen as either more or less impartial. A l l other things being equal, the more impartial the judgement, the more morally adequate it w i l l be. Hence to improve the quality of our thinking (to become better critical thinkers about moral issues) we need to better understand these standards. Teaching these standards to students thus can become a central focus in programs o f moral education. To get a better understanding o f this normative sense o f impartiality, consider these two hypothetical, though not unrealistic, scenarios. In the first, imagine a high school principal. He must recommend one student to be considered for a prestigious scholarship. Two students are clearly better than the rest and both could be considered worthy. A l l in all, though, student A is clearly the better choice than student B . Student B happens to be the daughter o f the principal's friend. This latter fact leads the principal to recommend student B . In the second, imagine a woman who has been given enough money to send a child to a prestigious art school. This woman must decide i f she w i l l use the money to allow her own daughter to attend the school, or a friend's child. The woman's child is not particularly  4  talented at art (though good enough to just gain acceptance to the school) nor is she all that enthused about attending the school. In contrast, the friend's child is enormously talented with a bright future i n art, i f she gets the proper training. Further,.this friend's child will not be able to attend the school unless the woman in question chooses to give her the money. The woman knows that the friend's child would get infinitely more enjoyment out o f the experience than her daughter and yet she chooses to send her daughter to the school instead. What do these two stories have in common? Both show someone acting from a particular perspective, from a partial point-of-view. For our purposes, notice in the second 5  case partiality is acceptable, in the first it is not.  6  Even though many (most?) third-party  observers would urge the woman to give the money to the friend's child, most of us (I think) would agree that the woman has done nothing morally wrong in acting partially and choosing to send her own child. The same cannot be said for the first case. The fact that the principal has particular feelings toward the one child does not justify treating her differently. W h y in one case is the partiality considered acceptable whereas in the other it is not? According to common understandings o f impartiality, both examples above show no impartiality because to be impartial (on this understanding) is to act with no motivation arising from one's personal position/situation. But i f one story shows something morally acceptable, the other something morally wrong, is impartiality not ruled out as a measure o f moral worth? M y answer is to suggest a refined conception o f impartiality that w i l l allow us to continue to use it as a measure of moral adequacy—my R C I . According to my R C I , the first case is not one that meets standards o f impartiality, but the second one is. Even though the mother privileges her daughter i n particular ways, she does not do so unfairly and hence meets the moral demands o f my R C I and is thus impartial (according to my conception). The same cannot be said for the principal in the first case who does unfairly privilege his own position and so, according to my R C I , is acting in a morally unacceptable way (i.e. not  Partial here meaning the same as partisan. Throughout this thesis, I will make some claims about what 'our' moral intuition suggests. I realize this is is risky and that the practice of speaking for others is one best done with exceeding caution, if at all. But 1 have to get at certain moral intuitions that I consider to be widely shared in our society and so propose to speak for others. If, at any time I do make a general claim that is representative of only a particular view point, please consider whether this defeats the point I am trying to make or whether it is simply a poor choice of examples. 5 6  5  o  impartially). Notice how it is the fairness criterion here that establishes the moral quality o f the action and not merely whether one has given greater favour to one's own position. To anticipate our discussion a little bit, I ' l l here offer a barebones understanding of R C I . Impartiality is not some 'state' we are in when we make a judgement (it is not "a view from nowhere"), nor do particular judgements necessarily come about because they are made impartially. Rather, I understand impartiality to be a test we can apply to our judgements after they are made to determine their adequacy. Roughly speaking, we achieve impartiality i f anyone (anyone judging reasonably) can look at our judgement and deem it acceptable. Put in another way, a judgement is impartial (according to my R C I ) i f no one could reasonably object to it. It does not follow that any other person would make this same judgement (impartiality still allows for a plurality o f value positions) but only that others can see my judgement as reasonable. Impartiality has long been a central tenet o f most moral theories. From Plato, through Kant to more modern writers such as John Rawls, morality has depended upon the agent acting/judging impartially. If a morally inappropriate action has taken place (stealing orlying, for example), it should not matter who committed the act (unless this difference is relevant, somehow making the situation importantly different). If I think it wrong for a stranger to lie, then it must be equally wrong for my mother to lie i n similar circumstancesregardless o f my feelings for her. It is here that we get one o f the quintessential moral axioms: justice is blind. Think o f the enduring image o f a blindfolded woman, holding the scales of justice. The lack o f sight is meant to imply that all w i l l be treated fairly, without regard to such factors as age, ethnicity, gender, class or race. A s Barbara Herman succinctly puts it, "Impartiality per se is the requirement that like cases be treated alike" (1993, p. 185). Recently however, impartiality has come under attack on several fronts (see, for example, Held 1998, Noddings 1984, Sherwin 1993, Walker 1998, Williams 1985, Young 1990, 1997). Theorists o f all different stripes have been examining the concept and casting doubt on it. Impartiality, it is sometimes claimed, is simply an impossible ideal to achieve. We are inextricably the product o f our upbringing, o f our environment, o f our genetic heritage and o f our past experiences. To think that we can get outside o f these factors to be an impartial judge/actor is fantasy. The critiques go further, however. Impartiality, or at least 6  our striving towards it, has many negative consequences for society. It masks oppression by giving the appearance o f fairness, allowing that oppression to continue unchecked. Further, impartiality (or the hope o f it) reinforces the oppression by normalizing, or universalizing the point-of-view o f privileged groups. Because impartiality is impossible, by striving for it we are simply asking everyone to adopt the partisan perspective o f those who dictate what impartiality should consist of; namely the dominant group(s) in society. B y forcing everyone to the same perspective i n this way, the striving for impartiality eliminates difference in society, reducing all to one subjectivity (see Young 1990). These and other critiques I discuss below. If sound, these critiques are quite damning of the whole impartiality project. I shall contend that these critiques are important, but that they need not do the kind o f damage to impartiality that they might initially suggest. The reason for this is that those supporting impartiality are using the concept i n a way that is 7  different from those who oppose it. A s such, there is actually more common ground between the two camps than is generally acknowledged. I contend that impartiality does play a key role in our moral reasoning. However, I am also sympathetic to many o f the critiques and so I w i l l conceptualize impartiality within the limits that these critiques establish.  I. T h e P r o b l e m Like many other moral concepts, the concept o f impartiality is open-textured. A s such, there is no simple way to understand it, no dictionary definition that w i l l be of much use. If we are to use impartiality sensitively and intelligently as a test in our moral lives, we w i l l require a fairly extensive and nuanced understanding o f the concept. In no way am I implying that only an intellectual or educated elite can gain this understanding. Rather, I claim that an understanding o f impartiality requires thought and reflection. The more we understand impartiality and its role in moral judgement, the more sophisticated and adequate w i l l be our moral judgements (other things being equal). To offer the reader as rich an understanding o f impartiality as I can, I begin by exploring the concept from a number o f different angles, looking at the way impartiality has been used in some o f the major ethical theories in western philosophy. I then argue why it is  7  necessary to our moral judgements/actions. Next, I explore what the concept involves and when/how it is achieved. Finally, I review several critiques o f impartiality, showing in what ways these help us to recognize the limitations and dangers o f impartiality. I also intend to answer (in part, at least) other questions:  1) what is good moral  thinking and how can we thoughtfully address the complex moral issues that confront us in our lives?; 2) what kinds o f things should be taught in programs o f moral education?; 3) how can we resolve the enormous challenges brought on by the rich diversities in our modern, multicultural societies and the value-pluralism that accompanies this? While the main question addressed in this dissertation might appear, at times, abstractly philosophical, I urge the reader to keep in mind the practical implications of this work that I have alluded to in this paragraph (and which I w i l l expand upon in the next chapter).  II. Contextualism and The M o r a l Context To begin, I w i l l set this question o f impartiality within an ethical framework. This framework, in turn, arises out o f a desire to defend a way o f doing moral education. Though this work w i l l largely be philosophical, I consider myself an educator first, a philosopher second. Thus, while wading through the philosophical detail o f the thesis, I urge the reader. to keep in mind that this is ultimately going to have some educational significance. I next explore several common approaches to moral education. Excepting the first, I argue that each has merit. None by itself is sufficient because none gives students all the tools they need to function as moral beings in society. A s I said at the beginning o f this chapter, this is a fundamental purpose o f any moral education program. W e expect that each and every individual citizen w i l l act as a moral being, in morally appropriate ways. With this expectation comes a responsibility for the state to give the young, through public education, the capacity and know-how to so act. We require a program o f moral education that prepares students for the "real world". Contextualism is a way o f moral reasoning that looks first to the specifics o f a situation. It then asks us to pick out the morally relevant features of the situation and to see what moral principles are at stake. We then imagine what possible courses o f action are open to us. We  7  This is a very general statement, as impartiality is used in many different ways by different people.  8  consider the pros and cons o f each alternative and choose the one that has the best reasons supporting it. Contextualism helps us to be clear about what the situation is about which we must make a judgement. It does not make that judgement for us. Far from being a weakness, this is one o f the strengths o f the approach. Anyone promising readymade, easy answers from ethical theories is wrong—such theories have little use in the real world. M o r a l decisions are often the toughest we face. W e cannot escape judgement and action. Contextualism lays out the case before us, helping us to understand the complexities o f the judgement at hand. A n d yet that judgement still has to be made. Contextualism asks us to compare the reasons supporting and denying each o f a number o f possible alternatives. We choose based upon which course o f action we have the best reason to support. This presupposes, however, that we are able to compare the relative merits o f different reasons. This is where a judgement has to be made (though there is judgement required also in identifying the problem, laying out various alternatives and imagining the likely consequences o f each alternative). H o w exactly this judgement is made is the central question that I am interested in with my work. Y e t it is an enormously complex question, far too large to answer within the context o f this thesis. Instead o f grappling with it in its entirety, I w i l l examine one facet of the judgement process, impartiality. I am going to argue, and show i n what way, impartiality is a necessary condition o f good moral judgement. I w i l l argue that it is a test we apply to tentative moral judgements to assess their adequacy. A s such, the thesis w i l l provide a small contribution to our understanding o f what is involved in moral judgement. It w i l l , secondarily, have something to say about what kinds o f things should be taught within a program o f moral education. M y defense o f Contextualism w i l l be incomplete. I shall offer strong reasons to think it a useful approach to moral education and to moral reasoning in general. Further, I shall give reasons to doubt the completeness o f alternative approaches to moral education. In other words, I undertake to show how Contextualism provides more guidance in making practical/professional judgments than its competitors. But I do not pretend that mine is the 9  last word. There is likely more to be said about alternatives I list and those unmentioned. Why argue for a Contextualist view? There are three main reasons. First, I provide a strong (though not conclusive) argument for preferring Contextualism to other moral reasoning and moral education approaches. Second, before delving into the more abstract philosophical material, I want the reader to be clear about the educational dimensions o f the work. A s I mentioned above, my primary emphasis is education. B y expounding upon Contextualism, I build a strong link between the philosophical theory and a practical application of the theory—moral education. Finally, I must set out the theory in which I w i l l argue for the necessity o f impartiality. There are many different types o f reason-based moralities, Contextualism being just one. Critiques of impartiality w i l l apply differently to different reason-based moralities. To defend my conception o f impartiality, it is thus necessary to understand how it fits within a larger moral reasoning context.  III. Impartiality W i t h this context set, it is then time to move to a direct examination o f impartiality. Chapter four begins with an exploration o f two main streams o f ethics within western philosophical thought and shows how impartiality plays a role in each o f them. I then turn to some modern philosophers,John Rawls, R . M . Hare and Jiirgen Habermas, for whom impartiality is a central feature o f moral reasoning. Rawls raises some fundamental considerations about impartiality that must be heeded in any thinking about moral reasoning. M y approach (Contextualism) is similar to Habermas's approach in a lot o f ways. Because of these similarities, I w i l l take some time exploring his work and especially showing how our approaches diverge. These differences w i l l be useful in clarifying what exactly I am meaning with my conception o f impartiality. Having some understanding o f how impartiality has been used in other philosophical theories, I w i l l then turn directly to my own conception o f it, within the Contextualist framework. I am going to argue that impartiality is better understood as a moral (normative) term rather than an empirical (descriptive) one. N o judgement or action can ever be made/done with total impartiality. But this is the empirical understanding o f the term that I 10  am not interested in. What my conception demands is that we must be impartial in regards to the important aspects o f our judgement. Which aspects are important? To answer this question, I w i l l identify the different ways in which impartiality is important to our moral judgements/actions. B y understanding the function o f impartiality and the role it plays in our judgements/actions, we w i l l be in a better position to judge i f it has been met in this normative sense. In defending my conception o f impartiality, I w i l l explore two separate, though related, paths. The first (chapter 5) is to show why impartiality is an important feature of moral reasoning. I call this the justificatory  aspect because it justifies why impartiality must  be part o f sound moral reasoning. The second avenue (chapter 6) I call the determinatory aspect. This looks to see how we determine whether or not a judgement meets acceptable standards o f impartiality. Combined, these two aspects w i l l tell us why and how impartiality is necessary in moral judgements (and, by extension, in what ways it is not necessary). B y the end o f chapter six then, I w i l l have laid out both my conception of impartiality and the context in which it is supposed to operate. From here I w i l l turn to the various critiques o f impartiality that abound in the literature.  IV. Impartiality: Critiques Critiques o f impartiality are numerous and arise from many different sources. There is not time in this thesis to explore them all and to show how my conception o f impartiality does not fall victim to their objections. Instead, I w i l l look at what I consider to be the most important critiques and explore them. Chapter seven looks at feminist and postmodernist critiques (though the concerns expressed here are also reflective o f critiques from other theoretical perspectives). Iris Marion Y o u n g (1990, 1997) raises two distinct objections to impartiality, each representing a common type o f objection. In these critiques, I w i l l follow her general distinction. The first claims that impartiality is an impossible ideal to achieve. To this are related various epistemological problems with impartiality. The second claim is that regardless o f whether we can achieve it, it is dangerous to strive for impartiality. Wrapped up in this are a number o f different moral claims (though I realize that many would argue that 11  we cannot separate out the moral and epistemological elements—this w i l l be something I explore). In addressing the epistemological questions, I w i l l draw upon Sandra Harding's (1991, 1993) notion o f Strong Objectivity. Harding meets the challenge that our judgements can never be totally objective, that there are factors about ourselves that we cannot (and should not want) to get away from. However, this does not mean that objectivity is a useless ideal. Rather, it shows that there are factors that typically work against it. If we want to achieve as objective a position as we can, we need to be aware o f the kinds o f factors that tend to work against this and to critically explore these factors.  In a similar way I agree that  we can never be totally impartial. W e are inextricably the product o f our experiences, our background, our race, gender, class, and so on. A l l o f these factors w i l l bear upon our judgements. However, impartiality does not demand that we totally shed ourselves of these individual particularities. Rather, what it demands is that they do not, unreasonably, prejudice our judgements. Impartiality is thus best seen not as an either-or state, but rather one that admits o f gradations. If we meet some minimum threshold o f impartiality, then our judgements are morally acceptable (all other things being equal). The moral arguments touch upon a number o f different factors. In an overview essay on feminist ethics, Virginia Held (1990) points to three distinct areas that feminists are generally concerned with: 1) reason and emotion, 2) the public and the private and.3) the concept o f the self. Other feminist ethicists touch upon similar themes, though sometimes using different language. Within each o f these areas we can find a critique o f impartiality. I w i l l thus explore each one and show how my conception o f impartiality does not fall victim to these objections. Whereas chapter 7 looks at critiques made against impartiality i n general, chapter 8 w i l l anticipate certain critiques o f my R C I and respond to these specifically. I can imagine that certain readers w i l l argue that my conception o f impartiality is either overly substantive (and thus reflective o f merely a particular, partial point-of-view) or overly formal (and so too relativistic). I argue that impartiality, as I use it, is merely a test o f a moral judgement's  Harding stresses that this critical exploration is one best done in collaboration with others, having them help oneself explore one's own biases. In this I think she is right. 8  12  acceptability and does not imply specific value positions. However, a large number of theorists are arguing that there is no such thing as a merely benign procedural test, that all such 'formal' principles carry with them substantive value positions. T o an extent I agree. M y formal criteria do rule out a number o f possible value positions; namely those that are unreasonable. However, I w i l l maintain that my position does still admit o f a plurality o f value positions (as long as they are reasonable ones). A s such, it is not unreasonably substantive. A n d yet my procedure does give us grounds for saying that certain value positions are unacceptable. In this way, it avoids the trap o f relativism. A n offshoot o f this argument is the question o f who gets to decide what the procedures are. Because this is my thesis, obviously I get to in this case. However, in no way do I want to suggest that the criteria are fixed and forever closed. I believe I provide strong reasons to support the criteria I lay out in this thesis. A t the same time, I am open to suggestions and discussion about what else might be included or what might be deleted from my account. Further, within the Contextualist framework that I present, there is space for such discussions as well. With these possible objections overcome, I w i l l then turn to the conclusion o f the thesis. The main goal o f this work is to explicate the role that impartiality plays in moral reasoning but there are a number o f secondary goals addressed as well. The contributions of the thesis tojhese various goals (both primary and secondary) w i l l be summarized at the end of chapter eight. The most important o f these secondary goals is the explication, and initial defense, o f Contextualism as a way o f doing moral education. This practical outlet o f the theory w i l l be where my work ultimately has the most value. In chapter two, I offer some arguments to support my position that Contextualism should be the preferred way o f doing both moral education and moral reasoning. The rest o f the thesis can be understood as an indirect 9  argument supporting the same conclusion. Because Contextualism can deflect and overcome the criticisms made against impartiality, it is a moral approach that accords well with our intuitions about what morality should be (assuming, o f course, that we intuitively believe that  It should at least form a part of moral education—though there are many important aspects of moral education that it does not speak to (moral motivation, for example). 9  13  impartiality should be a feature o f moral reasoning; an assumption that has been largely held, at least throughout the history o f western thought). This indirect argument is sound, o f course, only i f the critiques made against other reason-based approaches to moral reasoning hold any water. I f other accounts can deflect and overcome the critiques to impartiality just as well, then Contextualism is not, on this account, necessarily better. Whether this is true is not, unfortunately, something I w i l l have time to delve into i n this thesis. To what extent the other ethical theories hold up against critiques of impartiality is not something I w i l l discuss. In this concluding section, I w i l l summarize the thesis and show the implications for moral education. Without getting into too much curricular detail, I w i l l explore what my conception o f impartiality entails for those wishing to offer moral education in schools. Another secondary goal is to bridge the gap between two opposing camps who, I w i l l argue, are in many respects talking past each other. A s the thesis unfolds, it w i l l become clear that (in general) those who support impartiality are analytic philosophers while those who are critical o f it are (in general) critical theorists o f one stripe or another (feminist, postmodernist, post-structuralist or other). There is often a large chasm between these two groups and dialogue across this chasm can be difficult. In this case, at least, I do not think that gulf is as large as initially appears. The two camps are arguing for different things, using the concept o f impartiality i n different ways. What I w i l l show is that, i f agreement is established on what the concept means, there is little difference in what the two camps hold. A s understood by critical theorists, the concept is contentious for many analytic philosophers. A s understood by analytic philosophers, the concept is unacceptable to many critical theorists. However, i f I can articulate a conception that takes the core o f what the analytic philosophers are arguing for, as well as avoiding the problems as seen by those who criticize impartiality, then there is a middle ground upon which both camps can find some agreement. Hegel's Dialectic seems relevant here. W e have a thesis (posed by analytic philosophers), its antithesis (articulated by critical theorists) and my work attempts to provide a synthesis between the two extremes, moving the debate forward. A tall order, especially as a secondary goal o f a project, but one that I think I w i l l have some success in fulfilling.  14  M y project is concerned with giving students the tools to deal with moral situations. The assumption is that they already have a concern with being moral beings, in acting in morally appropriate ways. A s Noddings explains it, Aristotle argued long ago that the only students who could profit from his teaching o f moral reasoning and theory were those who already had sound characters and an appreciation for the moral life. For him, philosophical instruction required a starting point in a real-life appreciation that certain ways of behaving are virtuous and others are not. (Noddings 2002, p. 40) The work in this thesis has nothing to say directly to getting students to this starting point (what above I referred to as moral motivation). Peters (1974, see chapters 12, 13) argued that the question o f moral motivation is one best dealt with by someone other than a philosopher (or at least that as philosopher, one has little to say about motivation). In this age o f interdisciplinarity I ' m not sure I can get away with that defense. However, moral motivation is a distinctly different topic than the one I am working on here (no less important), outside of the scope o f this thesis. Likewise, although Contextualism requires moral perception and sensitivity, aside from showing how these are necessary to moral reasoning, I w i l l have little to say directly about them.  15  Chapter 2 : Moral Education Common approaches to moral education (and their implied commitments to moral reasoning) are variously inadequate in dealing with real life moral problems. I here explore several o f these approaches and show how they are lacking. The goal behind this is to show that something i n addition to these common approaches is necessary; this something more w i l l be Contextualism, which I w i l l discuss in detail in the next chapter. To begin, I set out two distinct kinds o f problems that any adequate account o f moral reasoning must show it is able to address.  I. Moral Relevance and Moral Conflict Problems In deciding which approach to moral education is best, we have to know o f what a morally educated person should be capable. I agree in some measure with R.S. Peters's assessment that we should habituate children to the conventional morality of our society (1979, p. 349 f f ) . Whatever else we might want o f them, they should at least be able to get along in a socially-acceptable way. Maryann A y i m (1991) similarly thinks that, even beyond any academic training, schools should foster caring, affiliative, peacefully-coexisting citizens. But something more than this is needed. D o n Cochrane explains what this 'more' could be when he states: I want to claim that the object of moral education is the morally autonomous agent, one who does not necessarily conform to the conventions of a society, nor simply to the urgings of his or her idiosyncratic inclinations, but to the dictates of moral reason. (1979, p. 77) Cochrane is not implying that we simply throw out conventions o f society or our inclinations, both o f which can be useful guides in thinking about morality. But, the morally educated person should be able to subject these conventions and inclinations to critical reflection to see i f they are adequate to the situation at hand. Put another way, the morally educated person needs to be able to think through difficult real-life problems and arrive at a well thought-out, reasonable answer.  > 16  Embedded i n Cochrane's answer is a central commitment to autonomy. In supporting this, it may appear as though I am arguing strictly within a liberal-humanist position. While my theoretical sympathies might lie with this approach , what follows from Cochrane's 10  position is something that most should be able to endorse.  11  He argues that we should strive  to give students the tools they need to cope with the real world moral problems they w i l l face. While there can be disagreement as to what exactly these tools are, it is not merely a liberal position that seeks to so equip students. Cochrane emphasizes reason and the ability to go beyond the conventions o f one's society, as do I. However, I do not see this as exclusively a liberal-humanist position. Cochrane's explication combines two distinct, though important, elements: the capacity to carry out moral reasoning, and the disposition to so think and to follow, in actions, one's reasoned judgment. Both are crucial elements o f moral education, equally important. In this work, I only consider the first, the capacity to reason through moral issues. While I am only concerned with reason, i n no way do I agree with the position (perhaps erroneously attributed to Immanuel K a n t ) that only a judgment arrived at through cold logic 12  can produce a morally good action. People can and do act i n morally exemplary ways without the capacity to do moral reasoning as I am outlining here (or indeed any kind of sophisticated moral reasoning at all). Even so, the encouragement o f the capacity to reason should be a central goal o f moral education. Most moral situations require little thought or reasoning. In getting dressed this morning, I did not have to ponder whether putting on my own clothes or breaking into a  1 am leery of simply coming out and saying that I am arguing from a liberal-humanist tradition, for as Daniel Vokey warns, "labelling someone a "liberal" or a "communitarian" (for example) may do as much to obscure as to identify her or his fundamental commitments (2001, pp. 72-3). Instead of merely accepting or dismissing my argument because it seems like a liberal one, I would urge the reader to consider it on its own merits and not as a representation of any theoretical tradition. 10  Maclntyre's (1981, 1988) analysis of the rationality of traditions is helpful here. On the one hand, there is no way to reason morally except from a place internal to a moral tradition and its corresponding moral language/s and standards of argument. On the other hand, since the social world does not stay static, those committed to any particular tradition must be able to revise and/or extend its vocabulary and standards as the need arises, which implies awareness of limitations and a willingness to entertain alternatives. As Maclntyre does not identify as a liberal-humanist, his agreement with my position here suggests that this position is not merely a liberal-humanist one. 1 1  More on this issue later, see chapter 4, section Lb.  17  neighbour's house to 'borrow' his clothes was the right action; the choice was so obvious. Two kinds o f moral problems, however, do pose difficulties, sometimes enormous ones. The ability to reason through them is crucial i f we are to have any chance at reaching an acceptable conclusion. The two problem-types are moral relevance and moral conflict.  13  M o r a l conflict problems arise when two or more moral principles important to us conflict. A traditional example is Sartre's (1966) 'student dilemma', where a young man must choose whether to stay home and look after his aging mother, or leave his village to join the French Resistance i n fighting the Nazis. Both alternatives satisfy something this young man finds morally valuable. But both require the young man to abandon a duty he feels (either to his mother or to his country). H o w does the young man go about resolving this conflict? W e need not look to such extreme life-defining choices to see these problems. Examples can be far more mundane and part o f everyday life. Imagine my grandmother approaching me with a new dress, one I find quite hideous. If she asks me i f I like it, I could be caught in a moral conflict problem. If I tell the truth about the dress, I risk hurting her feelings. If I try to spare her feelings, I must lie. Both options have something to speak for them, but both require that I violate a principle I find important. H o w do I choose what to do? Moral relevance problems arise when we are unsure i f a particular moral principle is at play in a given situation. The abortion debate is a prime example o f this problem. Most of us would agree, I think, that it is wrong to kill human beings (unless, in some serious way, that person is threatening us). The disagreements i n the abortion debate arise because it is unclear i f a fetus is a human being or not. Pro-lifers and pro-choicers agree on the principle. The question is whether or not the principle applies in this case. To resolve moral relevance problems, we need to be able to understand the principle in question and .to intelligently and sensitively apply it to the situation at hand. This requires us to have some understanding of how the principle typically works in society and why it is important in an overall moral scheme—no small task .  •  In both these kinds o f problems, there may be more than one morally defensible solution to the problem. However, we still need to be attentive in our moral reasoning to ensure that we do not end up with a morally indefensible position. What is needed is the  13  My use of these terms is taken from James Wallace's work on this subject (Wallace 1988).  18  ability (and the willingness) to think through these problems, to interpret complex situations and the principles at play i n them so to come to a reasonable judgment about what to do. A n y program o f moral education that does not equip students to grapple with these kinds of problems is inadequate (or at least incomplete). .  W i t h this criterion in mind, let us explore various approaches  14  to moral education  and see how they measure up—that is whether they reliably generate defensible/reasonable moral choices. Because I explore these approaches from the limited perspective o f how successfully they deal with moral relevance and conflict problems, my critiques are incomplete. But, i f the reader is convinced that providing the resources (the tools) to think through these problems is a necessary feature o f an adequate conceptual framework for moral education, then failure to meet this criterion is prima facie evidence that a different approach should be considered (at least as an addition to other approaches).  II. M o r a l E d u c a t i o n Although we generally agree something should be done about moral education, agreement splinters when we ask just what that something should be. In exploring some common approaches to (paradigms of) moral education, I w i l l show how each is incomplete because each fails to enable students to reason through moral relevance and moral conflict problems. These common approaches include: 1) doing nothing, 2) indoctrinating/conditioning certain values, 3) clarifying values, 4) teaching specific virtues (often called character education), 5) promoting justice reasoning (Kohlberg's cognitive/developmental approach), 6) fostering care, 7) teaching the great ethical theories o f western philosophy, and 8) "real world" ethics (Nash's multiple ethical languages approach).  "Approaches" is a vague word, but necessarily so. The various orientations to moral education will differ from one another in various ways; in their explicit beliefs, tacit assumptions, priorities, attitudes, and practices. In some sense, it might be useful here to think of these various 'approaches' as competing paradigms of moral education (though I would not want the reader to get too wrapped-up in all of the implications of what 'paradigm' might entail).  19  i. Approach 1: Do Nothing Some hold a view that moral instruction has no place in the schools. Rather, it is seen as the duty o f the parents or o f the Church (or other religious institution) to morally educate the young. This view may arise from the belief that morality is a private thing, not appropriately talked about in public places. Parents may also believe that they have The Truth about morality and thus do not want their children exposed to other views that might corrupt the children. The reverse may also be true. More open-minded parents might worry that their children would be indoctrinated into a particular value-system through moral education. Both types o f parents may fear that, because religion and morality are so closely linked, to have any teaching o f morality in schools is necessarily to have the state teaching and/or controlling religion, a dangerous practice (Campbell 2003). A number o f arguments can be given to counter these objections. One o f the most fundamental holds that we expect citizens to act as moral beings, i n morally appropriate ways. A s such, we (public educators, as representatives o f the state) have responsibility to ensure that students have the capacities and dispositions needed for this. Although it would be great i f all students got this instruction at home, there can be no guarantee o f this. Therefore, we must provide such instruction in the schools to ensure that each and every individual receives it. A second typical argument arises from democratic theory, especially the liberaldemocratic tradition. This argument holds that the purpose (or at least one o f the most fundamental purposes) o f education is to enable each individual, when she is capable, to choose what sorts o f goods to pursue in life. This choice is especially relevant in the moral domain. If children are getting moral instruction only at home, it is unlikely they w i l l ever be in a position to make meaningful choices for themselves, for two reasons: 1) they w i l l not have exposure to the diversity o f moral traditions that exist and so w i l l not know the vast range o f options that they can choose from and 2) even i f aware o f the different options, they w i l l not have any mechanism for choosing between competing alternatives. Arguments like this can be found in such liberal sources, as Rawls (1971, 1993) or-  /  Callan (1997). Many, however, feel either that we do not live in a liberal society, or else that we should not (one can, o f course, believe both). But there are some, like A m y Gutmann 20  (1987), who argue this kind o f choice is necessary for all democratic societies, not merely liberal ones. While admitting that maximizing freedom o f choice is a liberal value and thus one not all share, Gutmann does argue that the core value, essential to all democracies, is conscious social  reproduction:  We are committed to collectively re-creating the society that we share. Although we are not collectively committed to any particular set o f educational aims, we are committed to arriving at an agreement on our educational aims. The substance o f this core commitment is conscious social  1  reproduction.. .It follows that a society that supports conscious social reproduction must educate all educable children to be capable o f participating in collectively shaping their society, (p. 39) Thus whether one is a liberal or not, this second argument is relevant in any democratic context. A third argument is that children need exposure to other view-points, other beliefsystems i f they are to learn tolerance. Whether we expect a Christian child ever to consider seriously Hinduism as a viable alternative, in our pluralistic societies that Christian child w i l l need to live beside and work with that Hindu child. If schools succeed i n opening the eyes of the young to various moral traditions, then it is thought that when grown-up, these children w i l l likely be more tolerant o f each other. This benefits not only the individuals involved, but society as a w h o l e .  15  A final argument against this approach moves away from such theoretical issues to the practicalities o f teaching. Whether doing so explicitly or not, whether we are consciously trying to or not, we are providing moral education to our students. In telling them to behave, to respect their classmates, not to cheat, we are giving students moral instruction daily. A s David Purpel and K e v i n Ryan write: The schools cannot avoid being involved in the moral life of the students. It is inconceivable for schools to take the child for six or seven hours a day, for 180 days a year, from the time he is six to the time he is eighteen, and not affect the way he  While this argument holds intuitive sense, it is questioned by some theorists. Jerrold Coombs, for example, writes that there is little empirical evidence to support the intuition (see Coombs 1986, p. 3, Kehoe 1978). 15  21  thinks about moral issues and the way he behaves. Nor can we divorce the intellectual from the moral realm. One can suppress discussion about moral issues and values, but one cannot suppress the development of values and the formation of morals. Moral education goes on all over the school building—in the classrooms, in the disciplinarian's office, in assemblies, in the gym. It permeates the very fabric of teacher-student relationship. The school, then, cannot help but be a force for growth or retardation—for good or evil~in the moral life of the student. Moral education is an inevitable role of the schools. For the educator, it comes with the territory. (Purpel and Ryan 1976, p. 9) If we are inevitably doing moral education anyway, it makes sense (so this argument goes) to do it in the best possible way we know how. This implies thinking seriously about outcomes we hope to achieve, what sort o f curriculum would be pedagogically consistent with these outcomes and the best teaching methods to implement this curriculum. A l l of this demands a conscious, intentional and explicit teaching o f morality in some form or another. What form should this be? Let us consider various proposed possibilities.  ii. Approach 2: Indoctrinate/Condition Certain Values This approach holds that there are specific values that we want to impart to students. A s educators (or policy/curriculum makers), we have reasons for choosing these values, but we are not concerned with having the students understand, appreciate or accept these reasons. Our goal is simply to acciilturate the students, to bring them to hold the values that society . deems appropriate. Several arguments can be made against this approach. A s the arguments in the previous section suggested, democratic theory necessitates individuals having the freedom to make up their own minds regarding which values to hold, which goods to pursue or how society should be "reproduced". If we are merely indoctrinating/conditioning students to hold certain values, then no choice is possible. Choice must be understood here not merely as a political freedom to make a choice. It also necessitates a kind o f psychological freedom, implying the capacities and dispositions to make a meaningful choice and a freedom from various constraints that prohibit or impair the exercise o f these capacities.  22  A second argument against this type o f approach is that it is not clear who is to decide which values should be conditioned. I w i l l discuss this more i n Approach 4 below. But to anticipate that discussion briefly, we can imagine how there is danger o f the dominant group in society passing on its own values thereby reinforcing its dominance. Here we can think of the German youth o f the 1930s and early 40s being indoctrinated into the N a z i mentality or First Nations people within Canada who were forced into Residential Schools with the goal of assimilating them into "Canadian culture/society". A third argument is that even i f we have success i n transferring values, and those are values we all deem to be worthy ones, students still need to apply the values to new situations. It is one thing to believe fairness is important. It is quite another to know when fairness is relevant and what implications it holds. It is a further problem i f fairness conflicts with another value we have been indoctrinated to hold dear, truth-telling for example. This approach gives little guidance in resolving moral relevance or moral conflict problems. Again, I w i l l discuss this problem i n more depth when we get to Approaches 4 and 5 below.  iii. Approach 3: Clarify Values Values Clarification was one o f the most influential approaches to moral education in the 1960s and 70s, growing out o f the work o f Louis Raths and his colleagues Merrill Harmin and Sid Simon. In their book Values and Teaching (1966), they explored a theory o f values and the role it played in education. The authors began with the premise that values are a too often ignored domain that may help to explain behavioural problems in children. Although research into emotional and intellectual causes had been abundant, they claimed no work had been done in connecting values and behaviour problems: " W e have found that several'kinds o f problems children often exhibit in school and at home are profitably seen as being caused by values, or, more precisely, by a lack of values" (1966, p. 4). Given the freedom which modern society offers, children can no longer be sure o f what values to hold or to commit to, and so end up in trouble. Values clarification hoped that, by helping students to clarify their own values, these negative characteristics could be overcome, or at least lessened.  23  A n important problem Raths and his colleagues brought to light was the burden that accompanies the (relatively enormous) freedom to create oneself: "What is to be done with one's life and force? Once a question mainly for philosophers, i n these times o f increasing complexity and change and abundance, it is a question that challenges almost all o f us, although often we move through our lives unaware o f it" (Raths et. al. 1966, p. 11). This is indeed a question that many people now have to deal with. Not only does the freedom for this follow from liberal democratic theory, it is also a result o f social conditions (and an abundance o f life's necessities) prevailing over the past several decades i n North America (at least for many o f us). What motivated their project in 1966, and mine now, is the belief that schools have an important role to play in helping to equip students with the tools necessary for answering this question (especially in the moral realm). What values clarification asks o f us is simply to become clear about what values we hold. Although I shall argue this is an important component o f good moral reasoning, it is not, on its own, an adequate approach to moral education. There is some disagreement whether values clarification moves us beyond this stage at a l l .  16  M a n y theorists think it does  not. If not, the result must be unsatisfactory. Simply because we are clear about our values, it does not follow that we are holding acceptable ones. Children are often raised to hold morally problematic values, ones that are racist, sexist, homophobic and the like. If we are simply getting students to be clearer "about these values, and re-affirming them, then we, as educators, are doing more harm than good. Values clarification provides no mechanism, nor demand, to evaluate critically these values. This relativism problem is damning enough for the approach, but there are other problems as well when we look to the educational impact it w i l l have. H o w does being clearer about one's values help us deal with morally problematic situations?. A s I w i l l argue below, being clear about what values are at play in a morally problematic situation is important, but it is merely one component o f many that are needed for a complete moral  Critics like John Stewart (1976) and Robert Carter (1984, p. 43-53) think not. Defenders like Harold Kirschenbaum (see 1977) do think Values Clarification can do so. As I argue in the body of this chapter, I do think Values Clarification (or something like it) can be a useful starting point for moral deliberation. However, once we move beyond this, it does not seem to me that we are doing Values Clarification any more and so it is misleading to use this title still. 16  24  judgment. If the purpose o f moral education is to help individuals deal with moral complexities in their daily lives, then values clarification falls far short o f attaining anything close to a desired outcome.  iv. Approach 4: Teach Specific Values or Virtues Approach 4 is similar to Approach 2 in that there are certain values that we want our young to adopt. This approach differs from the second one in that we want students to understand the values they are adopting, what virtues they are being taught and why they are important. The difference between the two appears in Thomas F. Green's distinction between teaching and either indoctrinating or conditioning (Green 1971, pp. 21). When indoctrinating or conditioning, our sole goal is to get students to adopt a certain belief or behaviour. In teaching, we are concerned with this as well. But further, we want the student to see that there are good reasons to adopt the belief or behaviour and to adopt it based upon these good reasons. Recall that one o f the objections to Approach 2 was that it did not respect the personhood o f individuals. Indoctrinating (or pre-rationally conditioning) is not a morally acceptable way to 'teach' students. Approach 4 overcomes this problem by appealing to the intellectual judgment o f the student. A s such, it respects the student's autonomy and her right to be treated with a certain kind o f respect. Notice, however, that with young children, the distinction between Approaches 2 and 4 can be blurred. Although we may want to engage the reason of each student, this is simply impossible with young children who have not yet come to learn the importance o f reasons. Theorists from Aristotle (2002) through to the present (see, for example, Hare 1964 and Siegel 1991) have recognized the need to habituate young children with appropriate moral actions, condition them into right ways o f acting. Later, when the children grow intellectually enough to understand the importance o f reasons, we can then appeal to their autonomy and personhood. To use Harvey Siegel's words (who, in turn, borrows this language from writers such as Peters and Scheffler), we redeem the previously non-rationally held beliefs by appeal to reasons (Siegel 1991, pp. 30-41).  25  Approach 4 thus overcomes one of the problems cited i n Approach 2. It does not, . )  however, have similar success with the other arguments against this method of moral education.  a. Whose Values, Which Virtues? Even granting the central place of reasons and reason-giving in the teaching, we are left with the question o f whose values are being taught, which virtues? It would appear that those who choose what should be in the curriculum are privileging their particular point-ofview and passing it on. This seems to speak against the democratic notion that schools should not teach for any one particular way o f life, but should teach so that multiple (reasonable) ways can be followed and tolerated. Two kinds o f counter-arguments can be posed here. The first appeals to some set of incontrovertible values/virtues that provide a safe (because unquestionable) starting point. One possible example o f this would be an appeal to the set o f virtues necessitated by virtue of living in a democracy. R . S . Peters makes such an argument in supporting such virtues as truth-telling, respect for persons, freedom (or autonomy) and impartiality (though note, I am not implying that Peters would support this fourth approach for moral education, merely that his argument for these "social virtues" could be adopted by one with that aim in mind) (Peters 1979, pp. 343-44). Another example o f such an argument could be found in something like a neo-Kantian appeal to moral personhood. There are certain virtues that a moral person must exercise (autonomy, for example) and others to be exercised in dealing with other moral persons (respect for their autonomy, faithfulness to reasons, and so forth.). Three general sorts o f problems arise in this kind of argument. The first is that, although it is claimed the lists are incontrovertible, they often are not. There are always people who disagree with one item on the list or another. Granted, simple disagreement does not prove the arguments wrong. Yet, that disagreement puts the burden on those creating the list to show why they are justified in having a given item on the list. It is not always the case they can provide arguments all reasonable people w i l l accept. The second problem is related to the first. Although some initial items on a list may prove to be unquestionable, list-makers rarely are content to stay at this level. Consider such 26  a list provided by Sher and Bennett i n their article Moral Education and  Indoctrination  (1982). They include such things as truth-telling, honesty and fairness. But they then go on to consider (and tentatively suggest) things like abstinence from pre-marital sex. While we might accept that the earlier items are necessary, certainly this last one is not. It represents a moral point-of-view that is easily contested by other reasonable, morally sound, individuals. The third problem is one that I w i l l deal with in more detail below. It argues that, even i f we have agreement as to what virtues should be on a list, this does not entail agreement as to how to interpret and to apply such virtues. W e may all agree that fairness is something desirably taught. Yet, we might still disagree i n how we interpret fairness and what fairness necessitates i n any given situation. Thus, what might appear to be an incontrovertible list is actually not so at all. A second counter-argument can be posed here. If the values and virtues that are being taught are later to be redeemed by reasons, then we have nothing to fear (or so this counterargument goes). W e may attempt to instill a particular value; selflessness, for example. However, i f an individual student comes to see that there are not good reasons supporting this virtue, then he w i l l not continue to be selfless. The student is not asked to accept all the values and virtues which he is initially conditioned to act upon. He is asked only to carry on with those that he sees as having good reasons supporting them. Defenders o f a particular set of values or virtues w i l l , o f course, think that there are good reasons supporting them. It w i l l thus be likely that most students w i l l continue to accept them. But there is nothing logically preventing students from abandoning some or all o f the values. While this counter-argument has some merit, I think it is ultimately unsuccessful in deflecting this criticism. The problem with this counter-argument is that it misunderstands the role that reasons play in our judgments, in at least one important way—their motivational aspect. Views like Sher and Bennett's seem to assume that good reasons provide some objective measure that w i l l induce us to action. There is something troubling about appealing to such metaphysical arguments, however. A more plausible description o f reason-motivation can be found in Raz's (1975, 1978) account which includes two constituent elements o f reasons: some objective fact about the world, and some desire that I, as the agent, hold. A fact about the world provides a reason to act in a given way only i f it overlaps or corresponds to some 27  desire I have. For example, I may be i n a cafeteria, wondering whether to buy something. M y being in the cafeteria does not give me reason to buy anything. It only becomes a reason i f there is some state that I desire, overcoming hunger for example, or nourishing myself. Once this subjective aspect o f reason motivation is seen, then we encounter a problem with this counter-argument. It claims that, once we see good reasons for maintaining (or, conceivably, for rejecting) one o f the conditioned virtues, then we have adopted it for our own. But in light o f this view o f reason-motivation, we must question whose reasons those are. A r e the reasons supporting that particular virtue ones we have been conditioned to accept as good as well? Here we get into a question o f authenticity of judgments. Simply because there are reasons to choose a course o f action does not imply that I would choose it. Let us illustrate this with an example. Imagine that, when I was a child, I was brainwashed (or strongly conditioned in some fashion) to believe I would be a doctor when I grew-up. U p o n growing up, I can see good reasons for becoming a doctor. It is a challenging career, one that w i l l allow me to live a life-style I want. Further, it allows me to serve society in a way that I want to. A n d yet, even for all o f these good reasons, there is no way, without this initial brain-washing that I would have chosen to become a doctor. Can this choice then be seen to be m y own? There is a disanalogy here between choosing a profession and choosing to adopt particular values and virtues. But the case is that much more dire when we consider the latter example. For not only are we choosing something later in life to (continue to) adopt. It is also something which we have, through our initial conditioning, been practicing continuously for many years. This adds in further problems. Often, there is a reward structure attendant upon these conditioned values/virtues. Such reward/punishment can only serve to heighten one's dedication to the values. Further, there is the plain fact o f human inertia. W e are creatures ( i n many cases) who like routine. Change o f any sort requires effort and hard work. The simple fact o f being one way (in relation to virtues/values or anything else) can often provide reasons for maintaining that way of living. Here again, the initial condition gives us reasons for our continual adoption o f that way o f life. If this is true, then we cannot appeal simply to reasons to show that the choice, later in life, is an authentic one (that is, not conditioned by our initial teachings). 28  Readers may disagree, or only partly agree, with my rebuttals to these types of counter-arguments. That is fine. Each rebuttal, on its own, gives us some reason to doubt that initial conditionings can be later redeemed by an appeal to reasons. If we have such doubts, then the claim that a type-4 approach is merely the teachings o f someone's partisan notion of goods, values and virtues is supported. If the reader has no such doubts, i f all o f my arguments o f the previous section are unconvincing, then this argument against type-4 approaches w i l l be equally unconvincing. Even i f this is the case, however, there is still a practical argument to be made against the approach. Let us turn to that now.  b. Interpretation of Virtues and Applying.Them A s I have alluded to a couple o f times above, this type o f moral teaching is limited. It is conceivable that there are a number o f virtues we agree are necessary for living a good life and necessary for our society to function. However, even granting this, there is a problem in interpreting o f what exactly these virtues consist, how and when they are to be applied, and what consequences follow from them. Moral concepts are "open-textured", meaning there are no clear boundaries demarcating any particular concept. This implies we cannot simply learn a moral concept by receiving a definition. Agreement on such definitions is largely impossible in any case. But even i f possible, it would still be doubtful that young children, being introduced to the moral language (and so to the moral realm) would gain anything by hearing a dictionary-type definition. Instead o f definitions, we learn moral concepts by seeing examples o f the concept at work. A child takes all o f her sister's toys and is told by her parents: "that is not fair". A teacher tells her class we have to share the cookie equally because "that is the fair thing to do". A coach tells his team in order to be fair, everyone is going to get equal playing time, even i f this means that the team does not have as good a chance to w i n the game. A young boy reads a story with his grand-mother entitled Fair Play. These examples can be multiplied as far as we want. The point to see is that this is how young children first come to recognize and understand moral (and likely, other) concepts. They see a word like 'fair' used in many different contexts and it is up to them to glean from these different usages what the term 29  means and what import it has. Notice in the third example given, this particular coach has given fairness priority over winning. It is just as conceivable that it could be reversed. The coach could say: "well, it would be fair to give everyone equal playing time, but today winning is more important than fairness and so we w i l l play our best players". We can see from such an example how easily a child can not only pick up how a moral concept is used, but also attitudes which attend upon the usage. A child exposed to adults like the coach in the first example w i l l be more likely to value fairness than the child exposed to adults like the coach i n the second. This simply shows the importance o f early moral teaching. This importance is well recognized by supporters o f this type-4 approach and motivates their moral education project. Aristotle, one o f the early virtue-theorists, wrote that there is nothing more crucial to moral health than a sound moral foundation: "It is not unimportant, then, to acquire one sort o f habit or another, right from our youth; rather, it is very important, indeed all-important (2002, N . E . 1103b 24-26). A supporter o f Contextualism, like myself, would not necessarily disagree with this. Where disagreement arises is when children get older and the moral problems they encounter get more complex. Consider the following example. A mother o f five, pregnant, wishes to have an abortion. She says that with her limited time and resources (financial and emotional) it would be unfair to her other children, and to the unborn child, to give birth to it. Assume now that we have a society in which the doctor is given the responsibility o f deciding whether there is good enough reason to allow an abortion. This doctor, educated in a type-4 approach, has some notion o f what fairness is and has a firm commitment to it. Is she i n a position to judge whether fairness is a relevant factor here? If she judges that it is, how does she weigh the relative importance o f fairness against other relevant moral considerations? Let us change the situation slightly and imagine that, instead of just one doctor making the decision, we have a panel of five. A l l five have been educated i n the same type-4 moral approach. Is it not likely that there could be considerable disagreement over whether fairness is a relevant concern here and further, what importance considerations o f fairness should play? I am in no way suggesting that such disagreements are bad or that any other approach to moral education can (or should seek to) avoid them. What I want to point out is simply that a type-4 approach gives us no way to mediate such disagreements (either our own 30  uncertainty or disagreement amongst a group o f people). General understanding of, and commitment to, appropriate virtues might be a good start (though it is still problematic as to who decides what the appropriate virtues are). But, on its own, it is surely not sufficient. This type o f approach does not give us adequate tools to deal with morally complex situations and as such cannot be an adequate approach to moral education. M y conception o f virtues education is, admittedly, simplistic. What I am criticizing are the unsophisticated kinds o f character education that Alfie K o h n attacks in his article How not to teach values (1997). There are, however, far more sophisticated varieties of the approach that go beyond the simple inculcation o f virtues. Theorists like David Carr (1991) certainly recognize the problems I raise here. But, in overcoming these problems, these theorists need to move beyond this simplistic version of virtues education. What exactly this something more is then becomes the crucial question. What kind o f moral understanding is needed to be able to apply these virtues? Though framed in a different way, this is the question I am addressing with this thesis. Thus, this more sophisticated version of virtues education is consistent with the project I am pursuing here. Whatever moral clarity we can gain by my exploration o f impartiality can help to answer what this something more might entail. H o w then do we deal with such morally complex situations? To conclude this chapter, I want to review four possible approaches. The first is Kohlberg's cognitivedevelopmental approach. The second looks at a response to Kohlberg, the Ethic o f Care. The third is a more general, comparative theories approach. Finally, I w i l l briefly explore one version o f a practical reasoning approach, Robert Nash's 'Real W o r l d ' Ethics.  v. Approach 5: Kohlberg and Teaching Through Moral Dilemmas Without question, one the most influential names in moral education is Lawrence Kohlberg, a psychologist who conducted extensive longitudinal studies that explored how people respond to moral problems. Kohlberg took the empirical results o f these studies and  31  constructed a theory o f moral development that has become the basis o f many programs of moral education.  17  In these studies, Kohlberg would give the subjects a moral dilemma, often involving a moral conflict problem (as I have been using the term in this chapter). The subjects would give an answer to this dilemma, but also their reasoning for their answer. It was this reasoning that Kohlberg was interested in. From his data, he concluded that there are 6 distinct stages o f moral reasoning, demarcated by the kind o f reason one would give to justify one's answer (and the motivation to act that was revealed therein). Because it is the form of 18  reasoning that Kohlberg is interested in, he claimed to be giving a formal account of moral development. From his studies, Kohlberg concluded that there is, among all people i n all cultures, an invariant progression through these stages. We all begin at stage one, and move one stage at a time, never skipping a stage and never reverting to a previous stage. The movement is 19  caused by a gradual awareness that the kind o f reasoning we are operating from is inadequate to deal with particular problems: " I f the child is challenged so as to perceive the contradictions in his own thinking, he w i l l try to generate new and better solutions to moral problems" (Kohlberg and Turiel 1971, p. 454). Because the next stage o f reasoning can more adequately accommodate these problems, we are gradually led to adopt the form o f reasoning as exemplified in this next stage. A s Kohlberg writes, each stage "may be considered separate moral philosophies, distinct views of the social-moral world" (1971, p. 295). The higher the stage, the more adequate the moral philosophy that is contained therein and so the better the moral reasoning w i l l be. The implication o f this for moral education is to focus our attention on moving students through these stages. A s teachers, we cannot simply show students that their  My discussion of Kohlberg's work is distilled from sources such as Kohlberg and Turiel 1971, Kohlberg 1976, 1981, 1984 and Power, Higgins & Kohlberg 1989. In his later work, Kohlberg backs away from any claim that stage 6 reasoning is a result of empirical observation, "We no longer claim that our empirical work has succeeded in defining the nature of a sixth and highest stage of moral judgment. The existence and nature of such a stage is, at this moment, a matter of theoretical and philosophical speculation and further empirical data collection" (1984, p. 215). Reiterating this view, Kohlberg states "It is true that the idea of a rational reconstruction requires that we hypothesize a sixth or highest stage, but we cannot say we have yet empirically evidenced it" (Kohlberg 1984, p. 224). 17  18  32  reasoning is inadequate, students must come to this realization themselves. A s teachers, we can give students problems to work through designed to help them see this inadequacy. Further, we can offer reasons exemplifying thinking in the next stage with the hope that the student w i l l come to see that this type o f reasoning is indeed preferable. One part o f moral education then consists in giving students moral problems and helping them to work through these problems. For Kohlberg though, this is far more effective when set within some real life context, what he came to refer to as the just community: "Methods emphasizing a rational discussion approach should be part o f a broader, more enduring involvement o f students in the social and moral functioning o f the schools" (Power, Higgins & Kohlberg 1989, p. 19). A s w i l l become clear in the next chapters, I favour this method, though I think further clarification o f stage 6 is needed. Response to Kohlberg is vast, both in terms o f quantity and i n the range of support his theory finds. Habermas, for example, sees in Kohlberg's theory consonance with, and validation for, his Discourse Ethics (Habermas 1990b, p. 121)'. R . S . Peters sees some positives i n Kohlberg's work, but also certain weaknesses, especially in how Kohlberg ignores matters o f character (1974, pp. 304). Brian Barry thinks the theory laughably simplistic, referring not kindly to Kohlberg's "sublime obtuseness" (1995, p. 241). Carol Gilligan sees value i n the work, but thinks it embodies the moral experience o f only some people and thus is not as comprehensive as it is made out to be (1982). N e l Noddings thinks it is flawed from the outset, putting emphasis on abstract principles of justice instead of on feelings o f care that she argues should form the basis o f morality (1984). M u c h can be said in response to Kohlberg and his theory. For my purpose here, I only want to comment on certain elements that are of particular relevance to this thesis. Specifically, this w i l l involve the ways in which Kohlberg's approach succeeds or fails to equip students with the kinds o f tools necessary to grapple with moral relevance and moral conflict problems.  Except in the case of some serious trauma.  33  a. Kohlberg  Critiqued  Though claiming to offer only a formal theory o f moral development, Kohlberg's work is criticized for smuggling in substantive moral content (Carter 1984, p. 61 f f ) . In saying that the higher the stage o f moral reasoning, the more adequate one's moral judgment w i l l be, Kohlberg is claiming that the kind o f approach found in these higher stages is ethically superior to those found i n lower stages. A s Dwight B o y d writes, "the notion of "development" carries with it not only the notion o f change but also the idea o f change with regard to some specified dimension and in some direction considered to be an improvement" (1989, p. 96). A s quoted above, Kohlberg thinks each stage is the embodiment o f a particular moral philosophy. It is widely accepted that Kohlberg's stage 6 implies something along the lines of a Rawlsian formalist theory. There is much to recommend itself i n this kind o f a theory, but by no means is it universally accepted that this is the right, nor even the best, moral theory. Kohlberg defines morality as what is exemplified in stage 6 reasoning, "Stage 6 is what it means to judge morally. If you want to play the moral game, i f you want to make decisions which anyone could agree upon in resolving social conflicts, Stage 6 is it" (Kohlberg 1981, p. 172). But many simply do not accept this definition. A s many argue, the stage 6 reliance on abstract principles of justice in fact distorts what morality should be about and fails to reflect how many people actually solve real-life moral problems (see, for example, Gilligan 1982, Held 1998, Noddings 1984, Sherwin 1993, Y o u n g 1990). The content o f stage 6 is the crucial point from my consideration. Kohlberg writes, " A l l Stage 6's can agree because their judgments are fully reversible: they have taken everyone's viewpoint i n choosing insofar as it is possible to take everyone's viewpoint where viewpoints conflict" (Kohlberg 1981, p. 214). This concept o f reversibility is key in understanding this highest stage. Essentially, it involves putting yourself in another's shoes. 20  If you can accept a judgment or action when seen from this other perspective, then it is reversible and thus morally acceptable:  Highest, at least, when the theory is explained with six stages. At times Kohlberg does talk about a " soft hypothetical seventh stage" (1984, p. 249 ff.). 2 0  34  A s Baier (1965) has succinctly put it, the moral point o f view must evaluate "for the good o f everyone alike". We think this coordination is what makes the golden rule so compelling and timeless. That is, in its positive interpretation, " D o unto others as you would have them do unto you," it expresses the attitude o f benevolence as elaborated in the Christian maxim o f "Love thy neighbor as thyself." O n the other hand, in its proscriptive interpretation, " D o not do unto others as you would not wish others to do unto you," it expresses the attitude of justice as respecting and not interfering with the rights and autonomy o f others. (Kohlberg, B o y d and Charles Levine, as quoted i n B o y d 1989, p. 112) If reversibility is to be understood simply in terms of this Golden Rule kind o f sanction, we need to ask how sophisticated this sanction is. In its simplified form, there are, at least, the following three problems. First, it does not account for differences o f value. Simply because I may desire something, it does not follow that others w i l l and that I should be allowed to subject them to my wants. The Golden Rule is not a reassuring protection when confronted with a masochist. Second, it says nothing about context. It may be the case that I am faced with a terminal illness that causes much pain. In the face of this, I want to end my life with an overdose o f pills. But surely because I want this, it does not follow that I can thus treat others in the same way, assuming that they too want to die. Obviously any sensible moral reasoner would take these relevant differences into account. Thus, reversibility, i f it is to be sensitive to context, must be more sophisticated than the simple kind o f Golden Rule understanding offered above. Third, and most damning, is that reversibility on its own w i l l still allow for some morally abhorrent actions. Imagine an extreme anti-Semite who believes all Jews should be put to death. It is not irrational for h i m to say that "I would believe this even i f it were the case that I were a Jew". The reversibility criterion has been met but obviously the act would not be morally acceptable. Kohlberg might try to claim that no one could reasonably make the claim o f the anti-Semite when the roles were reversed. In response to his famous Heinz Dilemma, Kohlberg writes, "But then we imagine the druggist's claim i f the druggist put 35  himself in the wife's place. The druggist might put property before life, but not i f he were to step into the wife's shoes" (1984, p. 484). Kohlberg's answer is weak here, giving us little reason why the druggist would have to so choose. A s Barry's analysis reveals, there might be good reasons why the druggist could still hold it wrong to steal. Even i f one places the value of human life above that o f property, the druggist might still say it is wrong to steal the drug. This is the case because i f this action were generalized and druggists the world over were being robbed, then their profit motivation would diminish and many would simply stop developing and producing new drugs. In the long run, this would cost many more lives (Barry 1995, pp. 242). Kohlberg's principle of reversibility seems unable to capture these kinds o f complexities. A s Barry writes, "Kohlberg's failure as a moral theorist may be said to stem from his cutting off the moment o f decision from both its antecedents and its consequences" (1995, p. 242). It may be argued that I am simply interpreting reversibility in too simplistic a way, that in fact anyone reasoning at a stage 6 level would see that much more is demanded from morality than this simple understanding o f the concept. If so, then my objections fail. But, then the question is open as to what more the concept needs to encompass. What are the demands o f stage 6 reasoning (or, to take it out o f Kohlberg's language, o f any kind o f morally adequate and sophisticated reasoning)? A central purpose o f my work is to give some idea o f what that something more might be. However, instead o f trying to capture this under the concept o f reversibility (which I think is too simplistic and limited), I w i l l talk about it in terms o f impartiality. What I am after is a test, such as Kohlberg sees in reversibility, that w i l l measure the adequacy of our moral reasoning. However, I want a test that is more explicitly sensitive to context and the uniqueness o f the people involved in a particular situation and also a test that is more richly laid-out in relation to the demands of morality. Kohlberg says that reversibility involves "taking everyone's viewpoint"; how do we know when we have adequately done this? What does this require? M y R C I w i l l at least begin to answer these questions.  36  vi. Approach 6: Care Partially in response to Kohlberg's work and partially in response to a perceived lack of attention to how women and girls work through moral problems, many theorists have begun advocating an Ethic o f Care. Instead o f a focus on abstract principles of justice, Care is a "relational ethic" (Noddings 1988, p. 218) stressing the relationships between people and the ties that bind them. According to many theorists, the more abstract, justice-based approaches to ethics lack sufficient attention to the uniqueness o f situations and the relationships involved therein. Because these approaches attempt to subsume all o f our experiences under general principles, there is a focus on what is the same in cases, while ignoring the specifics that make the circumstances, and especially the individuals involved, unique. Though not necessarily arguing for an Ethic o f Care, Annette Baier is responding to this particular problem when she writes: What I have attacked is one way o f doing moral philosophy, namely the articulation o f a system o f moral laws, vaguely anchored to intuitions about particular cases, laws that the theorist presents as valid or acceptable in conditions o f strict compliance, hoping eventually to work back, from there, to the actual conditions (which, after all, generated the intuitions). (Baier 1988, p.44) One of the dangers o f this 'abstract, justice' approach is that often these general principles and laws are representative o f only some particular peoples' moral experiences (often privileged males, or others who hold power in a given context). Because others must conform to the contours o f these moral prescriptions to be considered acting morally, the experiences/values/beliefs/intuitions o f people from other locations is ignored or suppressed. A s articulated by N e l Noddings, Caring is the attempt to replicate the kind of bond existing between mothers and children and to use this as the basis o f moral understanding. Mothers (generally) do not need any theory or sense o f duty to act on behalf of their children, they do so out o f love and care for the child. If this basis could be found in all moral relationships, then there would be no need for abstract systems o f morality. Even i f this actual care is not present in a particular moral relationship, this basis o f morality can still give sense to what one's duties are: act as i f you did care for the person. 37  According to Noddings, caring involves a relationship between the one-caring and the cared-for. For the one-caring, there are two key features: 1) engrossment and 2) displacement of motivation (1988, pp. 219-20). Engrossment is characterized by "nonselective attachment or total presence to the other for the duration o f the caring interval". In other words, while being the one-caring, you need to focus all o f your attention on the other person and not be distracted by outside considerations. Displacement o f motivation entails working with the other person on her projects and what is good for her, keeping your own wants and desires separate. Y o u work for the good o f the other person within the context o f what she believes and values to be good. A s a basis for moral education, I think the Ethic o f Care has a lot to recommend it. It speaks directly to the issue o f moral motivation and why we are even concerned with being moral in the first place. It can help instill the Conventional Morality that is needed i f individuals are going to successfully and peacefully co-exist as members o f a society/community. A n d it can, at least as understood by Noddings, give shape to the kinds of educational goals we should have and the ways that teachers should interact with their students (Noddings 1988, p. 222). However, I do not think it can take us all the way to the kind o f morally autonomous state that is needed to deal with relevance and conflict problems. Depending upon which theorist one is reading, the relationship between care and justice w i l l differ. Carol Gilligan thinks they are both valid orientations to morality, but that particular individuals w i l l favour one or another o f the two approaches (1982). Noddings, at least in her early writings, sees care as the only foundation from which to build one's ethics (see 1984, 1988). I w i l l argue that care without principles (be they of justice or some other name) is incomplete.  21  Care can provide a basis for understanding our responsibilities as 22  moral beings, but when situations are complex it is not always clear what care demands. Imagine that you are a teacher. In relation to any particular student you are in the position o f one-caring in that caring relationship. A s such, the demands are clear in terms of engrossment and displacement o f motivation. But how engrossed can one be? What o f the  1 think the opposite has some truth to it as well. Kant aside, I think anyone acting merely from duty and not from some sense of concern for other's well-being (care) will be far less motivated to act in morally appropriate ways and so less likely to be morally good persons. This point is seen by some Care theorists, see Tronto 1993, p. 138, Houston 1990, pp. 115-119. 21  2 2  38  other 30 or so students i n your class? To be fully engrossed with one student w i l l be a fulfillment o f that caring relationship, but a failure in all o f the others. What is required is some principle (or some other way) to determine what a fair allotment o f one's time will be. Given limited resources, how should a teacher spread himself out? The same problem w i l l be faced by parents with multiple children. In fact one can imagine many cases i n which problems o f moral conflict w i l l require us to decide how to act. Caring alone w i l l not determine this and so something more is needed. We can also frame moral relevance problems within Noddings's language. With the displacement o f motivation, I, as one-caring, am supposed to abandon all o f my notions of what is good and valuable and work within the beliefs and values o f the one-cared-for. But what i f her values are in fact destructive? A m I really being caring i f I am simply enabling a heroin addiction? Most would say not, I imagine. So this would seem to be a case where it 24  is acceptable to over-rule the cared-for's sense o f good and impose my own notions. But to determine when this is acceptable (and so in a sense when this kind o f consideration is relevant) requires something more than care. Again, I would argue that it requires something else (one's understand o f autonomy, perhaps) that helps determine how much freedom to allow others.  I do not want to give the impression that I think people operating from a care-  orientation cannot resolve these kinds o f relevance and conflict problems. What I am suggesting is that it is not mere care that w i l l resolve them (though I am not arguing that the solution is merely Care plus Justice). A s with the other approaches I have critiqued in this chapter, I think something more is needed, something that w i l l help us to reason through the complexities posed by these types o f problems. The above characterization o f care is largely taken from its early days in the 1980s. A t the time, it was strictly segregated from justice and stood as a distinct moral orientation. However, as the Ethic o f Care has evolved over the past two decades, care theorists have recognized more and more the need to combine care with some kind of judgment (be it of justice or something else). This is clearly seen in Joan Tronto's work:  23  2 4  For another example of this kind, and further discussion of this problem, see Benhabib 1992, p. 187 ff.). Though of course there are many different ways of dealing with heroin addicts, some more caring than others.  39  The ethic o f care, then, both elevates care to a central value i n human life and recognizes that care requires a complicated process of judgment. People need to make moral judgments, political judgments, technical judgments, and psychological judgments in their everyday caring activities. Caring, then, is neither simple nor banal; it requires know-how and judgment, and to make such judgments as well as possible becomes the moral task o f engaging in care. In general, care judgments require that those involved understand the complexity o f the process in which they are enmeshed. Caring involves both rational explications o f needs and sympathetic appreciation o f emotions. It requires not an abstraction from the concrete case to a universal principle, but an explication o f the "full story." Yet, at the same time, those engaged in care practices need to be able to place some distance from their own version o f what is happening and other perspectives. (1998, p. 17) This same evolution can be seen in Noddings's own thinking. In response to Michael Slote (1999), who argues that care can and should remain distinct from justice, Noddings writes: It may well be that Slote is right when he says that care theorists have backed off too quickly i n acknowledging the need for justice as a necessary supplement to care. But backing off is good for the philosophical soul. We learn, and sometimes we gather greater strength in partial retreat. (Noddings 1999) While Noddings has recognized the need to supplement care with some abstract principles, she still argues that far more attention needs to be paid to the caring side o f this duality. This may well be true. The focus of our teaching, balancing the demands of care and justice, would need to be made on an individual basis, judged on the particular needs and back-grounds of our students. However, once we accept that the two components are necessary, care does not stand so distinctly separate from justice. In this light, my project o f developing critical thinking skills i n the moral realm can be seen as complementary, and not in contrast, to the care project. This complementarity provides a sound, well-rounded basis for moral education.  40  vii. Approach 7: Ethical Theories This seventh approach is found most often in undergraduate applied ethics courses, but it could serve equally well i n upper levels o f high-school (in fact it may well have found a home there in some instances). The approach builds on the work that moral philosophers have done since the time o f Socrates. Some o f the greatest minds o f the past 2600 years have dedicated much o f their lives attempting to answer some o f the most perplexing moral problems we face as human beings. This approach argues that we, as common folks, cannot likely improve upon the thinking o f these great philosophers. Instead, we can take the fruits of their labours, the various ethical theories that they have developed, and learn how to use them to solve the moral dilemmas we face in our own lives. A typical undergraduate course in applied ethics w i l l thus teach the basic 'outlines of some o f the more seminal ethical theories; Kant's deontological theory and some form o f consequentialism, often M i l l ' s Utilitarianism, for example. From here, they w i l l ask students to consider a moral problem from their domain and have them resolve the problem, choosing one o f the theories learned, and staying consistent to the methodology of that theory. A s a theorist looking from the outside, and a former student in such classes, I find both ethical and educational problems in this approach. To start, there is an unwarranted leap in logic. Those concerned with moral education look to moral philosophy and see ethicists engaged in a particular type o f activity. They conclude from this that this is how everyone should be engaged in thinking about morality. But, this does not follow at all. The philosopher doing ethics is engaged in a project different from that o f the lay-person trying to live in a morally appropriate way. Because the goals o f the two activities are so different, it is conceivable that the ways o f going about the activities should be different. This is my view. To see more clearly the difference between the two activities, I draw upon William Frankena's distinction between morality and ethics (1963, p. 3 f f ) . The two words are often used synonymously, as I have done until now. But one may distinguish the two. Frankena's conceptualization o f them is not the only one possible, but it is both the clearest I have seen, and the most useful for my purposes here. Frankena writes that morality is a realm o f life, shared by the vast majority o f human beings, that is concerned with how we ought to treat others. For our purposes, it is acceptable 41  to leave this quite vague. Just who those others are is an open-question. Is it all human beings? A l l sentient creatures? A l l living creatures? Or some other group? Likewise, the boundaries o f this realm are not clearly demarcated here and that is fine. I think we all have some sense o f what is involved in morality (though this may be different for each person). A s long as we have some vague idea, o f what the concept points to, we are fine. Ethics, by contrast, is what moral philosophers do when they step back from the moral realm and try to study it. It can be understood as the systematic study of morality. The word systematic is crucial here, because underlying the 'ethics' project is the belief that there is some system at work. That is, there is a way of organizing all o f our moral judgments, values, intuitions and sensibilities under one theoretical umbrella, one system. Generally ethics is the attempt to demonstrate one theory or another (or a part o f a theory) as being the best way to make sense o f the moral realm. This view is summed up by Thomas and Waluchow when they write, "Ethical theory, as opposed to morality, is the systematic, critical study o f the basic underlying principles, values, and concepts utilized in thinking about moral life. Ethics, so understood, is something the average person concerns himself with only infrequently, i f ever" (2000, p. 4). Philosophers studying the moral realm are doing ethics. Within the western philosophical tradition, this has generally meant that moral philosophers (what is equivalently called ethicists) w i l l produce a long argument, the conclusion o f which is some one or few basic principle(s) that unite all o f our moral lives.  Kant, for example,  constructed elaborate arguments leading to the conclusion that all morality is reducible to the Categorical Imperative. In a similar way, M i l l argued extensively to the conclusion of Utilitarianism: act so as to maximize happiness and minimize suffering. W i t h this one, or few, basic principle(s) in place, the belief is that we can generate all of our moral judgments and actions. If we encounter a morally problematic situation, we simply consult our theory, plug i n the relevant data to our basic principle(s) and deduce from it/them what the morally appropriate action is in the given situation. The principles are on top of some imagined algorithm and we merely work down from this to the situation at hand. For  Of course, not all ethicists construct these 'great systems'—this is especially true within the last several decades. However, when this approach is used in teaching morality, it is these systems that are appealed to. 2 5  42  this reason, this approach is often referred to as a top-down model, or deductive approach. It is, alas, an approach with many flaws.  a.  Problems The two most serious problems are logically related. Philosophers, at least in the  western tradition, having been constructing these ethical theories for over 2000 years. Yet, no one has come close to getting it right. There is not an ethical theory yet written that does not have large holes in it. There w i l l , o f course, be supporters o f each theory and those who work, quite ingeniously, to better the theory to take account o f problems that have been posed against the theory. Even so, no one theory has anything close to wide-spread consent that it 'has got it right'. In fact, there is even disagreement about what 'getting it right' would entail. W i t h every major ethical theory offered, it is not difficult to come up with an example that would be absurd or offensive to most moral sensibilities, yet remain consistent with the theory. If a theory leads to such an unreasonable conclusion i n any particular example, this is (to me at least) reason to believe that it cannot capture all o f our moral lives (this is a kind of reductio ad absurdum argument). If, this argument continues, some of the greatest minds o f the past 2000-3000 years have not found an acceptable solution, then perhaps a solution is not there to be found. Perhaps morality is an area that does not admit o f an all-encompassing theory. What follows from this is that we should not be striving for better theoretical models, we should instead be 26  dedicating our energies to some other way o f understanding the moral realm. The second, and most crucial, problem is that theories do not offer the kind o f deductive answers that we seek from them. In other words, they fail to guide us in the most problematic and contentious areas o f moral debate. A s Susan Sherwin writes, because ethical theories "are extraordinarily abstract, most people who appeal to them to inform actual moral  The 'moral-theory project' is not a total waste. Even if it will not give us the grand-unifying principles that it promises us, theories can help us to make sense of, or see the importance of, particular aspects of morality. Far from being morally useless, Kant, Mill and others have contributed to our understanding of morality. The lesson here is that we should not expect too much from moral theories. (See the Dewey quotation on the next page, and my discussion on it in the next chapter, for more on this.) 2 6  43  decision-making have found the theories woefully inadequate for the practical tasks of moral life" (1993, p. 9). Instead o f giving us answers to moral questions, ethical theories help us to be clear about the kinds o f moral principles that are important in our society. This still leaves it up to us to decide which principles are relevant, what relative importance they have i n any given situation and how best to interpret and apply the principles in a given situation. A s Dewey wrote: But it [an ethical theory] does not offer a table o f commandments in a catechism in which answers are as definite as are the questions which are asked. It can render personal choice more intelligent, but it cannot take the place o f personal decision, which must be made i n every case o f moral perplexity...the student who expects more from moral theory w i l l be disappointed...the attempt to set up ready-made conclusions contradicts the very nature o f reflective morality. (Dewey 1908, p.7-8) To illustrate Dewey's meaning here, let us take Kant's second formulation o f the Categorical Imperative: treat everyone as ends unto themselves. H o w does this help us in terms o f the abortion question? W e might all agree that we want to treat everyone—that is, all moral agents—as ends unto themselves. But, is the fetus a moral agent, worthy o f the kind of respect given moral persons? This obviously is the crucial question on which this problem hangs, yet Kant's theory does not help us at all in resolving it. A s Dewey says, we still need to make a personal decision, a judgment about how this principle is to be interpreted in this particular situation. Further, we might question whether Kant's imperative might not demand consideration o f other relevant principles that would conflict with the injunction not to hurt the fetus: fairness to the pregnant woman, for example. A s this example shows, with any case o f genuine moral uncertainty, ethical theories offer little guidance. In real-world moral dilemmas, the hard moral work is deciding what principles are relevant and how to interpret and apply those principles given the uniqueness of the case at hand. N o theory can answer those questions for us. Thus, simply knowing ethical theories w i l l not adequately equip us to deal with everyday moral problems. A s C D . Broad wrote, " W e can no more learn to act rightly by appealing to the ethical theory o f right 44  action than we can play golf well by appealing to the mathematical theory o f the flight of the golf-ball. The interest o f ethics is.. .almost wholly theoretical, as is the interest o f the mathematical theory o f golf or o f billiards" (1930, p. 285). The Great Theories approach also has pedagogical problems. W e are presenting students with a number o f different theories, asking them to choose one and make important moral decisions based on this theory. However, while we teach students how to use the theories, we generally do not give them the ability to evaluate the relative merits o f each. Done well, the Great Theories approach w i l l tell students what a Kantian would do in a particular situation, what a Utilitarian would do, an Aristotelian, and so on. But, this does nothing to tell the student what she should do. To the extent that we are asking them to choose a theory without offering them any good reasons for that choice, we are indoctrinating our students (failing in a fundamental way to respect them as moral agents). Some might protest and argue that Great Theories courses can offer reasons for adopting one particular theory or another. But even where such reasons are provided, students typically w i l l not be i n any position to evaluate the reasons. The reasons that justify and support ethical theories are complex philosophical arguments that are not easily interpreted, let alone critiqued, by the average layperson. So, even where reasons are given to support one theory or another, it is highly doubtful that within the span o f a one semester course (or even two or three semesters), students w i l l be able to evaluate the reasons and thus there is still a danger o f indoctrination. A counter-argument to the indoctrination problem might run something like this: that while we expect students, i n class, to choose one or another particular theory to follow, in their real lives and i n their professional practice, they w i l l ignore these teachings and make their judgments based on some other considerations. I think there is probably a lot of truth to this and to the extent is true, the indoctrination concern is certainly lessened. But this points to another, bigger problem with the approach. If students are not gaining anything useful from the course, then we need to ask why the course is structured as it is. Is the point o f moral education to familiarize students with various ethical theories that have nothing to do with the real-life problems they w i l l encounter? Or is it rather to equip these students with some tools that w i l l help them grapple 45  with these problems? To me, it is evident that the second option here is far preferable. A t best, students gain nothing practically useful from learning these theories. I do not mean to imply that such theories are useless. They are productively studied by practitioners and students o f philosophy and they can reveal to us many important aspects o f morality. They can help to shape our overall moral sensibility, but they do not offer much in terms o f solving practical, day-to-day moral problems. Instead, when it comes to solving real-life moral problems, other kinds o f knowledge and skill are required. Because there is often limited time to teach 'ethics', our time is better spent teaching these other skills and knowledge (a fuller description o f what this is follows in the next chapters). Above, I claimed that, at best, the Great Theories approach would be useless in helping students to deal with moral problems. There is an 'at worst' side, too. Often, seeing so many different approaches to ethics causes the student simply to lose confidence in them all. A s Annette Baier argues, " W e , in effect, give courses in comparative ethical theory, and like courses in comparative religion, their usual effect in the student is loss o f faith in any o f the alternatives presented (1988, p. 26). Not only do students come to the class with the variety o f moral values that our pluralistic societies offer, but we add to this by presenting an array o f moral theories. A s Baier claims, " A better recipe for moral cynicism could scarcely be deliberately devised" (1988, p. 28). W i t h so many options, and so little reason offered to choose between the options, we can see why moral relativism is both so popular and so problematic. Given the enormous difficulties involved i n negotiating the many different value positions held and espoused in our pluralistic societies, what is needed is not a teaching o f more options. Instead, we need to train students to be able to recognize and respect differences, but also to be able to pick out those value positions that are morally unacceptable. In other words, we need to teach a middle ground between the absolute right answer that the Great Theories promise, and the anything goes relativism at the other extreme. Beginning with the next chapter, I w i l l present and outline an approach to moral reasoning that seeks to find this middle ground.  46  viii. Approach 8: Nash's 'Real World' Ethics A s a lead-in to the next chapter, I w i l l explore one version o f a practical reasoning approach to moral problem solving. Many moral educators are seeing the need to ground their teaching in the real world o f moral problems, seeing them as a type o f practical problem that calls for practical reasoning. Beginning next chapter I w i l l look at one such approach to solving moral problems, Contextualism. Here, though, I want to examine briefly the work done by Robert Nash—both as an acknowledgement o f its quality and to illustrate a limitation in such work. Nash's book "Real World" Ethics: Frameworks for Educators and Human Service Professionals (2002), outlines his approach to teaching applied ethics for the 'real world'. He divides his discussion into three different Moral Languages. First M o r a l Language explores students' basic moral understandings and commitments and explores the foundations from which these arise—something akin to meta-ethics. Second M o r a l Language explores issues of character and virtue. Third M o r a l Language explore a more theoretical basis of ethics, the principles we use in thinking about moral problems and how these principles relate to each other. Nash is obviously an experienced and thoughtful teacher and there is much to recommend in his work. The brief sketch o f Contextualism I offer i n the next chapter would be well supplemented by Nash's more detailed exploration o f practical, moral reasoning. That said, his theory comes up short in exactly the same place as I argue Contextualism does—how do we determine i f our practical reasoning has been done well. In Third M o r a l Language, Nash argues that we work through a practical problem, arrive at a tentative judgment, and then test it. Aside from the particular moral commitments we have by virtue o f being part o f particular communities, Nash argues there needs to be a widely-shared, secular foundation that binds all o f these disparate communities together, "a morality of agreed-upon moral principles'" (p. 109). We then take our tentative moral judgment and examine it against a Third Language Justification Schema. This asks us to examine each possible solution to the practical problem, explore the principles that underlie each option and then the theoretical perspectives within which these principles operate. Being aware o f these factors, we then make a final judgment. The question I am pursuing in 47  this thesis is how we know i f our consideration o f something like the Third Language Justification Schema is adequate. In an appended question and answer section o f his book, Nash answers the charge that his system just leads to relativism: In reaction to these particular types o f moral relativism, I hold that some ethical decisions i n the professions are indeed better than others, in spite o f the special circumstances, contexts, and individual tastes and preferences o f practitioners (although, at times, all of these are important factors to consider in arriving at well thought-out ethical solutions to complicated dilemmas). A s I have repeatedly said throughout the book, ethical decisions are most valid when they are defensible: That is, they must meet the test o f publicity in the sense that the problem-solving process, along with its results, need to be communicated and shared—and, when necessary, tested and verified—with others, both inside and outside the professions, (p. 177-78) What exactly is involved i n this test, what makes a judgment defensible, is not clear in Nash' work. He refers to his system as "an ethic of pragmatic moral consensus" (p. 179). This suggests that consensus is what validates a judgment, making his work seemingly similar to Habermas's. A s I w i l l explore in chapter 4,1 think there are important weaknesses in thinking that consensus is the test we should use to verify moral judgments. Instead, I argue that impartiality should be that test. Nash is just one author who is looking at moral education and ethics for the real world (see also Habermas 1990a, 1990b, Wallace 1988, Winkler 1993). The work that follows in this thesis can be understood as rounding-out the picture begun by people like Nash. A s such, it is not a repudiation o f his approach, but, again, a complement to it.  III. C o n c l u s i o n M y starting-point in this chapter has been that any adequate program o f moral education must give students the tools to grapple with complex, real-life moral problems.  27  This, of course, is not the only thing that such programs must accomplish. They also need to expose students to the values commonly held in society and make some attempt to get students to adopt these values (said in 2 7  48  These problems generally fall into one o f two categories: problems o f relevance or o f conflict. The various programs I have outlined above come up short i n this regard. Either they do not see this need, or i f they do, they leave certain questions unanswered. This being the case, I want to claim that another approach is necessary, one that can give students these tools. In the next chapter, I w i l l outline an approach to moral education that can give students these important tools. This is a practical reasoning approach to morality called Contextualism. Because it makes up for the lack cited above, it provides a useful complement to other approaches to moral education.  another way, they need to acculturate the students). But without the teaching of these tools that I am talking about, the moral education project would be incomplete.  49  Chapter 3: Contextualism Every time we need to make a moral judgment, or act when it is unclear what is morally appropriate, we must make a practical decision. Many moral theorists, dating back to Aristotle (2002, N E 1094M9 f f ) , have recognized this practical component o f ethics and explored how moral reasoning can guide us to an acceptable solution to such problems. Contextualism is one such practical reasoning approach to morality, offering a procedure for thinking through these problematic situations. A s I develop it, Contextualism also includes tests to check i f our thinking has been done well. In this chapter, I w i l l outline this procedure, showing the many and varied kinds o f considerations that are involved with Contextualism. I w i l l also look briefly at where values come from and how one goes about questioning values. In the process o f doing this, I w i l l make use o f a simplistic example that w i l l help make clear this process. I w i l l conclude the chapter by exploring a more complex and realistic moral problem. This w i l l show the vast complexities involved in moral decision making and how Contextualism can account for this complexity. To begin, however, I want to explore Contextualism more generally to show what it is and how it differs from other ethical approaches.  I. Contextualism: General Orientation Educators can be reluctant to enter into discussions or lessons on moral issues because they may perceive themselves as trapped in a dilemma (a false one, as I shall argue). They see their options as either indoctrinating specific values (both pedagogically undesirable and morally unacceptable) or leading students to a position o f stark ethical relativism (again undesirable and unacceptable). This dilemma has a counterpart in ethical spheres. Theorists sometimes believe that we must either give people absolute rules and procedures to follow that w i l l lead them, unfailingly, to the right moral decision/action. Or else, lacking those rules and procedures, we are set adrift into a world o f moral chaos where what the individual thinks is right for himself must be considered morally acceptable: relativism.  50  Within both o f these dichotomies there.can be a middle ground. Within ethics, there can be procedures , like Contextualism, that help the individual clarify what is at stake in a 28  given situation and upon which judgements need be made. Further, there can be standards o f thinking that must be met i f those judgements are going to be good ones. Thus, we are not condemned to the chaos o f relativism we might fear. A t the same time, however, Contextualism is not a simple process o f deducing answers from first principles, nor a straightforward method for arriving at "the morally right answer". Similarly, in moral education, we need not accept that what we are doing is indoctrinating specific values, teaching students that certain values and beliefs must be held above all others. In avoiding this problem, however, we are not committing ourselves to relativism. B y giving them procedures that can be followed and standards that must be met, we are giving students tools to justifiably argue that some decisions/actions are morally preferable to others. In this sense, there is not the degeneration into relativism that is rightly feared by many educators. Contextualism is best understood as seeing solutions to moral problems as being better or worse. Some situations allow for a plurality o f acceptable responses. Even in such cases, however, there can also be answers that are morally indefensible and thus unacceptable. In other cases, one solution is so much better than all others that a plurality o f solutions is not possible. In such cases, we do (typically) speak as //"this answer is either right or wrong. W h y do I write "as i f i n the previous sentence? It is a way o f hedging on the question o f moral realism. Some would argue that, unless moral questions admit of the same kind o f certainly as empirical questions, then it is incorrect to speak o f them as right or wrong. Are there Absolute Moral Truths, moral facts that hold with the same certainty as empirical facts? I doubt it. That said, I think there are cases where the reasons supporting one course of action are so strong, we could speak o f the moral question as having a right answer. One need not be a moral realist to agree that it is simply wrong to torture innocent children  For the sake of my discussion, I am referring to Contextualism here as a procedure; as a way of working through moral problems. Others would prefer to think of it more as a view about the nature of good moral reasoning. Though emphasizing different things, these two perspectives are mutually consistent. 2 8  51  for amusement. Some might disagree with the semantics, preferring something like "morally reprehensible" or "morally problematic" in place o f "wrong", but the sentiment is still the same, the objection just as fierce. I think that, whatever position one takes on the moral realism question (and here I w i l l remain agnostic), one could still accept what I am writing here about Contextualism. Throughout the thesis, I w i l l speak o f things being morally right and wrong. B y this I simply mean that there are very good reasons either recommending or prohibiting a particular solution to a moral problem. M y use o f right and wrong is not a commitment to the realist position. A l l readers w i l l accept, I think, that some actions are morally preferable to others, regardless o f what language we use to describe this. However, the question remains: what makes some answers good (morally preferable, morally more adequate) while others are bad? If we do not have a theory that tells us what principles must be obeyed and from which we can deduce the 'right' moral answer, how can we decide what is morally good and bad? In defining Contextualism, Earl Winkler begins to articulate what this w i l l involve: In a far more important, essential, and primary sense, justification is & process. It is the process, i n all its interpretive and analogical complexity, o f arriving at a considered moral judgment and defending it as a fully reasonable alternative within the full context o f the problem. (1993, p. 363) A solution to a problem is good (morally speaking) i f it can be defended, among other alternatives, as being reasonable. What qualifies as reasonable is, o f course, a problematic question and the one that w i l l occupy me for the rest o f this thesis. A t this stage it is important to be clear about the role that reasonableness w i l l play in my system. I am arguing that reasonableness is both a necessary and (with a large qualification to follow) sufficient condition o f the adequacy o f a moral judgement. In other words, i f no one can reasonably object to a judgement (i.e. it is reasonable) then we can have confidence that it is morally acceptable to act on that judgement.  However, I fully admit  that the conception o f reasonableness that I. develop in chapter 6 is neither comprehensive nor finished—it can certainly be expanded, refined and added to. In contrast to the reasonableness justification explained above, Winkler sees ethical theories as an approach that: 52  views systematic, normative theory as aspiring to a rational reconstruction of the basic principles informing the whole of the moral life. Perfect justification, therefore, must ultimately be a matter of subsuming a particular case under a principle that either has, or shares, supreme normative scope and power. (Winkler 1993, p. 360) Within Contextualism, there is not the promise o f one (or a few) basic moral principle(s) that captures the essence o f all moral experience. A n d , thus, there is not an attempt to justify, or work under the assumption, that every moral phenomenon can be generalized to some basic principle(s). Instead o f principles driving our thinking about concrete situations, the reverse is true: "within the complex realities o f practice, it is dominantly the interpretation o f cases that informs our understanding o f principles rather than principles guiding the resolution of difficult cases" (Winkler 1993, p. 355). What principles are at play is still crucial to our moral reasoning. But, more crucial is how we interpret and apply those principles. This i s determined by the context o f the situation, with all o f its uniqueness. In the previous chapter, I claimed that current approaches to moral education give students insufficient guidance in solving real world problems. There has not yet been discovered a set o f rules or principles that w i l l adequately tell us what to do i n our moral lives. Further, as we saw i n terms o f moral relevance and moral conflict problems, no theory could predict what future moral problems may crop up. Instead o f trying to find a theory that w i l l tell us how to act i n every situation, what we need instead is the know-how to take principles and adapt them, intelligently, to new and problematic situations. It is this procedure that lies at the heart o f Contextualism. Let us, then, turn and look more concretely at this procedure.  II. Contextualism: Step-Bv-Step In this section, I w i l l outline a step-by-step procedure for working through moral problems. I realize, however, that in our actual moral reasoning, we often do not follow such a linear procedure. M u c h o f our thinking is more intuitive, jumping around the steps I w i l l outline below. But, while our thinking is by no means as mechanistic as this section might imply, it can be useful to break down the procedures into these steps. When we are genuinely stuck on a moral problem, it can be helpful to be aware o f these different steps and work through each one individually. To have an understanding o f the procedure as a whole, with 53  its distinct parts, can help us to identify where the problem is. Secondly, in teaching, it is useful to organize material in such a way that students can easily make sense o f it. This kind of step-by-step procedure, can help facilitate this learning. Again, however, I fully admit and agree that much o f our moral thinking does not follow the strict linear progression that I am outlining here. A s the name implies, we begin by looking at the details o f a specific context. Unlike other approaches, Contextualism does not begin with abstract principles and rules, but rather starts from the everyday circumstances o f the real world. The first step is thus to recognize the morally relevant features o f a situation. H o w do we do this? A s with all o f the. steps I w i l l outline here, a conclusive answer to this question cannot be given in the abstract. I can, however, suggest a number o f ways in which this recognition could occur. Partially, the ability to recognize when and which moral concepts apply to a particular situation comes from experience, for we develop this ability by observing many instances and examples of a particular concept being used. For example, from childhood, we are given countless examples o f what 'fairness' is and we glean what is common to all the examples (this w i l l , of course, be an inexact science/art), and from this formulate how we understand the concept. A s we mature and go through our adult lives, we w i l l see situations that resemble, in relevant ways, the examples o f fairness we have in mind. When this occurs, we have reason to believe such moral considerations are relevant. A second way o f perceiving moral features in a situation is to have some understanding o f what morality is and what role it plays in our lives. In chapter 6,1 outline some ways in which moral judgements can fail. B y understanding what is morally objectionable, we have an understanding o f what is central to morality. This understanding, in turn, allows us to recognize the moral features o f situations and how to distinguish moral from other kinds o f values.  In section Il.vii of the previous chapter, I made reference to William Frankena's work in distinguishing morality from ethics. Frankena (1963, 1980) also is helpful in understanding the distinction between morality and other codes of conduct that help us determine right from wrong (e.g. legal, religious, aesthetic and practical codes). The distinction, Frankena says, lies in how one would justify a claim in these different realms. The kinds of justifications one would give to ground a moral judgement appeal to the kinds of considerations that I will be discussing in chapters 4-6 (essentially those features that constitute our core understandings of what morality is). 2 9  54  A third possible path is to have an empathetic imagination. If we are mindful o f the people around us and able to imaginatively enter into their perspective, we w i l l be more able. to perceive actions or judgements that adversely effect others. This does not necessarily imply that there are moral considerations that need to be taken into account, but often it is a good indicator. A fourth way is to take advice from others. Even i f I cannot "see" moral dimensions in a situation, I can be alerted to them by other people. Thus, the more I can enter into openminded discussions with others and be willing to hear what they say, the more likely I w i l l be to perceive moral dimensions o f situations. One strength o f a Contextualist account o f moral reasoning is that it gives us a more accurate and nuanced understanding o f the nature o f moral growth and moral sophistication. It is not simply a matter o f learning a theory better, or being habituated into a particular disposition. It is a more complex process. With this first step alone, we can see that moral growth involves an increased ability to perceive the moral features o f situations. Further, it involves seeing how the multiple moral features (because it is rare that there is only one moral concept at play) interact, overlap and are in tension. A s argued i n the previous chapter, most of our moral problems arise when principles conflict or when we are uncertain i f they are relevant. The morally sophisticated person w i l l be more able to perceive these situations of conflict and these questions o f relevance. Once we have recognized what moral features are at play, the second step is then to connect them to a wider point-of-view. Through our moral experience and learning, we build an ecology (a web) o f beliefs and values that takes into account all we think and believe about morality (I admit that this is often not consciously done). When we see a specific moral problem, we make sense o f it by placing it within this ecology and seeing how it relates to other moral values, moral concepts, and other similar moral situations that we have experienced in the past, A simple example w i l l illustrate how the Contextualist approach works to this point. Imagine my grandmother approaches me and asks me i f I like her new dress, one I find quite hideous. What moral concepts are at play here? I can imagine at least two relevant ones. Truth-telling is one; should I tell her the truth about what I think o f the dress. If I do, then her 55  feelings may be hurt, bringing us to a second concept; avoiding hurting people where possible. Within my moral ecology, I can recognize these two things (lying and hurting people) as acts I try to avoid. W i t h this simplified example, the first two steps o f the process run together quite closely. In fact, this may be the case even with more complex examples. Again, I am setting out these various steps as being separate because this can help us understand how the process works. Some readers may complain that, with this method, I am simply falling victim to the same objections I raised against Values Clarification in the previous chapter. A m I simply advocating that one become clearer in the values that she already holds? Where in fact do these values come from? What i f one is operating with a poor moral ecology? These are important questions, answers to which I provide below in the next section. For now I want simply to assure readers that, to these questions, Contextualism does have a response. Once we have the moral features o f the current situation set within our moral ecologies and have some idea o f the values at play, we proceed to the third step; beginning to decide on a course o f action. In some cases the situation w i l l so obviously favour one course of action over imaginable alternatives that no serious thought is required. Often, in these instances, we w i l l not need to reason through the situation to the extent outlined here. However, in cases where it is not clear how we should act or judge, then thinking things through like this can be valuable. This is especially true with problems o f conflict or relevance. The example o f my grandmother's dress is one o f conflicting moral principles. If I tell her the truth, it may hurt her feelings, something I would like to avoid doing. The TA  alternative is to lie to her, something else I try to avoid.  H o w do we resolve such cases?  Within the Contextualist scheme, the third step involves imagining what possible courses o f action lie open to us. The need to move to this third stage suggests that some uncertainty exists as to how to proceed. What we want is to imagine as many ways as possible o f taking account o f the morally relevant features o f the situation. In my example  Depending on my moral beliefs and values, I might want to avoid lying to maintain my honour and integrity or I might avoid lying to ensure I maintain a trusting relationship with my grandmother (one could be motivated by both of these concerns). 3 0  56  above, there are two obvious paths open to me. I can spare my grandmother's feelings by lying to her. Or else I can tell her the truth and risk hurting her feelings. In more complex cases, the choices could well be more than two. In fact, with this case, there are other, more subtle options open to me. I can, for example, try to avoid both horns o f the dilemma by discretely changing the subject. The fourth step again involves moral imagination. This time we try to imagine all the possible outcomes o f carrying out each proposed course o f action. This is an inexact process. Sometimes we w i l l not have knowledge o f all the features pertaining to the situation. Often . times we w i l l not have sufficient understanding o f the individuals involved to know how they would react.  A g a i n we can see the place o f moral growth in this scenario. The morally  sophisticated person w i l l be the one with a heightened knowledge o f humans and the world, of how each operates. This in turn w i l l allow the individual to more accurately, and more 32  fully, imagine possible outcomes. The fifth step involves creating arguments for and against each possible course o f action. This w i l l follow from the fourth step where we have imagined likely outcomes o f each option. W e essentially compile lists, for and against each alternative. In the example with my grandmother, I would want to consider the following sorts o f things. If I choose to lie to her, I may indeed spare her feelings. This, in turn, could give her the confidence she needs to go out into a social setting. This, in turn, could lead to new friends, new experiences and many other possible positive things. But by the same token, there are possible negative consequences. If she finds out that I am lying to her, she may come to lose trust in me. Worse yet, she may lose trust in people generally. This could cause her further isolation, the possibility that I am trying to avoid. This is meant only to be an initial list o f the kinds o f things I would need to consider and the things upon which I need to make a judgement. The final step involves choosing which course o f action to follow. From the work done i n the fifth stage, we have some idea o f the different reasons that support, and speak  For example, if I knew that my grandmother were the type of person who would not be offended by my telling her the truth, then there would exist no moral dilemma here. In the absence of such personal knowledge, the best we can do is operate from a general understanding of human nature, of how reasonable people generally react in similar situations (erring, perhaps, on the side of caution or compassion ). By no means as I am suggesting that there is any one particular way that humans and the world work. 3 1  3 2  57  against, each course o f action. Our task now is to decide which course o f action has the best reasons supporting it. Once the best course o f action is chosen, then the task turns to acting upon this. However, such action is the domain o f moral motivation, something about which Contextualism has little do say. Some readers may have noticed that nowhere in this step-by-step procedure have I . designated a step for consultation with others. Starting next chapter, we w i l l begin to see that much is made o f the difference between monological (one person thinking through a moral situation for himself) and dialogical (two or more people discussing a moral situation) approaches to moral reasoning. The former is often criticized for being too narrow, not taking adequate account o f the perspectives o f all who are to be affected by a moral action. I want to be clear that I think it is crucial to seek as wide an input as possible while making moral 33  judgements. The more perspectives we can get, the better we can imagine alternatives and likely consequences, the more complete our picture o f the situation w i l l be, the better (more morally adequate) our judgements w i l l be. However, instead o f designating one particular step to this consultation, I think it is crucial that it happen (where possible and appropriate) at each stage o f this reasoning process. In each o f the six steps I have laid out, our judgements can be improved by discussing the situation with others.  III. Contextualism: A Possible Objection Readers at this point may complain that Contextualism, as outlined here, is essentially useless. It contributes little guidance in our moral lives. It may set out the things upon which judgements need to be made, but it does not make those judgements for us (nor does it tell us when our judgements are 'right'). A s such, it should not be taken seriously as a viable approach to either moral reasoning or moral education. This criticism, though on the surface convincing, is misguided. First o f all, it cannot be overstated how important it is to gain clarity on the issues about which one must make a judgement. To be able to methodically and intelligently think through what is at issue in a moral situation can take us a long way toward resolving that situation. This is even more true when there is moral disagreement between two or more parties. What may appear, on the surface, to be a disagreement about moral  58  principles or values often is really just a miscommunication regarding what each party is arguing for/about. To be able to make this explicit, both in one's own mind and to the parties with whom one is disagreeing, w i l l go a long way toward resolving many moral disagreements.  34  Beyond this, however, the objection still fails. A s the quotation from Dewey in the previous chapter (section II.vii.a.) makes clear, we should not look to moral theories to give us answers to moral problems. Those theories can help to make our judgments better, but they cannot replace the need to make judgements. What Contextualism (with the addition of my test o f impartiality) offers is aid in helping us determine i f our judgements have been made well. Beginning next chapter, we w i l l see how this works. A s I outlined it above, the Contextualist picture has left us with a situation in which we must compare the goodness o f competing reasons, we must weigh the relative merits o f each o f a number o f possible courses o f action. The question thus becomes how this is done? The imagined objection here is based on the fact that Contextualism offers no rule or absolute procedure to determine this for us. Far from being a flaw i n the procedure, however, this "lack" betrays a sound understanding o f the limits o f moral theories. A s Wallace writes, in response to an objection o f this sort: The assumption is dictated, o f course, by the belief that unless the activity o f applying rules is itself governed by rules, it w i l l be done arbitrarily, governed by caprice. This is a false dilemma. It is based upon the notion that the only alternative to doing exactly what one is told by a rule is to act arbitrarily. (1988, p. 65). A s I argued earlier, Wallace is asking us to find a middle ground between two unacceptable extremes: the 'right' answer and complete relativism. According to Contextualism, anyone who wants more than this middle ground is expecting too much from ethical reasoning. We cannot look to ethical theories to give us answers to moral problems. However, even i f there are not rules that tell us how to apply principles, even i f there is not the one right or wrong  In section IV.c, chapter 4,1 discuss some of the limitations of such dialogue. This is obviously an empirical claim, one for which I have no formal backing. I make this assertion based upon my own intuition, my experiences and the experiences of others with whom I have talked. 33  34  59  answer to a moral question, it does not follow that there are not better and worse answers. We should not look to moral theories for these rules, rather what we can gain from them are the standards that help us to determine what constitutes better or worse answers. A s Margaret Urban Walker writes, it is not up to the ethicist to determine what is right and wrong. Every individual must do that for him/herself given the uniqueness o f a particular situation. Rather, Walker continues, it is the ethicist's job to clarify what is to count as right and wrong (1998). Articulating these standards is the overall goal o f this thesis and beginning next chapter, we w i l l start to look more directly at them.  IV. Values, From Where Do They Come? Before moving on it is necessary to pick up some threads that remain outstanding from the previous discussion. A s I alluded to above, an objection can be raised against Contextualism that it has nothing to say about where values come from. A s such, i f a student comes to school with unacceptable values, all we are doing as educators is reinforcing these unacceptable views. This, however, is not the case. Contextualism does have something to say about what values are acceptable. But, instead o f simply trying to teach students what values to hold (both a pedagogically and morally dangerous approach), Contextualism sets up conditions whereby each individual is led to explore her own values and to critically examine their worth. It is absurd to think that one's moral education begins only when one attends school and begins to follow a curriculum labelled ' M o r a l Education'. Children are exposed to moral lessons every day o f their lives (which is not to say they recognize them as distinctly moral, nor are they necessarily taught as such). B y the time they reach school-age, most children w i l l have a fairly well developed moral vocabulary, along with which comes values and beliefs about what is acceptable. It is thus a mistake for teachers to believe they are working with a tabula rasa. Further, it is undesirable to want this. The early moral education that children receive can be  As I have written above, often times there can be a range of acceptable solutions to a given moral problem. But accepting that more than one solution can be morally adequate is not to admit that all solutions must be so. Even accepting several possible solutions, we can still some that some are not acceptable, morally wrong. For more on this, see the detailed example of the school counselor later in this chapter (section V). 35  60  J  seen as an acculturation into the ways a society operates. A s Wallace describes it, "a community's morality embodies and reflects a people's collective w i s d o m " (1988, p. 62). Over decades and generations, societies have developed ways o f living that have allowed them to prosper  36  and to continue in existence. It is foolish to desire that each individual start  from scratch, to learn all o f these lessons for herself. Rather, we want to pass on this collective wisdom, this way o f living together. The early moral education o f children thus consists ofteaching them the ways o f society. Theorists dating back at least as far as Aristotle have seen the necessity for this. A n d this moral acculturation can go on in schools as well. I am not suggesting it is in any way complete when students begin public school. A s Peters (1979, pp. 349) rightly argues, more o f a focus in moral education needs to be placed on developing Kohlberg's Conventional morality. We do want to move beyond this foundation to a more autonomous state, but the foundation is crucial. Some mistakenly assume that, because this passing on o f society's values is the starting point o f moral education, it should be the totality o f it. If it were left at this level, then we would have reason to be concerned. There is no guarantee that a society's collective wisdom is adequate or acceptable. Further, conditions change that require new thinking. This initial teaching is thus only a starting point from which to reflect upon moral issues. What we need also is the ability to reflect critically upon these values in order to explore their implications. Within the Contextualist scheme, there is both the opportunity and the need to so question one's values. In anticipating likely consequences o f possible courses o f actions, one is confronted with the implications o f holding particular value positions. When those consequences are ones that we are uncomfortable with, it gives cause to look deeper into the values from which they sprang and to question i f this value is one we want to continue to hold. The social aspect o f Contextualism also demands that values be questioned. Contextualism encourages dialogue amongst many parties in trying to arrive at sound moral judgements. During such dialogue, differences in opinion w i l l be probed and the assumptions  Certainly we can find much in all histories that we would fail to perceive as "prosperity". But Wallace's point here is simply that things could be a whole lot worse and that whatever good we find in society should be honoured and passed on to subsequent generations. 3 6  61  underlying particular value positions w i l l be called into question. For an individual who has given no thought to why he holds particular values, or from where they come, this w i l l provide an opportunity to re-think which values are in fact valuable. The so-called factual basis upon which values sometimes depend (for example, that women deserve to be treated as second-class citizens because they are less intelligent than men) can also be laid bare and mistaken assumptions exposed. There is, o f course, no guarantee that these methods w i l l alter an individual's view, even a view that most o f us might find reprehensible. A s it unfolds, we w i l l see that Contextualism depends heavily on a notion o f reasonableness. If individuals are not willing to be reasonable (that is, not willing to consider reason), there is little that can be done in terms o f education to change their views. We could indoctrinate them into other values, but I, for one, am not sure this is a preferable situation. In any event, the fact that not all values w i l l be changed for the better is not a fault o f Contextualism, it is a reality o f any ethical system.  37  What is valuable i n this regard is how Contextualism offers a much clearer picture of how and why values must be called into question. This at least raises the possibility that problematic values w i l l be changed. Readers may question at this point how likely it is that one's own values w i l l really be questioned and the values o f others seriously considered. Some great thinkers from our past would share this doubt. Freud once claimed that, "all judgements o f value made by mankind . are 'attempts to prop up their illusions with arguments'" (1930, p. 143). W i l l i a m James echoed a similar sentiment, " A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices". I find myself less skeptical however, imagining this not so unlikely especially where children are taught from a young age to put their values into question. It is, as Thomas Nagel points out, difficult to do: There have to be principles o f practical reason that allow us to take into account values that we do not share but whose force for others we must acknowledge. In general, the problem o f how to combine the enormous and disparate wealth o f reasons that practical objectivity generates, together with  By system here, I am meaning any ethical theory, or any approach, like Contextualism, that attempts to give us a way of working through moral problems. 3 7  62  the subjective reasons that remain, by a method that w i l l allow us to act and choose in the world, is dauntingly difficult. (Nagel 1986, p. 188) However, with Nagel, I see a possibility for this. Further, given the lack o f an acceptable alternative, I see it as absolutely necessary i f we are to find any common ground in our pluralistic societies to talk and act respectfully across our differences. This chapter has outlined a procedure for the kind o f practical reasoning approach that Nagel says is necessary and possible. What has not been articulated is how we determine whether this has been done well or not. Contextualism w i l l lead us to a tentative judgement about what should be done in a morally problematic situation. What is needed beyond this is a test to question whether our practical reasoning has been adequately done. M y reasonableness conception o f impartiality can be this test. In essence, we take our tentative judgement and ask ourselves (and others i f possible and appropriate) i f it can pass a test o f impartiality. What this test demands is that the judgement be defensible against, or provide no grounds for, reasonable objections. If others can reasonably object to my tentative judgement, then there is reason to believe that my practical reasoning has been faulty. In other words, somehow I have unfairly privileged my own (or possibly another's) position. If no one can reasonably object to my judgement, then I have confidence that it is morally adequate and can act from this confidence. I must keep in mind, however, that the case is never fully closed. N e w perspectives may be offered, new evidence (relevant factors) may come to light that need be accommodated. Consequently, I must remain open-minded and be aware that what is understood to be an adequate judgement now may not be seen as such in the future. What exactly is involved in this test and how it operates w i l l be the subject of the next three chapters. However, before turning to that, I w i l l fill-out my discussion o f Contextualism by taking you through a more detailed and realistic example, examining all (or at least many) of the different questions that arise.  V . Detailed E x a m p l e Imagine that you are a counselor in a high school. Walking down the hall one day, an agitated and desperate-looking grade twelve student approaches you. Checking to see no one 63  is within listening range, she confides that she has something she really needs to talk to you about, and you are the only person she can talk to, but she w i l l only do so i f you promise to keep it absolutely confidential. She asks you point blank i f you are willing to promise to keep the conversation secret. What are you to say in response to her? I think there are three general types of replies one could give. One could tell the truth and say that yes, I w i l l keep this absolutely confidential. One could tell the truth and say to the student that no, I cannot promise that what I hear w i l l remain confidential. Or one could lie, assuring the student that what she says w i l l be kept confidential, all the while thinking that it might not be kept confidential. There can, of course, be variations on these. One could tell the student that I w i l l try to keep it confidential, but i f I hear that anyone is at risk (including the student herself), then I w i l l have to betray the confidence (a variation on option two). W h i c h o f these three options (or their variations) is the morally preferable one to choose? Contextualism tells us that the first thing we need to consider are the relevant moral features o f the situation. What are these? One is obviously truth-telling: w i l l I lie to the student or not? Another is the responsibility that I have, arising out o f my job as a counselor in this particular school; ensuring the safety o f other students and staff in the school, including the safety o f this particular student. There are responsibilities to myself (what kind of legal and disciplinary trouble could I get into for failing to reveal certain kinds o f information?). There are considerations o f my reputation within the school; i f I lie and it is found out, other students may no longer trust me and so I w i l l not be i n a position to help anyone in the future. In this vein, i f I lie and this particular student finds out, she may not come to me seeking what further, follow-up help the situation might demand. The reader might argue and say that, aside from the truth-telling issue, these other concerns are pragmatic and not moral ones. Because they concern how one w i l l act in a morally problematic way, I prefer to see them all as moral concerns (in this context). However, i f the reader prefers to see these subsequent concerns as non-moral, this is fine. They still bear greatly on the 'true' moral issue at stake, whether one is to lie to this student or not.  64  The second step in the Contextualist approach is to take these various relevant moral considerations and fit them within our own moral understanding (what I referred to above as a moral ecology). H o w do these various concerns fit with more general moral principles that I find important? Given these more general principles and how they fit together within an even-larger moral understanding, how I am to interpret the particular considerations in this specific case? Again, this second step can often be done unconsciously and certainly need not be separate from the first stage. I include it only to remind the reader that it can be done separately and in so doing, one can perhaps gain more clarity on the kinds o f issues that are at play in a given situation. The next step in the Contextualist approach is to imagine all o f the different options possible in solving this practical problem. Above I listed three possible options (while admitting there would be variations on these). From this stage, we then try to muster as many arguments as we can that support and deny each o f the possible courses o f action. A s we w i l l see, this w i l l involve a number of judgements and evaluations o f likely consequences. I w i l l go through each o f these three options in turn. The first option is to tell the student that yes, she can talk with you and you w i l l keep everything that is said confidential. W i t h this option, you mean to keep your word. This option is good for the following reasons. The student may really be in trouble and, i f you are the only person whom she w i l l talk with (and possibly the only person who can help her), then it is important to do everything you can to get her to talk with you. Once you have heard what she has to say, you might want to reveal this information to someone else. But, at least you have gotten this far and are in a position to try and help the student in whatever way you can, perhaps by encouraging her to seek help outside o f your sphere o f influence. This option is also good because, by keeping your promise, you are enhancing your credibility both with this particular student, and with other students i n the school who may well hear about your honesty. This heightened credibility w i l l likely allow you to help students better in the future. This first option is also bad, however, for several reasons. Often counselors in schools operate under certain legal and administrative restrictions. In British Columbia, for example, i f you are aware that a particular student is being abused, is thinking o f harming herself or 65  harming another, then you must report this. Failure to do so can cost you your job and leave you legally culpable. To keep the promise under all circumstances is to put yourself potentially at risk o f the consequences that result from violating these restrictions. It is possible that the student knows these laws and rules and is i n fact testing you. If you promise to keep the conversation secret under all circumstances, the student might not believe you and so w i l l fail to open up to you. In keeping the promise under all circumstances, you may also be denying the student help she desperately needs. While it is good to keep your promises, it might sometimes be better (less o f an evil) to break a promise in order to prevent someone from doing great harm. Option two states that you refuse to promise any confidentiality, but that you would be happy to talk to the student on your own terms. The reasons supporting and denying this option are the reverse o f option one. Y o u risk pushing the student away when you may be her last help. But, you protect yourself and (consistent with option one) you protect your, reputation. W i t h option three, you promise to keep the conversation confidential, but are thinking to yourself that there are certain circumstances in which you w i l l fail to keep this promise. Here, you are encouraging the student to open up to you, which is good. Y o u are also protecting yourself from the legal and institutional sanctions that would follow i f you kept certain information private. Further, you give yourself 'wiggle room' to decide i f the case is one in which breaking your promise is the lesser o f two evils. This third option is problematic, however, for several reasons. If you do break the promise, your credibility with this student, and in the school, could be permanently ruined. Further, the student might sense from the beginning your insincerity and so be pushed away. She might in fact be testing you as outlined in option one and you could fail this test by making a promise she thinks you cannot keep. This is only an initial look at the complexities o f this case. Even so, we can see that there are potentially strong reasons for and against each o f the three possibilities listed. How, then, do we decide among these three options? Contextualism says we must compare the relative weights o f the competing reasons and choose the option that is best supported by reasons. To do this, we need to move beyond this abstract level o f potential consequences 66  and look directly at the specifics o f this given case (something that obviously cannot be done in a writing such as this, except in the most hypothetical o f ways). This w i l l require a number of difficult judgements on our part. We must first judge how serious this problem might actually be. Given what you know about this student (if anything at all), is she the kind o f person to exaggerate her problems? Is she the type that would generally have serious problems (keeping in mind that anyone can encounter serious difficulty under the right (or wrong) circumstances)? Can you read from her demeanor i f the agitation she is displaying is genuine or merely acted? Based on our reading o f this facet o f the problem, the weight given to the need to get the student talking is going to rise or fall. O f course in the absence o f any conclusive evidence to judge one way or another, you may want to take the cautious route and assume the worst. But this too may be affected by your years (months? days? hours?) o f counseling experience. Other sorts of judgements w i l l need to be made as well. If I do hear something that I am legally bound to reveal, but want to keep my promise, how likely is it that my concealing of this information w i l l get leaked? If leaked, how severely can I expect to be reprimanded? If it is unlikely that it w i l l get leaked, or i f the punishment is really mild, or i f I am planning on quitting counseling next week anyway, this consideration w i l l not hold a lot of water. But i f it is likely to get leaked and the punishment is quite severe, this w i l l factor strongly into my moral weighing. If I break my promise and reveal to others this conversation, how likely is it that this w i l l get around the school and damage my reputation? Here, we can imagine the possibility to be quite high as the student may well be angered by my breach o f trust and so feel vindictive. Conversely, i f I keep the promise in the hopes that my reputation w i l l be enhanced (not for selfish reasons but so I can more effectively do my job in the future, helping more students), how likely is it that this w i l l get spread around the school? One can imagine that this is far less probable, as the two people who know about the situation both want to keep it quiet (though the student might, in vague terms, speak well o f your trustworthiness). If the situation is a serious one that calls for outside assistance, how likely is it that you w i l l be able to convince the student to seek that help? This i n turn w i l l depend on other 67  factors: are there various support systems in your community that can offer help? how reasonable does this student seem? H o w successful are you, as a counselor, i n convincing people o f doing what is (or at least what you perceive is) good for them? If the answers to these sorts o f questions are favourable, then many o f the problematic elements o f the situation for yourself can be diffused. In this case, the possible trouble you could get into is diminished in importance. But, i f the answers to these questions are not favourable, then troubles for yourself loom large and this must be given greater weight in your assessing of reasons. . Again, this is just a preliminary sketch, highlighting some o f the considerations that w i l l need to be heeded. But here we can already see how this first judgement (what to tell the student), w i l l require a fairly detailed reading o f the situation as well as many subsequent judgements. In this way, we can talk o f a certain layering process that goes on within the Contextualist approach: one judgement w i l l require other judgements, these in turn depending on more judgements. Often times, these judgements w i l l not be made with anything like certainty. H o w much easier it would be to follow a simple Kantian dictum and think that lying is always w r o n g . To.take this route, however, would be to deny the 38  complexity o f moral situations and the subtleties and nuances o f the concrete contexts in which moral problems play out. In the classes I teach to pre-service teachers, I often give this example and have the students reason through the problem. Usually the classes have split roughly into thirds, with each third favouring one o f the three options I have outlined above. In the absence o f a concrete situation i n which the problem plays out, it is hard to get at anything other than a hypothetical answer to the problem. However, what this failure to achieve consensus shows is that each o f these possible alternatives can be seen as an acceptable response to the problem. O f course, given further details o f the situation, one or more o f the options might be  As I will discuss in the next chapter, this is only one way of understanding the demands of Kantian ethics. Others read Kant as being more flexible, more able to take account of the particularities of each individual context..  3 8  68  ruled out. But, at this level o f abstraction, each o f the alternatives seems to have adequate reasons to support it and so can be seen as reasonable.  39  A t this point I then offer the students an Option D : shoot the student dead and rid yourself o f having to make this decision. What the absurdity o f this option is meant to show is that, while Contextualism could conceivably sanction any o f the first three options, this fourth one is clearly not acceptable (of course, one need not do any sophisticated moral reasoning to see this): Thus, while a range o f alternatives is possible, some options are clearly wrong. Contextualism allows for a plurality o f moral positions, but it does not imply relativism.  40  It is clear, then, that Contextualism does not give definitive answers to moral problems. Rather, as an approach to moral reasoning, it gives us a process for thinking through the complexities o f moral situations. In addition, it gives us a way o f ruling out certain judgements as unacceptable. To see this, let us recall the quotation from Winkler cited at the beginning o f this chapter: a process. It is the process, in all its interpretive and analogical complexity, o f arriving at a considered moral judgment and defending it as a fully reasonable alternative within the full context o f the problem. (1993, p. 363) With Contextualism, then, we are reasoning through a moral problem and arriving at a moral judgement that we can defend as 'reasonable'. If it cannot be defended as reasonable, then it is an unacceptable judgement; that is, morally wrong. This is clearly the case with my 41  Option D above. To my reading, what writers on Contextualism have failed to accomplish is to adequately outline what is involved in an alternative being 'reasonable'. This is the task o f this thesis and, beginning next chapter, I w i l l begin to answer this question directly. In essence, I am going to argue that an alternative is reasonable i f no one can reasonably object  The reader can, of course, disagree that one or more of the possible solutions is reasonable (that is, has sufficient reasons to support it). Relativism here meaning that "anything goes" (i.e. whatever one judges to be right is right for her).  3 9  4 0  69  to it. This, as I am conceptualizing it, is what is involved with meeting some standard o f impartiality (my R C I ) . Before turning to look at impartiality, however, I want to finish this chapter with one more thought. It is noticeable in my description of this problem that nowhere did I have the counselor discuss the problem with others, or even the particular student. A s we w i l l see in subsequent chapters, many see any moral reasoning approach with this lack as flawed. I argue that, where possible, it is preferable to seek input from those to be affected by your decision/action. This is not always possible, however, as this example shows. Obviously the counselor cannot seek input from others in this situation because he must make a decision on the spot. Having said that, this example shows the value o f conferring with other people to get their perspectives on a given problem. The reasoning that one goes through to arrive at a judgement can be flawed in a number o f ways: it can fail to take account o f relevant features of a situation, it can fail to consider possible solutions to the problem, it can unreasonably emphasize certain aspects o f the situation, it can unrealistically expect certain empirical outcomes. Failure to meet these sorts o f criteria could lead to an indefensible position. It is 42  not hard to imagine that the sorts o f errors talked about i n this paragraph would be far less likely to occur were one to discuss one's thinking about a situation with other people (especially those likely to be affected by the judgement/action). Thus, where possible, this discussion should be sought and carried out. But, as I w i l l discuss in the next chapter, it is not always practical (and i n some cases not desirable) to have such discussions. W i t h that said, let us turn our attention directly to impartiality.  There is a danger here of getting caught up in semantics. Some will want to claim that there is no absolute moral right and wrong. If preferable for the reader, you can substitute here the expressions morally questionable or morally inadequate. There is further discussion of the standards of practical reasoning in chapter 6. 41  4 2  • '  ,  70  Chapter 4: Other Conceptions of Impartiality  It is time, finally, to get into the question o f impartiality. This chapter w i l l explore how impartiality has been used by other philosophers in their moral theories. There are three main goals for this chapter. The first is to give the reader a sense o f the various ways in which impartiality has been, and is being, used and the various meanings it has taken on. The second is to contrast these other uses o f impartiality to my own reasonableness conception and thereby to help clarify what exactly I am meaning by the term. The third is to anticipate some o f the critiques that have been made against impartiality and to begin a defense o f my own conception against these objections.  I. Impartiality Through The Ages The purpose o f this brief section is to give the reader some idea o f how impartiality has been used in some o f the more influential ethical theories throughout Western philosophy. I w i l l begin by looking at two major strains o f ethical theories: deontological and consequentialist ethics. O f these two, Kant's deontological system is the one most 43  immediately thought o f as incorporating impartiality. However, I w i l l show that Utilitarianism also make use o f the concept in particular ways. It is important to note here that the term impartiality, as it is used in the following sections, is not necessarily meant to imply my reasonableness conception. Rather these sections explore some o f the common properties often associated with the concept and how it shows up i n various different types o f ethical theories. Where I am invoking my own conception o f impartiality, I make that clear.  Some will see this list as lacking a common type of ethics, contract-theories. However, I see these as being subsumed within deontological theories more generally and so I will not deal with them separately here. However, the section on Rawls will provide some discussion of this type of ethics.  43  71  a. Mill and Consequentialist/Utilitarian Theories Consequentialist theories hold that an action is right or wrong depending on the consequences it brings about. Within this group, theories differ based on how one evaluates consequences. This i n turn depends on what sorts o f consequences are considered good and bad. Not all consequentialist theories need incorporate elements o f impartiality. A radical hedonist theory holds that an action is (morally) good insofar as it gives me pleasure and bad insofar as it gives me pain (or prevents my pleasure). Other peoples' well-being has no bearing on my moral evaluation; what matters is simply me and my pleasure. Because such theories are not concerned with others' well-being, many question whether this is really a moral theory at all or merely some version o f a cost-benefit analysis totally outside the moral realm (see, for example, Baier 1958, p. 106). [See chapter 5, section I for more on this.] In contrast, most consequentialist theories do take into account the well-being o f other people. Because it is the most famous o f consequentialist theories, I w i l l use John Stuart M i l l ' s Utilitarianism (1979) to illustrate how such theories work. M i l l begins by arguing that the only things desirable as ends are pleasure and freedom from pain. Things are desired either for pleasure i n themselves or as means to the promotion of pleasure and prevention o f p a i n  44  (p. 7). Because this is what should be, and indeed what  is, desired by all people, the moral quality o f an action can only be determined in relation to these goals. Thus, M i l l concludes: 45  The creed which accepts as the foundation o f morals "utility" or "the greatest happiness principle"holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse o f happiness. (p.7)  It is not clear in this writing if Mill is making an empirical claim (these are the things that people actually do desire) or a prescriptive one (pleasure and freedomfrompain are things that people should desire). This ambiguity is a major weakness in his theory. If he is making an empirical claim, it does not necessarily follow (even if we grant the truth of this dubious claim) that the prescriptive one is also true. Conversely, if he is making a prescriptive claim here, he is begging the question because this assumption is that which he is setting out to prove with this theory. It is not entirely clear how Mill has movedfromthis empirical state of affairs to a moral one. It may well be that people do desire pleasure and the avoidance of pain, but Mill gives us no argument as to how this establishes this principle as the basis of morality. 4 4  4 5  72  Unlike the hedonist theory mentioned above, however, M i l l is not concerned simply with his own pleasures. He thinks that this "greatest happiness principle" must take account of everyone's happiness. H i s argument for this is based, not surprisingly, around utility. He thinks that humans cannot exist without society and that society cannot exist i f everyone's interests are not looked after (see p. 30 f f ) . The happiness we are striving to maximize then is the general happiness o f everyone in society. It is here that we get a certain strain of impartiality. M y interests are to count, but merely as one part i n this general happiness, equal to everyone else's one part. The fact that my happiness cannot count for more importance than anyone else's happiness constrains Utilitarian thinkers from privileging their own positions. Everyone is to count as one, but merely one, is a common way o f understanding the demands o f impartiality. Given this explication o f consequentialist theories o f ethics and my outline of Contextualism in the previous chapter, the reader may be left wondering i f I am not merely a closet Utilitarian. I grant that the two approaches are similar i n some ways, however, there are two crucial differences that I want to point out. First, any consequentialist theory demands that there be a common denominator by which all competing claims can be measured and compared. For example, within M i l l ' s 46  theory, all actions can be expressed as a measure o f pleasure (or the avoidance of pain). Once all competing reasons have been assigned a 'pleasure' value, then it is a simple matter of determining which scores highest. Contextualism promises no such common denominator, no one unit o f measurement that w i l l make this comparison process simple and easy. While this may appear to be a defect in the approach, it is actually a sign that it takes the complexity o f moral life more seriously than any consequentialist theory. In the real world, there can be no common unit that binds all competing types o f reasons and the attempt to build one into the world w i l l necessarily lead to flaws in one's thinking. A s M i l l questioned, is poetry superior to push-pin? Is quantity o f pleasure (or whatever unit we are considering) more important than quality? If not, is it the reverse, or some trade-off between the two? Are pleasures in the immediate present worth more than those more distant in time? These types o f questions  This might be too generalized a claim. This is true for Utilitarian type consequentialist theories, though it need not hold for all consequentialist theories. 4 6  73  are unanswerable in the abstract and so leave us without any hope o f fulfilling the promises made by the theory. The second difference between Contextualism and Utilitarianism lies in the weight one gives one's own concerns. According to a Utilitarian approach, my interests are relevant, but only to the same extent and degree as everyone else's. In other words, my happiness is important, but only as important as the happiness o f every other person (or whatever scope of creatures one chooses to incorporate in one's moral realm). I am to count as one, but only one. It is this kind o f view that have lead critics like Benhabib (1992) to question impartiality and its uses in such theories. Too much emphasis is placed on the "generalized other" and no account is taken o f the specific and crucial relationships that make up, i n large part, who we are. A s Benhabib asks, how are we to account for the "particular other"? Against this, Contextualism argues that my interests can sometimes have a more weighty appeal i n my own moral reasoning. Even i f giving away a portion o f my weekly pay would give greater happiness to those who could benefit more from this money, I am doing nothing morally wrong i f I choose not to so give away my money (although, o f course, it could be a morally commendable thing to do). In weighing up my moral accounts, I am allowed to give greater import to my own concerns so long as I do not unreasonably privilege my own position. What is to constitute such an unreasonable privileging? That is the subject o f chapter six, but we can give an example here to at least illustrate how Contextualism is not a strictly Utilitarian approach. Imagine two different situations. In the first, I am at the front o f a three-person line waiting to get into a film. The ticket salesman announces there are two seats left. If I take one seat, the couple behind me in line w i l l not get in (because they want to go together). If I were to give up my rightful place in line, two people would be able to see the film instead of just one (me) thus producing a greater happiness (assuming the film is any good!). Even granting this, however, I think there is nothing morally wrong in taking the ticket myself, privileging my own position by counting my own desire as more important than the greater desire o f the couple behind me (though once again, it would be morally praiseworthy for me to offer the tickets to the couple behind me).  74  In the second example, I am once again waiting in line for a ticket to a movie. The man at the cash announces that there are only two seats left i n the theatre, but this time I am the third person i n line. M y happiness would be greatly increased i f I could see the movie, but this does not give me the right to somehow 'eliminate' (against their will) one of the two people in-line in front o f me. To ' r i d ' myself o f this obstacle to my happiness would be to unreasonably privilege my position and so would be morally unacceptable. What is the relevant difference between these two examples? I w i l l get into this more in chapter six. But, for now, i f we accept that the two situations allow for different moral outcomes, then we have moved beyond Utilitarianism to a moral reasoning approach i n which the specifics of the context and the rights o f the individual can sometimes make the consequences o f the action not absolutely compelling.  b. Kant and Deontological Theories A s we have seen above, M i l l ' s Utilitarianism is grounded i n the consequences o f actions. For Kant, morality is grounded in the application o f a universal principle known as the Categorical Imperative. Kantian ethics is founded on the notion that human beings, as rational agents, are owed the respect offered to moral persons. What this respect entails is dictated by the various formulations o f the Categorical Imperative, two o f which I want to discuss below. Kant's ethics are complex and I do not want to go into too much depth explaining them. What needs to be said is simply that Kant is looking for a foundation for morals that w i l l prove true for all people at all times. Because for Kant reason is the highest human faculty, he thinks that reason w i l l be what determines the moral quality o f an act (1981, pp. 7). Moral judgements/actions do not fulfill the various formulations o f the Categorical Imperative i f they somehow do not meet this criterion o f reason. Though there is disagreement about this, most readers interpret Kant to mean here that this entails a judgement/action being irrational (that is, involving a logical contradiction). Others try to read Kant (or to re-habilitate his theory), as arguing that this failure occurs when a judgement/action is unreasonable (that is, having reasons but not good reasons).  75  W h i c h reading o f Kant is better is not our concern here.  47  What is important is to  understand the central place that reason has in his ethics. W i t h that in mind, we can look at two formulations o f the Categorical Imperative to see how central impartiality is to each one. The first formulation o f the Categorical Imperative reads as follows: "I should never act except in such a way that I can also w i l l that my maxim should become a universal law" (1981, p. 14). In other words, whatever act I contemplate, i f I cannot w i l l that everyone else would do such a thing (for the same reason), then it is morally flawed. The particular circumstances o f the situation, myself and the other people involved make no difference. What matters is simply that my act could be willed as a universal law. To illustrate this, let us borrow an example that Kant himself uses (1981, p. 14 f f ) . Imagine that I am i n some kind o f distress and that I could alleviate myself from the problem by making a promise that I have no intention o f keeping. Could I w i l l this maxim as a universal law? Kant says obviously not, because i f everyone were to make promises they had no intention o f keeping, then no one could be trusted and the entire concept o f promisemaking would be senseless. The actor, in attempting to w i l l this universal law, has engaged AO  himself in a logical contradiction and so defeats his own maxim.  According to Kant, this  shows that the act would be morally wrong. This is perhaps the most widely understood meaning o f impartiality. Whoever the actor, whatever her particular circumstances, the moral quality o f her actions rests entirely outside herself in some purely objective moral point-of-view. A s Kant says, whatever the maxim is, it must hold true for not only all people (regardless o f particular differences) but for all rational agents, for all time. It is this understanding o f impartiality that gets critiqued 49  most often (as we shall see i n chapter seven). A s the reader can likely guess from my allegiance to a Contextualist approach to ethics, I am not in favour o f any understanding of  For more on this controversy, see Benn and Peters (1959), Hermann (1993), Korsgaard 1986. This is according to Kant, at least. It is not clear to me that the actor has involved himself in a logical contradiction but rather an empirical state of affairs that is undesirable. Notice that if it is this second reading that is true, then we are in the realm of consequences along with Mill and the other consequentialists, something Kant wants no part of. Though again, there is some debate in Kantian scholarship as to how much room there is for Kant to differentiate cases based on the uniqueness of situations. I have chosen to represent him as not allowing for case-sensitivity because it is from this understanding that the common conception of impartiality is drawn and critiqued. 4 7  4 8  4 9  76  impartiality that abstracts completely from a given context. The second formulation, what Kant refers to as the Practical Imperative, states: "act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or i n the person o f another, always at the same time as an end and never simply as a means" (1981, p. 36). In short, this means that others are moral persons, too, and deserve the respect that is afforded all moral agents. Let me illustrate this formulation by looking at indoctrination. The teacher setting out to indoctrinate students wants the students to hold certain beliefs (and to hold them in non-evidential ways) because o f some goal he has. In doing so, he is treating the students, not as ends unto themselves, but rather as means to his ends. In doing so he is failing to meet this second formulation of the Categorical Imperative and so his act is morally wrong. To treat the students as ends unto themselves, the teacher would have to respect each individual student's autonomy. This entails that the teacher would give reasons to support the view he is proposing and that the students would judge for themselves, based on the qualities of the reasons presented, whether this was a view they wanted to hold or not.  50  We can see how this second formulation o f the Categorical Imperative also implies a great deal o f impartiality. Humans, as rational agents, are moral persons. This entails that they are owed the respect offered moral persons; namely, to be treated as ends unto themselves and not merely as a means to someone else's end. It does not matter who the person is, what his particular circumstances are. He is a moral being, just like all other rational agents, and so must be treated the same as other moral beings. A s we have seen, both o f these classical strains o f moral theory involve impartiality somehow. A s I w i l l show in the next chapters, both o f these theories have had great influence in our present understanding o f what morality encompasses and what it demands. In exploring the meaning and function o f morality, we w i l l see evidence o f each o f these particular conceptions o f impartiality. Before getting to that, however, I want to examine three modern thinkers who have been highly influential in shaping our current understanding  This assumes of course that the students possess the intellectual maturity to be able to so evaluate reasons. Where such maturity is lacking, the teacher has the responsibility to give students the tools so as to assess these reasons (this may also involve the teacher toning-down the intellectual level of the content he is teaching). 5 0  77  of both ethics and impartiality. I w i l l start by looking at John Rawls and R . M . Hare, and then turn to Jurgen Habermas.  II: Modern Conceptions of Impartiality While impartiality has come under question from many recent and current scholars, not everyone has abandoned the term. While recognizing that the concept is ever-evolving and being refined, there are too many modern conceptions to adequately cover here.  51  Instead, for considerations o f space, I w i l l limit my discussion to three o f the major ethical writers o f the 2 0 century and show how they employ the concept. In this section, I w i l l th  briefly outline the positions o f John Rawls and R . M . Hare. In the next section I w i l l more extensively explore the work o f Jurgen Habermas.  a. Rawls and the Original Position M u c h o f our modern notion of impartiality arises from John Rawls's conception, found first i n his Theory of Justice (1971) and later in Political Liberalism (1993). Even those arguing against and critiquing impartiality are often doing so in reaction to Rawls (though in many cases I would argue they are being unfair to Rawls, more on this later). Rawls's central project is to devise a structure for the basic institutions o f a society that can be agreed to by all reasonable people. Said in another way, he is looking for a social foundation that recognizes the freedom and equality o f all citizens by treating them justly. This foundation he calls justice as fairness: The aim of justice as fairness, then, is practical: it presents itself as a conception of justice that may be shared by citizens as a basis o f a reasoned, informed, and willing political agreement. It expresses their shared and public political reason. But to attain such a shared reason, the conception of justice should be, as far as possible, independent of the opposing and conflicting philosophical and religious doctrines that citizens affirm. (1993, p.9)  In addition to the numbers problem, many current writers examining impartiality seem to be doing so in terms of large scale questions of justice—a project removed from the immediacy of the moral judgements I am interested in here. 51  78  Rawls recognizes that, in our pluralistic, multicultural societies, people w i l l hold different beliefs regarding what is valuable in life. Given this wide variety o f views, the difficulty in his project is to find a way to come to some consensus about basic standards o f justice. To this end, he develops his famous thought tools, the original position and the veil  of ignorance (see 1971, p. 17 ff. and 1993, p. 22 f f ) . The original position is an imaginary place whereby citizens would come together to decide on these basic social structures. In the original position, we do not know anything about our lives. W e do not know whether we are male or female, rich or poor, able-bodied or not, mentally infirm or not, what skin colour we have, what religion we belong to, and so on. The idea is to take away all o f these particulars in an effort to imagine what basic foundations could exist that would be agreeable to all, regardless o f their particularities. This position of ignorance, lacking all knowledge o f the particulars of our life, Rawls calls the veil o f ignorance. Behind the veil o f ignorance, we would choose social foundations that would serve us fairly, regardless o f who we actually are. Rawls believes that this thoughtexperiment, properly carried-out, w i l l yield the basic social foundations that he encapsulates in his justice as fairness theory. This original position gives us something like impartiality, generally understood. It presents an agent who is devoid o f all particular concerns based on sex, age, religion, race, socio-economic status, and so forth. Because o f its influence, many have come to see the original position as the exemplar from which to think about impartiality. M u c h o f the criticism leveled both at Rawls, and impartiality generally, has to do with a problem many see in totally stripping ourselves o f these particularities (see, for example, Young 1990). A s we w i l l see i n chapter seven, many critics think this is both impossible to do and dangerous to strive for. However, this is not what either Rawls or myself mean by impartiality. For Rawls, impartiality means that we are altruistic, other-focused and striving for the general good. He contrasts this to mutual advantage, "understood as everyone's being advantaged with respect to each person's present or expected future situation as things are" (1993, pp. 16-17). What he is getting at with the original position is something he calls  79  reciprocity , which he thinks balances between impartiality (as he defines it) and mutual advantage. Whether this distinction extricates h i m from this difficulty is not something I w i l l explore. N o r w i l l I attempt to defend Rawls against the claims that ridding ourselves of these particularities is both impossible and dangerous. I avoid these issues because my conception of impartiality in no way demands that we strip ourselves o f all o f these particularities. A s I have tried to make clear so far, sometimes our unique position i n the world is entirely relevant to our moral judgements. However, sometimes it is not. In these cases, it can be useful to try and imagine what I might think/feel/believe i f I were not the amalgam o f all my experiences, social positions and genetic heritage. This is what Coombs (1980) has technically called the 'role-exchange test' and is more commonly explained as stepping into someone else's shoes. But i n no way do I say that a judgement is morally adequate only i f made from this 'original position' or something like i t .  53  Rather, I claim that our judgements  cannot unfairly privilege our own position (made up o f all our particularities). If it does not, then it has met my criteria o f impartiality and is thus morally sound (all other things being equal).  b. R.M. Hare and Universalizability Like Rawls, Hare gets at something like impartiality using a different term. A s Hare writes, " M y own theory secures impartiality by a combination o f the requirement that moral judgements be universalizable and the requirement to prescribe for hypothetical reversed-role situations as i f they were actual" (1989, p. 158). The first part o f this has to do with the logical properties o f the language used. For Hare, universalizability is not something found across people, but rather is a consistency property o f an individual's thinking. Hare claims that one component o f moral judgements is a descriptive one (the other being prescriptive). A s with all descriptive claims, there are meaning-rules that govern their use. He gives the example o f someone judging that something is red (1963, p. 8 f f ) . In  This is a technical term for Rawls, denoting a willingness on the part of citizens to participate in rules that are commonly agreed to and shared. And to be fair to Rawls, nor would he claim this. He is using the ideal of the original position to get at the basic foundations of a just society. He in no way is claiming that it is a heuristic for solving all moral questions. 5 2  53  80  order to reach this judgement, there must be some property involved that makes me think 'red'.  54  If this same property exists in another object, then to be consistent, I must similarly  judge that it, too, is red. If not, I am not being consistent i n my application o f the meaningrules. W e can be mistaken about whether the thing is red. Others may not agree with us that it is red. However, i f a certain light quality leads me to judge red, then every other time that light quality is present, I must also judge red (unless I am aware o f relevant differences between the two situations; the object is seen under fluorescent lights, for example). The second part o f Hare's characterization has to do with the prescriptivity of moral judgements. For Hare, impartiality is got at through a consistency o f application o f a moral imperative. If in one instance I say it is alright to discriminate on the basis o f some particular feature and yet I would not be willing to accept that were I in the position to be adversely affected by this discrimination, then I have involved myself in a contradiction and hence have failed to be impartial. For example, Hare claims that, i f you would say to a hypothetical case where you have black skin that it is wrong to discriminate on this basis, then you are making a universal claim which logically prohibits you from thinking such discrimination is justified i n any case: The point is, rather, that because o f his aversion to its being done to him in the hypothetical case, he cannot accept the singular prescription that in the hypothetical case it should be done to him; and this, because o f the logic of 'ought', precludes h i m from accepting the moral judgement that he ought to do likewise to another i n the actual case. (1963, pp. 108-109) In both the descriptive and prescriptive ways o f achieving impartiality, I believe Hare has got something right regarding the logic o f moral terms. In chapter 6 when I outline my tests o f reasonableness, something like Hare's notion o f universalizability is present in my second test.  55  However, even acknowledging my debt to Hare in this regard I see difficulties  Hare admits that there can be cases where it is unclear if something is red or not. Because language is "opentextured", there will be definite instances of a given phenomenon (redness, for example), but also border-line cases where there can be disagreement about whether the property is present or not. These gray areas do not damage his argument at all (or so he claims and I agree with him). In this second test, Iframethe issue more in terms of Rawls's discussion. However, as Hare admits (1989, p. 158 ff.) his position on this matter is really not very different from a rational contractor theory like Rawls's, or an ideal observer theory. 5 5  81  with his characterization o f impartiality. Hare would seem to have little to say i f the person in his hypothetical case consistently maintains that it is fine to discriminate against people with black skin, even i f he were the person who had black skin. While we might find it odious for the N a z i to say that ' a l l Jews should be killed and I would believe this even i f I were a Jew' (to use another o f Hare's example), there is nothing in this statement that violates the logic o f the moral terms. Hare's only recourse against this kind of judgement is the dubious empirical claim that no one could w i l l such a thing i f he were truly to consider the situation from the other perspective (1963, p. 218 f f ) . A s I w i l l outline in chapter 6, my conception o f impartiality is able to object to such discrimination and racism, not merely on the grounds o f inconsistency i n application o f prescriptivity but also by recognizing that impartiality demands something more than mere consistency (though this is a necessary feature o f impartiality).  Ill:  H a b e r m a s and Discourse E t h i c s L i k e Contextualism, Habermas's Discourse Ethics is a formal, procedural approach to  moral reasoning. It claims no direct substantive moral content other than that inherent in the procedures themselves when it sets up the conditions that must be met in order to reach moral 'truth'. Because there are no a priori  foundational principles that his system relies on, the  first task for Habermas is to decide how a moral norm is to be justified. He thinks moral norms have a truth-status analogous to propositional knowledge, but with an important difference. Both types o f claims are validated by having good reasons to support them. For propositional knowledge, this w i l l involve some kind o f appeal to the empirical world and w i l l yield a "propositional truth" (1990a, p. 59). Similarly the question 'what ought I to do' can be answered only by appeal to reasons. This in turn w i l l yield "normative Tightness" (1990a, p. 59). However, the reasons that redeem normative Tightness are not ones o f prudence or expediency, as Habermas thinks empiricist ethicists would claim (1990a, p. 49). The reasons are o f a different sort.  82  Habermas claims that we cannot, in ethics, abstract from the real-world in which moral decisions and actions are made (what he calls the lifeworld) without seriously distorting the phenomena i n question. Thus, to validate a moral claim, we must look to this lifeworld. H o w is it that people settle disagreements about moral norms? Habermas thinks they conduct dialogues (or discussions) wherein they present reasons to convince the other o f one's position. Habermas makes an important distinction between two ways that this can be done: I distinguish between communicative and strategic action. Whereas in strategic action one actor seeks to influence the behavior o f another by means of the threat o f sanctions or the prospect o f gratification i n order to cause the interaction to continue as the first actor desires, in communicative action one actor seeks rationally to motivate another by relying o f the illocutionary binding/bonding effect (Bindungseffeki) o f the offer contained i n his speech act. (1990a, p. 58) What is needed to validate moral norms is some principle that bridges particular observations and general hypotheses (1990a, p. 63): "Faced with a pluralism o f ultimate value orientations, which seems to support the skeptic's position, the cognitivist [which he sees himself as] has to try to demonstrate the existence o f a bridging principle that makes consensus possible" (1990a, p. 76). Habermas rejects Kant's Categorical Imperative as this bridging principle, but does take the universality implied in Kant's theory as key: "The intuition expressed i n the idea o f the generalizability o f maxims intends.. .that valid norms must deserve recognition by all concerned" (1990a, p. 65). A t this stage, Habermas introduces the concept o f impartiality: "True impartiality pertains only to that standpoint from which one can generalize precisely those norms that can count on universal assent because they perceptibly embody an interest common to all affected" (1990a, p. 65). Impartiality, according to Habermas, must incorporate universal assent. Because o f this requirement, it is impossible (or so Habermas claims) for any particular individual to be impartial. What is possible is that judgements can be impartial i f they are reached through what G . H . M e a d calls "ideal role taking" or "universal discourse" (Mead 1934, pp. 379). A s Habermas concludes, "thus the impartiality of judgment is expressed in a principle that 83  constrains all affected to adopt the perspectives o f all others in the balancing o f interests" (1990a, p. 65). From this, Habermas formulates his principle o f universalization, which states that every valid norm has to fulfill the following condition: A l l affected can accept the consequences and the side effects its general observance can be anticipated to have for the satisfaction o f everyone's interests (and these consequences are preferred to those o f known alternative possibilities for regulation). (1990a, p. 65) If the norm meets this condition, it is validated and thus achieves the normative 'rightness' which is the normative equivalent o f propositional truth. In this way, Habermas borrows a reformulation o f the Categorical Imperative: Rather than ascribing as valid to all others any maxim that I can w i l l to be a universal law, I must submit my maxim to all others for purposes o f discursively testing its claim to universality. The emphasis shifts from what each can w i l l without contradiction to be a general law, to what all can w i l l in agreement to be a universal norm. (T. McCarthy 1978, p. 326) Habermas goes on to justify this principle o f universalization and to build on it to get the central idea o f an ethics o f discourse, "Only those norms can claim to be valid that meet (or could meet) with the approval o f all affected in their capacity as participants in a practical discourse" (1990a, p. 66). Habermas makes use o f the notion o f a performative contradiction to establish this principle. He claims that anyone engaged in argumentation or conversation has a particular goal in mind. This goal can only be achieved by accepting, for oneself, certain rules. These rules entail this principle o f universalization and so to violate this principle is to leave oneself in a contradiction (1990a, pp. 86). For more on this, see his distinction between communicative and strategic action above.  I V . R e p l y to H a b e r m a s After reading both this synopsis o f Habermas's Discourse Ethics, and my outline o f Contextualism in the previous chapter, the reader may be left wondering i f Habermas's and my positions are really all that different. There are, indeed, many similarities and in our basic 84  orientation to moral reasoning we are the same.  56  However, there are some important  differences that I want to bring to light, for two reasons. The first is to help the reader gain clarity on how I am using impartiality. The second is to anticipate some o f the objections made against impartiality generally and to show that my conception overcomes weaknesses found in positions like Habermas'. There are five differences that I w i l l look at: 1) determination o f reasonableness, 2) dialogic vs. monologic approaches, 3) the pragmatics of assent, 4) the nature o f reasons (reasonable pluralism) and 5) moral maturity and sophistication.  a. Determination of Reasonableness One o f the conditions that Habermas holds necessary to avoid the performative contradiction mentioned above is that "every subject with the competence to speak and act is allowed to take part in a discourse" (1990a, p. 89). This surely is a legitimate requirement. If we are genuinely concerned with reaching a decision that is agreeable to all (or to as wide a spectrum as possible), then it w i l l be useful to hear as many voices, expressing as many differing views, as possible. To shut someone out of the discussion is a clear sign that we do not want to consider what she has to say (often because it w i l l weaken the case o f the option that best rewards us). We can also agree with Habermas that we only need to allow competent speakers to voice their opinions. There is, o f course, a danger here that judging certain speakers to be incompetent w i l l really be a way o f silencing voices that we would rather not heed. For years, women (among others) were denied the vote on the grounds that they were not sufficiently competent, to cite just one example o f this abuse. However, granting that we should be incredibly cautious i n judging someone incompetent to participate, it is often practically useful to not have to listen to endless streams o f ranting that is (or would be) clearly unreasonable. But, here is the nub o f my problem with Habermas. It is not the competence of the speaker that is really at issue, but rather the reasonableness o f what he or she has to say.  By this I mean that both of our approaches are ones that focus on procedures that must be met if moral reasoning is to be adequate. Neither of us is proposing any substantive content in our moral theories, arguing instead that such substance can only be derived in the real-life contexts of everyday moral problems, with all their uniquenesses of circumstances and agents. 5 6  85  True, incompetent speakers w i l l often voice unreasonable positions (this is what identifies them as incompetent). However, the flip side is not as consistently true. Simply by virtue of being competent, it does not follow that whatever comes out o f your mouth is reasonable. Fully competent thinkers and participants i n open-discussions can voice unreasonable positions. What I am arguing for in Contextualism is that reasonable objections must be heeded. What Habermas is asking is that people who are generally reasonable (competent) must be heeded. But, to follow Habermas is to commit the ad hominem fallacy. Surely what is at issue is the merit o f the particular position being advanced and not the general reliability of the person advancing the position. If this kind o f procedural approach to moral reasoning is going to avoid falling into relativism, we need some way o f determining what kinds of positions should be acknowledged as legitimate and which ones should be ignored as unreasonable. The general reliability o f the speaker may be a useful first indicator of this en  distinction, but it cannot take us nearly far enough i n this determination.  What is needed in  addition is some articulation o f the standards o f reasonableness that w i l l determine whether a view should be considered or not. These standards derive from the reasons why impartiality is itself important to moral judgements (such an articulation o f the importance o f impartiality is the subject o f chapter 5, the standards o f reasonableness the subject o f chapter 6).  b. Dialogical vs. Monological Approaches One o f the things that characterizes Habermas's position in contrast to Rawls's is his insistence on a practice o f discourse in legitimating normative claims: " L i k e Kant, Rawls operationalizes the standpoint o f impartiality in such a way that every individual can undertake to justify basic norms on his own" (Habermas 1990a, p. 66). This is bad because each agent is trapped within his/her own particular stand-point and frame-of-reference and, try though s/he might to escape this, it is impossible. Thus, according to Habermas, the ideal  To be fair to Habermas here, he may be presenting this competence criterion as merely thisfirststage. My reading of this passage suggests that Habermas believes this to be sufficient in determining which voices need to be heard in gaining this assent. However, it may be that this competence criterion is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for adjudicating practical discussions (moral or otherwise). If this latter reading is the more  86  of the original position is impossible and Rawlsian impartiality is necessarily partial and so flawed.  58  In contrast to this, Habermas proposes, "a "real" process o f argumentation i n which the individuals concerned cooperate" (Habermas 1990a, p. 67). It is this, he thinks, that gives weight to a moral judgement: "the justification o f norms and commands requires that a real discourse be carried out and thus cannot occur i n a strictly monological form, i.e., i n the form of a hypothetical process o f argumentation occurring i n the individual mind" (Habermas 1990a, p. 68). A s we w i l l see i n chapter seven, Habermas is not alone i n critiquing such a monological approach. While I agree that this dialogical approach is generally preferable (though not always, see section 3 below), we need to question whether it is always practical. Think o f large-scale questions of justice. If there is a moral decision I need to make that w i l l affect thousands o f people, I w i l l be concerned that I act upon a norm that I feel is justified. However, according to Habermas, my norm can only be justified i f I literally have a discussion with each person who is to be affected by my acting on this norm. In reality, there is no way I can have discussions with each o f those thousands o f people. Further, I may not even be aware to who w i l l be affected by my acting upon a particular norm. There have been many commentators who see i n Habermas's work this practical problem and try to read him as not meaning this necessity o f consulting everyone literally. A s Nicholas Burbules says:  representative of his meaning, then our positions are similar here. However, this still leaves open the question of how we determine reasonableness (the subject of my next chapters). 58 As I wrote above in the Rawls section, I am not convinced this is a fair critique of Rawls's position. As Rawls himself points out in his Reply to Habermas (1993), what he is after is not some process for adjudicating all moral disagreements, but rather a way of establishing the basic institutions of a just society. We can still question whether Rawls is successful in this endeavor, but his insistence on the need for people to abstract from their particular situations must be grappled with. As Rawls writes, "The reason the original position must abstractfromand not be affected by the contingencies of the social world is that the conditions for a fair agreement on the principles of political justice between free and equal persons must eliminate the bargaining advantages that inevitably arise within the background institutions of any society from cumulative social, historical, and natural tendencies" (1993, p. 23). Habermas, in his critique of Rawls, has not overcome this problem. One can imagine Rawls responding to Habermas that given people's knowledge of, and desire to hold on to, particular privileges, assent would be impossible. Or to set this in Habermas's language, without the ability and willingness for people to abstractfromtheir particular life circumstances and situations, 'ideal role taking' will never be realized.  87  Habermas has been misunderstood on this point (for secondary analyses o f this idea, see Benhabib 1986, pp. 287-88; McCarthy, 1978, pp. 306-307; R. Young, 1990, pp. 71-78). The ideal speech situation never actually exists, or could exist—there are too many practical barriers to its full realization. Rather, it is a counterfactual hypothesis about what we ideally presume when we endeavor to speak together. (1993, p. 17) I think Burbules may be partially right here. Habermas would never assume that full participation by everyone in the ideal speech situation would ever occur. Habermas himself seems acknowledge this at times, when he writes things like "valid norms must deserve recognition by all concerned" (1990a, p. 65) and "only those norms can claim to be valid that meet (or could meet) with the approval o f all affected in their capacity as participants i n a practical discourse. (1990a, p. 66). Notice the hedging phrases in the previous quotations, '''deserve recognition" and "could meet with the approval", suggesting something less than a fully literal meaning o f real-life participation. This is quite a departure from his more strenuous claims: "All affected can accept..." (1990a, p. 65) and "the justification o f norms and commands requires that a real discourse be carried out" (1990a, p. 68). So, while Burbules's reading might be a good one, i f we accept the ideal speech situation as merely a hypothetical guide to how our dialogues should be conducted, we are on a slippery slope back to the monological position that Habermas emphatically rejects. Burbules's reading o f the ideal speech situation is meant to remind us that we are committed to certain standards and considerations when we engage in moral thinking. But these are standards and concerns that would be perfectly acceptable to Rawls. Thus, i f we accept too much o f the non-literalist reading o f Habermas, we are left with little o f the motivation that generated this theory for h i m i n the first place. B y acknowledging these practical difficulties o f the ideal speech situation, we remove the substance o f what Habermas uses to distinguish himself from positions like Rawls's. So while we can accept Burbules's defense o f Habermas on this position, we need to see that it comes with a large cost.  88  Three other questions arise here, though they are dealt with in depth in other sections. Is the seeking o f opinion from those to be affected always a good thing (see Section c)? Is it practically useful to seek the opinion o f all who are to be affected, or merely those who are capable o f giving reasonable feedback (Section a above)? Related to this problem is the question o f how we are to deal morally with children. When and how are they to be treated as participants i n these discussions? Finally, given the nature o f reasonable pluralism, is consensus always necessary or even desirable (Section d below)? A l l other things being equal, it is good to seek out the opinions o f those to be affected by a moral judgement/act [or, more accurately for Habermas, those to be affected by acting upon a norm]. Where possible, the agent is better off going through this process and her tentative judgement w i l l be more secure i f it passes this test (see the end o f chapter 3 for a fuller discussion o f this). But, we must realize that such a process is often not possible. Scale and time constraints often mean that we w i l l need to imaginatively enter into another's shoes and try to see through her eyes what would be best for her. Far from being a flaw, this can be a useful mind-experiment and something that needs to be central to any process o f moral education. N o one this side o f Kant, not even Rawls, is suggesting that such a monological approach is the only test that need be considered in evaluating moral judgements. But it does not follow from this that it cannot be part o f this test. Part o f the difference between my position and Habermas's might be i n how we regard justification. He seems to think o f it as an absolute standard. For him, a normative claim is justified i f it passes his universalization test (that is, gains the assent o f all affected by acting upon the proposed norm). If it doesn't pass this test, it is not justified. In place o f this either/or thinking, I am proposing that justification be thought o f i n terms o f being either more or less present. Where such universal assent is possible, it should be sought. But, for the many cases where it is simply impossible, for the various reasons listed above, I don't want to rule out the possibility o f an action being justified. Justification, for me, is relative to context and what kinds o f tests can be mustered against which to subject one's tentative judgement.  89  c. The Pragmatics ofAssent A s stated above, I agree with Habermas that it is generally useful (because it is more reliable) to seek the voices (and assent) o f all who are to be affected by a judgement. However, it is not always the case that this is wise. Consider, for example, the simple case of a moral conflict problem raised in the previous chapter: my grandmother asks me i f her new dress (which is frightfully hideous) looks nice. If I tell the truth, I hurt her feelings. If I don't, then I am lying. According to Habermas's principle o f universalization, a norm is justified i f it gains the agreement o f all parties who are affected by it. But, in an example like the one on the table here, it is absurd for me to seek to gain the approval o f my grandmother in whatever norm I choose to act upon . To propose the situation to her is to already have made the choice (in revealing the dilemma, I must admit my horror at her dress). It is possible that I could be sly about this and propose a hypothetical situation o f a similar nature and see what kind o f answer my grandmother would give. There are two dangers with this, however. First, my grandmother might easily see through my ruse and know that what is at issue is her dress. This would put me back i n the problematic situation . of having the issue decided for me. Second, this is the kind o f abstract, hypothetical thinking about moral issues that folks like Habermas encourage us to avoid. To get at a legitimate answer to a genuine moral problem, we need to take into account the specifics of the situation including the actual people (with all o f their idiosyncrasies) involved. M y grandmother's answer to a hypothetical question would not, on this account, give me sufficient guidance i n resolving this concrete moral problem. Granted, these cases where we cannot consult the people to be affected by our actions w i l l be rare. However, they do exist in our everyday lives and so any scheme o f moral justification must be able to account for them. Habermas's insistence on gaining universal assent does not adequately accommodate such cases and so shows a limitation in using his theory to solve practical moral problems (and hence the need for something else/more in programs o f moral education to adequately prepare the young for moral life). M y test of impartiality can accommodate these situations. In testing my moral judgement, I do not ask my grandmother what she would want me to do. Rather, I imaginatively enter into her shoes 90  (with all the knowledge I have o f her, her wants/values/beliefs/self-doubts) and question whether whatever course o f action I am considering could be seen as reasonable by her. Here, the monological approach seems preferable to the dialogical one. It is worth noting here a sharp distinction that is revealed i n the previous example. With my reasonableness conception o f impartiality, I am looking at what w i l l justify a particular moral action or judgement. Habermas, with his Discourse Ethics, is concerned with justifying moral norms, something a step removed from concrete moral problems. One could try to salvage Habermas's position by arguing that, while a resolution to a particular problem like the one with my grandmother might not allow for the ideal speech situation, in justifying norms this is possible. I can have conversations with my grandmother, i n general terms, about whether it is better to tell the truth or better to spare people's feelings (in situations where the two conflict). However, because o f Habermas's sensitivity to context (stressing that real moral problems only occur in the 'lifeworld') I ' m not sure he would see much value in this. Further to this point, to expect any kind o f consensus i n the abstract requires that one accept the constancy assumption (I talk about this in more detail i n section iv, chapter 6). That is, to justify a norm i n this way, one must assume that telling the truth is always more important than preventing harm to another (or vice versa, depending upon how one would rank these virtues). I think most us can accept that, given one situation, one virtue would be 59  more important/relevant; while in another situation, the other would be more important.  d. The Nature of Reasons (Reasonable Pluralism) Habermas states that moral problems are practical ones and like other practical questions, must be decided on the basis o f reason: "to say that I ought to do something means that I have good reasons for doing it" (1990a, p. 49). A s we have seen, what makes a reason a good one for Habermas is that it passes the universalization test and gains the assent o f all  It is conceivable that one could salvage this position without recourse to the constancy assumption. For example, not only would I talk with my grandmother about such moral conflict problems and discuss which of the two virtues is more important. Further, I would discuss with her all the possible cases where lying is worse than hurting people and vice versa. For this to work, however, we would need to have—ahead of time—an 5 9  91  who are to be affected by the proposed norm. It is worthwhile, however, to spend more time exploring this goodness quality o f reasons and what 'goodness' entails here. Approached from a different angle, it is useful to explore the ways in which people might fail to gain agreement, what kinds o f differences can persist i n even the most open and ideal moral conversations. We can explore these related questions using Habermas's own framework. He claims that disagreement can arise i n one o f three ways: "When someone rejects what is offered in an intelligible speech act, he denies the validity o f an utterance i n at least one o f three respects: truth, rightness, or truthfulness" (1990b, p. 137). These three areas correspond roughly to the objective, normative and subjective realms, respectively. Let us briefly explore each in turn. Truth has to do with the empirical states o f affairs that form the substance o f what we are discussing. Disagreement arises when we cannot gain consensus on 'the facts' o f a case. Consider two people arguing over whether streaming  60  is an acceptable moral practice. For  these two people, the argument comes down to one crucial factor: are some kids being disadvantaged by this practice. Assume further that they agree on what would constitute disadvantage. The two may still disagree because the empirical data upon which they are making their judgements is conflicting. One report w i l l say that all students benefit by streaming. Another study w i l l say that some students benefit greatly, but at the expensive o f others (usually lower-class, marginalized kids). Where there cannot be agreement reached about the empirical facts o f the case, consensus w i l l likely be impossible Habermas's universalization principle w i l l not be met. In complex moral problems, there are often multiple truth-claims upon which an argument rests and often these truth-claims are o f a type that is difficult to evaluate (e.g., what, in fact, w i l l be the effect o f global warming?). It is not surprising then that there is enormous room for disagreement in these cases and this provides one reason why such difficult moral issues often seem so intractable. Habermas's second realm has to do with normative rightness. He explicates this at one point as "our world o f legitimately ordered interpersonal relations" (1990b, p. 137). Later  incredibly detailed and thorough moral discussion about all possible situations where such a conflict could occur and the considerations relevant to each. This seems to me a practical impossibility. The practice of slotting students (whether in high school or elementary school) into ability groups.  6 0  92  on this same page he characterizes this as the concern for "justice". I take his meaning here to be that there needs to be agreement upon the relevant moral principles involved in a particular moral problem. To illustrate this, we can re-cast our example o f streaming from above. Let us assume that the two discussants can agree on the empirical states o f affairs. Streaming, they agree, has the effect that all students are helped, but that upper-class, privileged students are 61  helped more. The result o f this is that the gap between privileged and disadvantaged students is widened. This agreement on the empirical states o f affairs does not necessarily entail moral agreement, however. Discussant A may look at these facts and think that streaming is thus a morally good practice. He is basing this judgement upon the principle that the role o f public schools is to help each student as much as possible (i.e. to maximize the net success o f the student-body as a whole). In contrast, discussant B may look at these same facts and conclude that streaming is thus a morally bad practice. Here, her judgement is based upon the principle that schools should try to maximize the success o f all students, but must do so i n such a way as to promote the maximum possible equity o f opportunity for all students upon completion of public school. Because streaming actually works against this equity criterion, it is morally unacceptable. These are but two possible principles that could be at stake. We can see, however, that without some agreement as to the purpose o f public schooling (agreement on moral principles), consensus on this moral issue w i l l , again, likely be impossible. Habermas's third realm, truthfulness, has to do with "eachparticipant's own world of subjective lived experience", or what he later calls "taste (i.e., personal expression)" (1900b, p. 137). Again, I w i l l try to illustrate this realm with the streaming example. Imagine that our two discussants agree on the empirical facts o f the matter. Imagine further that they share a common view of justice, that is, what would constitute a morally acceptable result. Disagreement can still arise as to how the empirical facts o f the case are to be interpreted. B y all objective measures, say, streaming seems to help every student equally (equally here understood i n whatever way is consistent with our moral principles). Discussant A therefore concludes that streaming is a morally good approach. However,  93  discussant B , owing to his own experiences o f being in a lower-streamed group in school, believes there is something that is not being spoken here. It is not exactly a matter of the social stigmatization o f being in the "basic" group (for this would be factored into our analysis o f principles), but something like that that this person cannot exactly articulate. Even though all o f the objective measures suggest streaming is equally good for everyone, he still thinks there is some effect that is harmful to lower-streamed kids and so maintains that streaming is morally problematic. Once more we can see that without some common 62  ground in this realm o f subjective experience, consensus on the larger moral question is going to be near impossible. These three categories need not be entirely distinct. A s Habermas notes, "these aspects are not clearly distinguished in normal everyday communication. Yet in cases o f disagreement or persistent problematization, competent speakers can differentiate between the aforementioned three relations to the world" (1990b, p. 137). I might add here that this distinction, so usefully employed by competent speakers, could also provide a frame-work for moral educators. T o clearly articulate these three different ways o f disagreeing is to give students a structure from which to evaluate others' competing claims (more on this later, in chapter eight). We can see from the above analysis that there is enormous opportunity for disagreements to arise i n moral debate. In fact, it seems quite unlikely that the consensus that Habermas is seeking with his universalization principle could ever be met. In a moment, I am going to argue that this is not necessarily a bad thing. But first, let us re-visit this universalization principle and two possible ways o f interpreting it. Habermas articulates the principle as such: A l l affected can accept the consequences and the side effects its [the norm's] general observance can be anticipated to have for the satisfaction o f  That is, all students are better off academically than if there were no streaming. 1 have, admittedly, had to stretch the example here to fit Habermas's third realm. Perhaps a clearer example of this subjective aspect can be seen in my on-going example of my grandmother and her hideous dress. For me, there is a moral dilemma between telling her the truth and hurting her feelings, or lying and sparing her feelings. This arises, however, out of my subjective judgement that the dress is in fact hideous. For someone who quite likes the dress, such a moral problem does not exist and so consensus between this (fashipnally deranged) person and myself could be quite difficult.  6 1  62  94  everyone's interests (and these consequences are preferred to those o f known alternative possibilities for regulation). (1990a, p. 65) The two interpretations revolve around what I w i l l call the .'strong' and the 'weak' reading o f acceptance. In the strong understanding o f acceptance, each participant must not only accept the consequences o f acting upon the norm, but also prefer those to any other possible norm. The weak reading  states that all must accept the consequences o f acting on the norm, but  might prefer some other possible norm. Acceptance in the weak sense here admits something like my principle o f reasonableness: I think that you have good enough reasons to act upon the norm you propose, but all things considered, I'd rather you did something else (follow some other norm). If i n fact I would prefer that you did something else, then my acceptance fails to meet the requirements o f this strong interpretation. It is clear from the parenthetical attachment in the quotation above that Habermas has something like the strong interpretation in mind, at least at this point i n his writing . Is such a strong sense o f assent always necessary in moral debates? I would argue no, that sometimes reasonable people w i l l hold differing, though legitimate, views as to what should be done in a given situation. This is the nub o f what Rawls calls reasonable pluralism (1993, pp. 63) and is the essence o f tolerant multi-cultural societies. There w i l l be times where a range of value positions w i l l not be possible. I find it impossible to imagine that anyone could ever reasonably argue that it is acceptable to torture children for fun. But such absolute cases are rare and any scheme o f moral justification needs to be able to account for the cases where a range o f views is permissible. Habermas seems to have a rather narrow view o f what is to count as a moral problem, and rationality i n general: We are now i n a position to define the scope o f application o f a deontological ethics: it covers only practical questions that can be debated rationally, i.e., those that hold out the prospect o f consensus. It deals not with value preferences but with the normative validity o f norms o f action. (1990a, p. 104)  As I discuss below, this passage does not admit of this weak reading. I use the term here instead to mean a possible interpretation of what Habermas might have meant (the parenthetical statement notwithstanding), or how his theory might be improved to make more sense. 63  95  Most, I think, would agree that this is too limited an understanding. Habermas is suggesting that something can be debated rationally only i f there can be consensus on the answer. If something admits o f more than one answer, then it is merely "value preference". Considering that there are many (seemingly moral) questions that do not "hold out the prospect of consensus", Habermas is forced to conclude that there are fewer moral issues in the world than many would imagine. This is an understanding o f morality that I find simply unacceptable. M u c h o f the motivation for following a practical reasoning approach to ethics is to avoid the wrong-headed (or so I would claim) notion that there is 'the, one right' answer to moral problems. In demanding consensus, Habermas seems to have slipped back into something like this problem. I w i l l grant, however, that I may be reading "prospect for consensus" in too strong a way here. M y reading has Habermas suggesting that a genuinely moral problem w i l l have a good chance o f gaining consensus among those affected by the norm o f action—something of which I am skeptical i n many cases. If Habermas is meaning something much weaker here, something like a logical possibility of consensus, then myobjection fails. However, it is hard to imagine this weaker reading supporting Habermas's general theory. Even questions of value preference hold a logical possibility o f gaining consensus and so, on this reading, it would be unclear why Habermas sees value preferences as something different.. Perhaps, i n wanting to rule out anything that merely revolves around value preference, Habermas is trying to eliminate the subjective realm talked about above. Recall that he is claiming disagreements can arise in one o f three areas: truth (the objective/empirical realm), rightness (the normative realm) or truthfulness (the subjective realm). Habermas may simply be claiming that because the realm o f truthfulness is informed by individual preferences and taste, consensus would be unlikely. The other two realms, however, seem to offer at least a hope o f consensus. Thus, Habermas is claiming that moral questions are only those involving the objective and normative elements. Once the subjective realm is brought in, any prospect for consensus is lost and we are thus no longer dealing with a moral problem. I can accept this position as far as it goes. However, it fails to take account o f how value preferences inform even the normative realm. Recall the example o f streaming above 96  where the two discussants were disagreeing about the fundamental role o f education. Because they had differing ideas o f what schools should be about, they could not agree on what moral principle was relevant to judging streaming—disagreement about 'rightness' (the normative realm). But, this disagreement itself is an expression o f value preference. Discussant B , in holding to the belief that schools should be maximizing equality o f opportunity, is expressing a value preference for the kind o f society that would exist with this heightened equality. Similarly, Discussant A , in claiming that this equality is not so important, is expressing a value preference for another kind o f society. The normative commitments we hold are a reflection o f what we value, essentially expressing our views on the good life, the good society and other questions. For Habermas to think that consensus is possible (even as a remote possibility) i n this realm is to fail to acknowledge the vast diversity people can hold. It is for this reason that theorists like Young object to how impartialist/universalist theorists attempt to reduce all to one subjectivity (Young 1990—see chapter 7 o f this work for a more detailed discussion o f this). The difference between Habermas's and my positions here is not great, but the effect of the difference can be. Habermas stresses the importance o f each individual and letting her represent her own position and thoughts i n moral matters. I agree with this (within the limitations highlighted in previous sections). However, Habermas goes a step further and concludes that a norm is only justified when everyone's position is i n agreement. I reverse the importance here, placing priority on a particular judgement first and secondarily on ^ others' assent to it. N o t everyone has to agree with the tentative judgement I propose. Rather, everyone must be able to see that judgement as a reasonable one. W e might gain consensus that my judgement is reasonable. However, the consensus that Habermas seems to be seeking is one where everyone can agree that my judgement is the best possible one; implicit in this is a belief that there is one right answer for all people. If we are to respect reasonable pluralism, this kind o f consensus is not to be desired.  97  e. Moral Maturity and Sophistication Habermas's approach to moral reasoning seems to be one simply o f w i l l or motivation.  64  If you are willing to enter into the general discussions from which assent is sought, and do so in an open-minded, tolerant and respectful way, then you are a morally good person. However, as I have shown, it is not quite as simple as Habermas suggests. Even ignoring the problems I have cited above about justifying moral norms, there is still much work needed to take those norms and put them into practice; that is, to intelligently and sensitively apply the norms to a given situation, given all its uniqueness. It is necessary to be able to recognize morally relevant features o f a situation, to be able to imagine possible courses o f action, to have the empirical skills to validate (or make an educated guess at) various 'facts' about each alternative, to have the ability to enter into others' shoes and see the situation from their perspective, to envision likely consequences o f various courses o f action, to be able to explore and compare the reasons that support and deny each course o f action, to know how and when to seek advice from others, to know which others to seek that advice from, to know when that advice should be heeded and when it can be ignored. The better we can be at these various things, the better w i l l be our judgements, morally speaking. In this way, my understanding gives a better account o f what it is to grow morally, what moral maturity and sophistication involve. It is also gives more o f a framework for programs that seek to educate people about morality. This shows not so much a weakness in Habermas's theory (for his project is quite a different one) but it does help to highlight how we are different in our goals and methods.  V.  Conclusion A few pages back I questioned what exactly a good reason is. A s my subsequent  discussion shows, I do not think Habermas's universalization principle gives us adequate grounds for determining the quality o f a reason. It can be a useful heuristic, either in practically carrying it out or imaginatively thinking it through. But universal assent is too strong a criterion to place on this determination. Rather, I am claiming that a reason is a good  1 am basing this claim upon a reading of Habermas's ethics which reads them as distinctly different than mine. If we accept a more sophisticated, charitable reading of Habermas, then this claim has less validity.  64  98  one i f it is reasonable (that is, no one could reasonably object to it). Chapters five and six are an attempt to articulate how we might go about deciding what reasonableness is. L i k e the other authors discussed in this chapter, Habermas seems to have touched upon something important in our understanding and use o f impartiality. I have argued that no one author or theory has got impartiality completely right. Instead, I want to claim that each of these theorists expounds upon some particular aspect o f impartiality that is usefully heeded. In the next chapter, I w i l l extract the essence o f these various theories (at least as far as they pertain to impartiality) and give a series o f arguments that justify why impartiality must be a part o f any theory o f ethics (or moral reasoning).  99  Chapter 5: Justifying Impartiality as a Necessary Feature of Moral Reasoning  In the previous chapters I have argued that impartiality is one test against which we can measure whether moral judgements/actions are acceptable or not. In this chapter, I w i l l propose several different reasons that attempt to justify why impartiality must be a part o f moral reasoning. In so doing, I w i l l show the different ways i n which impartiality operates in our moral reasoning. The arguments that follow i n the next three sections are meant to convince the reader that some form o f impartiality is central to morality. A t this point I w i l l not attempt to articulate what exactly is entailed by this impartiality. Recall that I have conceptualized impartiality to mean that no one can reasonably object to my tentative moral judgement (or my action, as the case may be). Said in another way, I have been using the term to imply that one has not unfairly privileged one's own position (if others can reasonably object to my judgement, then there is likely some way in which I have so privileged my position).  65  Looked at from another perspective, this would suggest that one has shown sufficient concern for others' positions/well-being. Thus, when I argue that impartiality is a necessary feature o f moral reasoning, all I am saying is that some kind o f concern for others must be present. Concern for others is a vague notion, not specifying how much concern we must have, nor o f what such a concern consists. These questions w i l l get addressed in the next chapter. For now, I ' l l simply say that concern for others gets at something like a Kantian notion o f respect for persons; others matter and some consideration o f their welfare must factor into our moral reckoning. These three sections then are meant to establish that this concern for others is fundamental to morality as it is commonly understood. The argument follows three main lines. I argue first that this is simply how the concept is typically used; second that it best serves its purpose with this understanding and finally that it is implied i n our democratic way of governing/living. The reader may find any  One's moral reasoning can be weak even if it does not lead to privileging one's own position but this is the most common way for it to fail. 65  100  or all of these arguments unconvincing. If that is the case, then I propose that we are simply talking about different things and so our disagreement is too deep to be resolved in the span of this thesis. It is perhaps useful to note here, however, that even those who criticize impartiality are generally not against this understanding o f morality. In fact, criticism o f certain conceptions o f impartiality often comes about because some people think these conceptions do not allow for enough concern for others, or do not put sufficient emphasis on it (see especially Y o u n g ' s (1990) work, discussed at length in chapter seven). Ideally the 'meaning' and 'function' arguments that follow would be general enough to find agreement amongst all readers. This cannot be the case however, because to give shape to the meaning and function o f morality is already to build in certain substantive moral principles. To say that morality is 'this' but not 'that', is making a statement about what is morally relevant and what is not. Kurt Baier captures this problem well: how can we hope to state that function without begging the evaluative/normative issues these guidelines are supposed to settle? For there appears to be as much disagreement about that.function as there is about more specific moral issues and, at this level o f abstraction, we seem at a loss about where to find any, let alone adequate, support that favors some particular settlement over its rivals. H o w are we to choose between humanity as an end in itself (Kant [1948, p. 95]), the greatest happiness o f the greatest number (Bentham [1988, p. 3]), the greatest self-realization ( T . H . Green [1906, p. 206-28]), the harmonization o f conflicting interests and concerns (Toulmin [1950, p. 145]), the promotion o f liberty and justice and the reduction o f inhumanity and oppression (Phillipa Foot [1972, p. 167]), the amelioration o f the human predicament (Warnock [1971, p. 26]), and so on and on? (Baier 1995, p. 230) A n adequate solution to this problem w i l l be hard to come by. The best we can hope for, I think, is to find meanings and/or functions that are as general as possible so as to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. Something like Rawls's notion o f an overlapping consensus is relevant here; I am trying to offer a meaning that is general enough to encompass the core o f all o f these theories. In other words, I am taking what seems to be common across Kant, 101  Bentham, Green, Toulmin, Foot and Warnock and in these commonalities find something broad enough that it resonates with most peoples' views o f morality.  I . M e a n i n g of the t e r m M o r a l When we ask why impartiality is a necessary feature o f moral reasoning, the most obvious answer is simply because this is what the term 'moral' means for u s .  66  In our usage,  morality and ethics imply some kind o f concern for others and their well-being. Whether 67  we are Kantians or not (even i f we have never heard o f Kant), something o f the Practical Imperative (cited i n the previous chapter) is central to our notion o f morality: treat others as ends unto themselves and not merely as means to your own end. This same sentiment had found expression long before Kant too, in injunctions such as the Golden Rule: treat others as you yourself would wish to be treated. A l l o f this is nicely summarized by Peter Singer, who writes: The justification o f an ethical principle cannot be i n terms o f any partial or sectional group. Ethics takes a universal point o f view. Ethics requires us to go beyond T and ' y o u ' to the universal law, the universalizable judgment, the standpoint o f the impartial spectator or ideal observer, or whatever we choose to call it. (Singer 1979, p. I I )  6 8  What exactly is involved i n this universal point o f view is open to debate and this thesis is an attempt to give an answer to this question. But, for the vast majority o f us, the term does connote something beyond one's own interests. Lest we think this is simply the view of a particular theoretical stance, we can find a similar sentiment i n Bernard Williams, a writer who might disagree with much o f what I am writing here: However vague it might initially be, we have a conception o f the ethical that understandably relates to us and our actions, the demands, needs, claims,  Again, I am aware of the dangers of speaking for others. However, in this case it cannot be avoided as the argument rests on what I see as the widely understood meaning of the concept. If I am wrong here, or am speaking only for a particular portion of the population, then the argument has less (possibly no) merit. Here I use the two terms synonymously. In using this quotation, I am only concerned with Singer's claim that ethics requires us to move beyond the "I". There is a disagreement between my position and Singer's about where this movement takes us - I am not endorsing Singer's call to find a universal position, the "view form nowhere". 6  6 7  6 8  102  desires, and generally, the lives o f other people, and it is helpful to preserve this conception in what we are prepared to call an ethical consideration. (1985, p. 12) To not have this as part o f your understanding o f morality is to use the term in a different way then is commonly used. In his work The Nature of Morality, W i l l i a m Frankena (1980) explicates morality as a system o f principles that guides our actions or behaviours. It is distinguished from other such systems by the type o f reasons given to justify a particular claim. In other words, what we would argue is "right" in morality can be different from what is "right" in terms of expediency or self-interest because o f the kind o f reasons we would give to defend our action/judgement. A principle o f self-interest might recommend that I lie to cover up my incompetence at work and so pass the blame on to a co-worker. Morality would strictly prohibit such lying. Frankena's notion o f morality, shared by many theorists , captures this 69  concern for others that I am arguing is central to our conception o f morality. If this concern were not central to morality, then the term would have no meaning aside from what is expedient or prudent or serving o f self-interest. The fact that we have the concept o f morality suggests that it serves a different purpose (and thus has a different meaning) than expediency or self-interest. There are some, however, who argue that there is no real difference, that the concept is essentially redundant in our language. One o f the earliest recorded examples o f this position is Thrasymachus in Plato's Republic, who argues that justice is merely the advantage o f the stronger (1992). But as Kurt Baier responds, "Thrasymachus' view, i f true of the societies o f his day, is an indictment o f their legal systems from the moral point o f view. It shows that what goes by the name o f morality in these societies is no more than a set o f rules and laws which enrich the ruling class at the expense o f the masses" (Baier 1958, p. 106). In other words, Baier is,  See, for example, M.U. Walker's work 1998. This argument does not, on its own, establish that concern for others is an essential part of morality. One could still accept that morality involves something more than mere self-interest, but not agree that this something more must be a concern for others (it might be a concern for all living things, or a concern to do what is right—understood as something other than concern for others). However, this argument, in conjunction with the other arguments of this chapter, does give us reason to view concern for others as a central feature of our common conception of morality. 6 9 7 0  103  saying that, even i f this is what passed for justice in Thrasymachus's day, we can still make a judgement that the view is unjust and so represents standards and criteria outside the realm o f justice. A s such, it fails as a definition of justice (and by extension, morality). A s is common for one o f Socrates's foils i n Plato's work, Thrasymachus's position is not substantially worked out or ably defended. The view is taken up, however, and more persuasively argued, in the works o f Friedrich Nietzsche.  Nietzsche makes a far more  compelling case that perhaps we are just fooling ourselves, giving into our slavish natures, by relying on a system o f rules that protects the weak at the expense o f the strong. The fact that his work can be found i n the syllabi o f many Ethics courses in universities suggests that his is a view that at least needs to be considered. However, whatever merit we find in Nietzsche's ethics, it is clear that his view is one that is i n direct contrast with the more common understanding and usage o f the concept in our societies. In my experience, the presence o f his work in these classes is aimed more at raising questions about what exactly ethics is and not as providing a system o f ethics that genuinely needs to be considered. Thus, Nietzsche does not disprove my contention in this section, but rather supports it in so far as the 'peculiarity' o f his ethics reinforces the more common conception that involves a concern for others. One final consideration in this section that needs to be addressed is N e l Noddings's concern with who has decided on this conception. In her book Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics, Noddings's (1984) admits a certain common conception o f ethics, but goes on to ask why she, who has not been consulted in coming up with this conception, should buy into it? Though she would have no objection to the central feature I am picking out here (some kind o f concern for others), her question is one that could still be asked o f my work. I am assuming a particular conception o f morality, one that places central importance on concern for others. W h y should you accept that this is what morality does, or should,  71  See , for example 1967, 1969, 1998.  104  entail? To this I offer no answer other than to say that this is how the term has generally been used in m y experience. If you prefer to use to the term to connote something else, then we are really using the term in different ways and in fact talking about fundamentally different things.  II. F u n c t i o n A r g u m e n t For Kant, appropriate concern for others is simply part o f the meaning o f morality. He believes that morality is based on a solid, rational foundation that can be argued to and that treating others as moral agents (that is, as ends unto themselves) is a logical and necessary (what he calls Categorical) truth(1981). In other ethical traditions, this 'Metaphysical' foundation  is not so obvious. Instead,  as we saw with M i l l ' s work i n the previous chapter, many see ethics as grounded i n social utility (thus the name Utilitarianism). Long before M i l l , David Hume argued the reason that we have ethics is because we need some system that w i l l allow us to live together. With all of our selfishness and competing interests, societies would not be possible without some way of regulating and guiding our behaviour. A s Hume writes, "In all determinations o f morality, this circumstance o f public utility is ever principally i n view" (1965, p. 32). One need not be a Utilitarian, ethically speaking, to see this social utility as the/a foundation o f ethics. James Wallace, who, to my knowledge is the first to use the term Contextualism in the way I am employing it (and is thus not a Utilitarian), explains the situation thus, "Human beings are animals that live in communities, and morality pertains to problems encountered in so l i v i n g " (1988, p. 61). Because we are social creatures, we need rules that govern how society is to operate. Laws are one way o f so governing our interactions, but these are necessarily limited because o f their need to be precise. Morality can be more abstract, representing not a specific rule but a more general principle to which we adhere. Notice, too, that we can make moral judgements about laws, whether they are just or unjust. Morality is the spirit that gives shape to laws and that which guides us in extralegal affairs. Quoting Wallace again, " A community's morality is a shared set o f ways of  Kant's major ethical work is entitled, not surprisingly, A Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals. In this work he argues to the Categorical Imperative as the logical and rational foundation of ethics. 72  105  providing conditions necessary for community and for solving certain problems people encounter in community l i v i n g " (1988, p. 61). We need to get along together and so we have moralities that provide a general, but shared, orientation to how we want interactions to be carried out.  -  Does this explanation always determine morality? Not necessarily, as this seems to lead us on too Utilitarian a path. Dostovesky's (1995) classic refutation o f Utilitarianism holds sway here too: what i f everyone could achieve absolute bliss at the expense o f one innocent child being tortured for eternity? This would seem to achieve the goal o f allowing us to live i n social harmony (not much social discord arising when everyone is blissed-out) but would offend most moral sentiments (I would think). So it is not always the case that this function argument is primary. A s we can see, it can conflict with the basic meaning o f morality sketched above and the need to treat everyone as an end unto herself. But it can provide a prima facie understanding o f the needs o f morality and how these are to be met. To see how this can work, and to show what this implies about impartiality, let us consider an example. Imagine, as Hume asks us to do, a society that had no rules regulating property (1965, pp. 35). If there were an excessive abundance o f goods and needs were met, there would seem to be little reason to have rules and principles about things like stealing. However, given shortages o f both necessities and luxury items, there remains good reason (that is, social utility) i n regulating how property is held and exchanged. If a society did not have injunctions (moral and legal) against stealing, neighbours and citizens would not be able to'trust each other, would live in constant fear o f each other and, in short, would not be able to exist together. The whole notion o f a society would fall apart. Thus, society's needs are . 73  served by having these kinds o f principles that govern our interactions.  The obvious  extension from this is that moralities must necessarily imply a concern for others because this is their very point, their reason for existence. The reader might raise an important objection here. In the previous section, I claimed that morality exists as something distinct from expediency or self-interest. The paragraph  I am not necessarily making an historical claim here. Writers like Hume, Mill and even Nietzsche seem to be looking at this social utility as an explanation of how moralities came about in the first place. I must admit this causal explanation makes sense to me. But, regardless of the historical truth, this utility argument at least serves to explain why moralities continue to hold such an important place in societies all around the world.  106  above could be interpreted in a way that contradicts this. According to the function argument, we have moralities because without them societies would fall apart—it might seem like it is in my interest to lie, steal, or cheat, but when I consider the broader perspective, it is really in my best interest to have a society that functions well. This is the type o f reasoning behind the Social Contract mentality that has held great prominence in western philosophy since the early Enlightenment (see, for example, Locke, Rousseau, Rawls). I w i l l admit there is a certain tension between these two views. This is why, typically, one is either a Kantian (or a proponent o f any view that sees morality as a 'higher law', independent o f the wishes and needs o f particular societies—those whose moralities grow out of religious doctrines, for example) or a Utilitarian (or some other type o f 'functionalist', as I have been using the term here). But, even for this apparent tension, there is some common ground. Moralities are social things, not personal. It is not up to individuals to choose to live within a particular morality (though individuals do make judgements about the importance o f specific moral principles and interpretations on how such principles are to be used). In contrast to the Original Position or some such thought-experiment i n which individuals choose a basic morality, we are born into a particular society that has a particular moral ethos. To the extent that morality's utility is expedient or self-serving, it is the expediency or self-interest o f the society we are talking about and not o f the individual. Thus, one can hold that morality serves a particular social function and that it is also an action-guiding system that is different than mere personal expediency or self-interest (and with this respects the moral personhood o f individuals).  III. Democratic A r g u m e n t The final argument I want to offer to support impartiality (that is, a concern for others' well-being) as a necessary condition o f morality is a democratic one. To get at my meaning here, I w i l l borrow from Rawls: Since we start within the tradition o f democratic thought, we also think of citizens as free and equal persons. The basic idea is that in virtue o f their two moral powers (a capacity for a sense of justice and for a conception o f the good) and the power o f reason (of judgment, thought, and inference connected 107  with these powers), persons are free. Their having these powers to the requisite minimum degree to be fully cooperating members o f society makes persons equal. (1993, p. 18-19) Rawls here offers an argument to justify the equality o f persons that is the foundation o f democracy. Whether we agree with Rawls or not, it seems clear that this equality must be the basis o f any understanding o f democracy. Democracy is not merely a system o f government. It is, fundamentally, a way o f living together that respects every person as equal. In this way, it demands that we respect every person as a moral being, treating them as ends and not merely means, to use Kant's language. Thus any commitment to, or pretense of, democracy 74  begins with this assumption that we have a concern for each other's interests. In this way, democracy demands a certain level o f impartiality. Because the Kantian conception o f morality (treating others as moral persons) is so wrapped up in our understanding o f what equality demands, this democratic argument really turns out to be just a re-stating o f the "meaning" argument two sections ago. But it is useful to lay them out separately to show how they strengthen, and give support to, each other.  I V . Conclusion This chapter has attempted to convince the reader that some kind o f concern for others is fundamental to morality. Given this, impartiality in some form or another must be part o f any scheme o f moral reasoning. To accept this, however, does not commit one to any particular conception o f impartiality. To accept that we must have concern for others does not tell us what kind o f concern we need to have, how much and how that relates to looking out for our own self-interests. The next chapter w i l l round out my reasonableness conception of impartiality by giving answers to these specific questions.  Some might claim that this understanding is true only of liberal democracies with their primary emphasis on individuals. However, I agree with Rawls and others that this way of expressing the equality of citizens (recognizing and respecting their moral personhood) is fundamental to any democracy. Again, what exactly is involved with this impartiality is still open to debate. Democracy itself does not tell us what kinds of concerns, nor how much, we need to have for each other. 7 5  108  Chapter 6: Reasonableness  In the previous chapters, I have explored impartiality historically, seeing how it has been central to many different types o f moral theories. I then outlined my reasonableness conception o f impartiality and showed how it operates within the Contextualist framework that I have outlined i n this thesis. Finally I gave some arguments to justify why it is necessary to moral reasoning. In this chapter I w i l l explore one final dimension o f impartiality: how we determine whether it has been met. Recall that I am understanding impartiality to mean that a judgement can be approved by anyone who considers all the particularities o f a given case. If my judgement is impartial (that is, it meets my reasonableness standard o f impartiality) then other people, even i f they would have chosen differently themselves, can see my choice as an acceptable one. But it w i l l never be the case that all people, in all situations, would be approving o f a given judgement. Some people are irrational, or merely act irrationally. Some are delusional. Some are psychotic. Some begin with problematic values.  Thus my claim about  impartiality must be understood to mean that any person judging reasonably could find the judgement acceptable. The question for this chapter is thus to determine what constitutes reasonableness. In so doing, we w i l l find the standard that must be met i f a judgement is to be impartial. The chapter w i l l consist o f four different sections. Section one w i l l look at standards of good practical reasoning. This w i l l help us assess the reasonableness o f the procedure one goes through in solving practical problems like moral dilemmas. The following three sections, in contrast, w i l l look to the reasonableness o f the values that underlie our evaluation of the competing claims in our practical reasoning. Section two w i l l look again to John Rawls, this time exploring his conception o f reasonableness. Section three w i l l draw upon John Kekes's distinction between primary and secondary goods. Section four w i l l look at Michael Phillips's work and the notion o f a domain ethic. It is difficult, with any sort of judgement, to come up with exact and specific criteria to measure a performance or an activity. This is even more true when the judgement involves normative standards. The standard o f reasonableness that develops in this chapter 109  w i l l not be exact. W e w i l l not be able to take a judgement and apply it to this standard to come up with the 'right' answer. Rather this chapter w i l l help us to see a number o f crucial factors that are involved i n determining whether a judgement is reasonable or not. With this, we w i l l be i n a better position to grapple with problems o f relevance and conflict (see chapter 2, section I). However, given the uniqueness o f each situation, these factors w i l l still need to be interpreted and intelligently applied i n order to test the adequacy o f a moral judgement. I believe that the standard is fairly comprehensive and w i l l give us a good guide in judging reasonableness. But by no means do I think the standard is complete and unquestionable. It is best thought o f as the beginning o f a conversation; pointing us i n directions usefully explored, but by no means exhaustively exploring them.  I. Standards of Good Practical Reasoning The procedure I have outlined in this thesis for dealing with moral dilemmas is Contextualism. Contextualism is, at root, really just a practical reasoning approach. Practical reasoning goes on any time we seriously consider the reasons for engaging in one practice (or practical activity) versus another. For example, in determining whether I should ride my bike to work or walk, a choice is required. If I consider the reasons that support each choice, I am engaged i n practical reasoning. A s Coombs writes: "Practical reasoning is undertaken to resolve.. .uncertainty by determining what course o f action is best supported by reasons" (Coombs 1997, p. 2). Thinking through moral situations is a distinct class o f practical reasoning, involving special considerations not found in other types of judgements. But even here, there is a basis of practical reasoning and so moral judgements can be flawed i f standards o f good practical reasoning are not met. In this section I explore standards o f good practical reasoning and the criteria that must be met i f a judgement is to be sound (though note, meeting standards of good practical reasoning is a necessary condition o f a moral judgement being sound, it is not a sufficient one). In his article Practical Reasoning: What is It? How do we Enhance It?, Jerrold Coombs argues that there are four basic constituents o f practical reasoning: 1) acquiring relevant information, 2) assessing reasons, 3) scrutinizing relevant values and 4) deriving a 110  conclusion or decision from consideration o f the reasons (1997, p. 2). In each of these four areas, i f standards are not met we run the risk o f unfairly privileging a partisan point-of-view, thus failing to meet standards o f impartiality. I w i l l explore each o f these four areas in turn (though sometimes using my own headings).  a. Sufficiency and Accuracy of Information A l l o f our judgements are going to be about something. We cannot make judgements in the abstract, about nothing at all. A s such, we w i l l need as much information as we can get regarding the specifics o f the judgement at hand. If I am to choose whether to bike or walk to work, I w i l l need to know some information about each option: how long w i l l each take, how much w i l l I likely enjoy each mode o f travel, w i l l there be a safe place for me to store my bike once I arrive, w i l l one activity leave me hot, sweaty, smelly and generally unpleasant to be around for the rest o f the day and other such questions? These sorts of 'facts' help to make up the reasons that w i l l support one option over the other. Obviously, i f key facts are missing, then the judgement w i l l be the worse for that absence. Walking may seem the preferable alternative given all of the facts I am considering. However, were I to be aware that walking would take 4 hours and force me to leave my house at 4 a.m. every morning, my preference might distinctly swing towards biking. A s Coombs writes: "Other things being equal, the more relevant information reasoners take into account, the better their judgments are likely to be" (1997, p. 4). A question arises from this previous discussion: when do we have enough information to reasonably make a judgement? There is no absolute answer to this question as the context w i l l determine, in large part, what w i l l be considered sufficient. Sometimes there w i l l be a necessity for making a quick judgement. In such cases, obviously, there is not time to gather as much information as would be possible were there no time constraints. Where time is not a factor, we generally expect people to make more o f an effort to gather relevant information. Another consideration is the relative importance o f the judgement. If our choosing is going to have profound and lasting consequences for a number o f people,  Thefirstthree of these topics will be dealt with in this section. The fourth one speaks more to the evaluation of values and as such, is covered in the following three sections. 7 6  Ill  generally we need to take more time (if possible) and make more o f an effort to ensure we have gathered as much information as we can. Correlated to the amount o f information is a question o f how accurate the information is. The quantity o f data w i l l not make any difference i f the quality is poor. M y belief that biking to work is preferable because it takes one-tenth o f the time is not a good reason i f in fact walking only takes twice as long as riding. The reasons upon which we make judgements are not good ones i f the data upon which they are based is flawed. Thus reasoners can be criticized i f they do not make sufficient effort to ensure that their 77  information is correct.  A g a i n a question arises: how much effort is sufficient?  Here again no answer can be given in the abstract. A s with the case o f sufficiency of information, questions o f time and relative importance w i l l have some bearing on how much effort the reasoner should make to verify the accuracy o f the data. Further considerations w i l l involve the intellectual maturity o f the reasoner. We do not expect young children, for example, to be able to make the same efforts in verifying their information as educated adults. The type of judgement is also a relevant factor. There w i l l be some reasons whose adequacy we simply cannot judge for ourselves because they require an expertise that we simply do not possess. In such cases we rely on the opinions o f experts. But even here, to varying degrees, the reasoner must make some effort to check whether the authority that one is relying on is a trustworthy one. i  A t this point the reader may be questioning whether the test o f impartiality as I am outlining it here is one that measures the quality o f the judgement or the responsibility o f the agent in making such a judgement. A n example borrowed from Jeffrey Stout can help to illustrate this distinction. Stout argues (1988, pp. 24-25) that it is at least plausible that a society, like the ancient Greeks, might not have been guilty o f a moral offence in having slavery in their society. Stout posits the possibility that such a society could be operating under the belief that societies simply cannot function without slaves. Thus the options would be to have no slaves and have their societies crumble, or else to have slaves and allow some to live freely and all to have (at least some) basic needs met.  This relates to Habermas's discussion of truth that I explored in chapter 4, section IV, d.  112  In such a scenario, Stout wants to claim, those societies choosing slavery have done nothing morally wrong. Given the facts they had upon which to make a judgement, it would be reasonable for them to choose to have slavery. But notice that this does not make slavery morally acceptable. Today we have countless examples o f societies flourishing without slaves and so it would be unreasonable for us to operate from a belief that slavery is necessary for societies. This difference in epistemic position (what one knows) accounts for the difference in the culpability o f those promoting slavery (the ancient Greeks would be morally absolved, we would be morally guilty). But it does not change the fact that slavery is morally wrong. Thus the test, as I have begun to outline it here, can account both for the culpability o f an agent and for the moral quality o f the judgement itself. Given as much information as possible, we can measure the quality o f a moral judgement. But given the information that a particular person (or group) has at a given time, we can make a judgement about the quality of their judgement. W i t h the example o f the ancient Greeks that Stout talks about, it really comes down to an empirical question o f whether that society was operating from that belief (that societies need slaves) and whether they made a reasonable effort, given the time and place, to verify that judgement. One aspect o f this verification would be to consider other possible alternatives and this leads us to the next section.  b. Consideration ofAlternatives In comparing reasons for various possible courses o f action, we are trying to establish what we have the best reason to do. The reasons can be understood as an argument supporting a particular alternative. However, reasoners must make a reasonable effort to ensure that the range o f options they are considering is sufficient. Let us return to the example, posed earlier, about choosing whether to walk or ride my bike to work. Given these two options, I need to weigh up the reasons supporting and denying each course o f action and to determine which has the better reasons supporting it. From this judgement, I decide which course o f action best solves the practical problem at hand (how to get to work). However, my reasoning in this matter might be considered flawed i f I have failed to take account of a third possible option—riding the bus, for example. 113  It may well be that this third option would have stronger reasons to support it than either o f the options I have considered. A s such, it would prove the best solution to the practical problem. This example is admittedly a non-moral one (though o f course moral considerations ,  J  may factor in; for example, precluding driving to work as a possible option because o f the environmental harm such driving would cause). However, to the extent that moral judgements are, in part, practical ones, such limitations apply equally. Let us recall the example o f whether I should tell my grandmother her dress is ugly. If I do, I risk hurting her feelings. If I don't, I am lying to her. However, these may not be the only two options. A third possibility might be to discretely change the subject and so avoid the dilemma. This third option might well prove to be the best and so my moral reasoning could be considered defective i f I have not considered this option. Note that with this last example, even though standards o f practical reasoning have not been met (and let us assume this for argument's sake), it does not follow that impartiality has failed to be achieved. Failure to consider an option may mean that we do not choose the best course o f action possible. But the course that is chosen may still prove to be acceptable when judged from a third-party perspective and so meet my criterion o f impartiality. Sometimes, however, failure to consider certain options w i l l mean that this criterion has not been met. This is especially true where the options ignored are ones that reflect/speak to legitimate claims made (or makeable) by other affected parties. A s with all o f these other standards o f practical reasoning, failure to meet them gives us reason to question whether impartiality has been met, it does not guarantee that it has not.  c. Assessing Reasons and Scrutinizing Relevant Values Practical reasoning, as I have talked about it here, involves looking to see what course of action, among alternatives, we have the most reason to favour. But this fails to explain what in fact a reason is. Reasons are not simply facts about the world that we observe and are thus moved to act.  78  Rather, reasons are facts about the world that pick out states of  1 am using reasons here in their justificatory sense. If I am trying to decide what course of action would be best, I am looking at what there is good reason for me to do. The goodness quality here will be a reflection of 78  114  affairs that are desired by us. In other words, the reasons that we find compelling are a function o f the values that we hold; the reasons that move us reflect the values that are important to us. A s Coombs writes, "facts about an action motivate when considered by the agent because they pick out some feature o f the action that is wanted by the agent" (1987, p. 7).  79  Consequently, good practical reasoning must make some effort to evaluate the values  that are underlying our weighing o f the various reasons in question. Part o f this evaluation w i l l be an attempt to imagine the likely consequences o f carrying out a particular course o f action. If the imagined consequences are not ones that are acceptable (either morally or pragmatically) then we have cause to question our commitment to the reasons i n question and the values that lie behind them. This does not mean that we necessarily have to change this commitment, but simply that we need to re-consider our thinking process to this point. It may well be that even though the likely alternative o f a given action is undesirable, it is in fact the "least o f all evils" and so the preferable choice. In evaluating our values, we might also want to consider where those values have come from and how we have taken them on. Values that have been instilled by some process of indoctrination or brainwashing should, at least, be subjected to critical scrutiny to explore OA  whether they in fact are values that we wish to be committed to.  Similarly, values blindly  inherited from parents or other authority figures in one's life should be questioned to see i f 81  they are ones we indeed want to hold on to. Thus far we have explored ways that the individual can self-reflexively evaluate values to see i f they are acceptable to h i m or herself. A n d while this is important, it is by no means complete. In determining the reasonableness o f the judgement (and so its impartiality), we w i l l also want to evaluate the values from an external perspective, as seen the kind of values I hold. I do recognize, however, that reasons can explain behaviours and that when considered from this perspective, the reasons do not necessarily need to correspond to values in the same way as I am arguing here. For example, the fact that some parents smoke provides a reason that explains (in a predictive-statistical sense) why their children are smokers too. This reason is not one that would necessarily appeal to any desire the children have to emulate their parents. Rather it speaks more to habits that are unconsciously learned. For a more detailed discussion of this point, see my paper, 2001. This assumes, of course, that we have become aware that these values were previously indoctrinated or brainwashed. Questioning of such values is by no means an easy activity as these values can often be the foundation from which we make sense of our worlds. For further discussion of this process, see again my paper (2001) and Benn, 1988. 7 9  8 0  81  115  by those who w i l l be effected by this judgement. The individual agent can attempt to do this by imaginatively entering into others' shoes, as it were. But it is also crucial here to engage others, where possible, i n discussion to hear their points-of-view as they see it. In terms o f this chapter, this moves us into a different realm altogether: the question of what constitutes a reasonable value. Here we get into the questions o f value pluralism that so challenge our multi-cultural societies. What values are we to accept and what values (if any) can we reasonably rule out? These questions shall be addressed in the next few sections. Again, while no definitive answers can be given in the abstract, I think we can get an under standing, of some o f the crucial factors that need to be considered.  II: John Rawls's Conception of Reasonableness One way o f being unreasonable is to unfairly privilege one's o w n position (or that o f a friend, family member, or anyone else ). N o w this may seem as i f I'm.arguing in a circle. I am arguing that one way o f determining impartiality (my R C I ) is to question whether values and beliefs are reasonable. What is to count as reasonable? One aspect is being impartial (at least according to a common conception of impartiality). While the two concepts are importantly related, the argument is not circular. A s I am illustrating in this chapter, there are a number o f ways i n which a claim can be unreasonable. One such way is to unfairly privilege your own position.  83  This is the basis o f Rawls's discussion o f  reasonableness. Rawls centres his notion around submitting oneself to the same standards o f cooperation as one expects from everyone else. In other Words, whatever processes, procedures and standards I think are fair for me, must be fair for everyone else too. A s he writes:  It is not (generally) unreasonable to privilege someone else's position at the expense of one's own. This type of sacrifice is often, in fact, quite noble and morally praiseworthy. This is limited, however, to cases where only one's own position is sacrificed; it does not give anyone the right to decide for others that their position should be similarly made the worse. For me, this is one way that impartiality can fail to be met, but not the only way. Sections three and four describe two other ways judgements can fail to be reasonable. Note, though, that Rawls does not think this is what impartiality entails. What he is talking about here are the notions of'reciprocity' and 'burdens of judgement', which he distinguishes from impartiality (see Rawls 1993, pp. 16-17 and p. 50). 8 3  8 4  116  People are unreasonable.. .when they plan to engage i n cooperative schemes but are unwilling to honor, or even to propose, except as a necessary public pretense, any general principles or standards for specifying fair terms o f cooperation. They are ready to violate such terms as suits their interests when circumstances allow. (Rawls 1993, p. 50) B y virtue o f being in a democratic context, one must accept other citizens as moral/political agents with their own ends. A s Rawls writes: Since we start within the tradition o f democratic thought, we also think o f citizens as free and equal persons. The basic idea is that in virtue o f their two moral powers (a capacity for a sense of justice and for a conception o f the good) and the power o f reason (of judgment, thought, and inference connected with these powers), persons are free. Their having these powers to the requisite m i n i m u m degree to be fully cooperating members o f society makes persons equal. (Rawls 1993, p. 18-19)  85  Since all citizens are free and equal in this sense, it would be unfair to expect for oneself standards o f cooperation that do not apply equally to others. Because o f the nature o f the democratic project, to expect for oneself special rules o f social engagement is to involve oneself in what Habermas (1990a, p. 80 ff.) calls a performative contradiction. W e can adapt the form o f the reductio ad absurdum argument to establish that such a privileging o f one's own position is thus unreasonable.  ,  W e must keep i n mind, however, that Rawls's project involves only setting up the basic social institutions o f a just democratic society. M y project is wider i n scope, attempting to articulate a standard for all moral judgements.  86  While we may agree with the  standard o f reciprocity for the Rawlsian project, it is not the case that within my wider one that we must always demand exact equality with everyone else. Said in another way, we may sometimes give our own positions more moral weight than those o f others.  See also Rawls 1971, Section 77 for further discussion of this basis of equality. To use Rawls's language here, he is concerned with a standard of reasonableness that covers only political doctrines. On the other hand, I am looking for a standard of reasonableness that will cover all (moral) aspects of a comprehensive doctrine. As such, Rawls's standard is a useful component for my purposes, but it can in no way be complete. 8 5  8 6  117  If we are going to reject the absolute equality implied i n Rawls's scheme, then we must now face the question o f when a position can be legitimately privileged.  This is one o f  the toughest questions to answer. It is also the nub of the entire discussion about impartiality. A s such, the other things that I outline in this chapter w i l l have bearing on this question. But there are some considerations we can look at directly too. To begin, let us re-visit an example offered in chapter four. Imagine I am waiting in line for tickets to a movie. The man at the cash announces that there are only three seats left in the theatre and I am the fourth person in line. M y happiness would be greatly increased i f I could see the movie, but this does not give me the right to somehow 'eliminate' (against their will) one o f the three people in-line in front o f me. To ' r i d ' myself o f this obstacle to my happiness would be to unreasonably privilege my position and so would be morally unacceptable. Most o f us, I assume, can agree that such an elimination would be wrong. But what is it exactly about the situation that leads us to think this? One easy answer is to invoke the Kantian dictum that we must treat everyone as a end unto themselves and not merely a means to our goals. If I were to 'remove' one o f the people in front o f me, I would be treating them merely as a means to my end (getting into the film) and so would violate the Categorical Imperative. There is some value to this answer. To use the word moral as it is generally conceived in our society, is to accept something like this formulation o f the Categorical Imperative (see section I, chapter five). Even many nonKantians could agree to this judgement. But unless we want to simply follow Kant, the Categorical Imperative cannot be the final word on the question. A s this example shows, the 87  Categorical Imperative does capture something central to our moral thinking.  It does not,  however, explain everything. What the Categorical Imperative lacks is the sensitivity to context that is the hallmark of Contextualism. A strict Kantian would claim that it is always, regardless o f the situation, wrong to l i e .  88  A Contextualist would agree that it is generally wrong to lie but there are  As, I would argue, do all major moral theories. If they did not, then they would not claim any purchase on anyone and so would not endure. There is some debate whether we should interpret Kant as demanding this level of absolute adherence to certain moral rules. However, in his letter (1949, p. 348), he provides an example that shows he does indeed 8 7  8 8  118  circumstances where lying is in fact the preferable alternative, morally speaking. Situations differ and where this difference is relevant, it must be taken account of. The question thus becomes when is a difference relevant? Once again I w i l l partially evade the question by claiming that no answer can be given in the abstract. This is the type o f substantive moral issue that cannot be decided by moral theory. Rather, it requires the thought and judgement o f actual people in real life situations. We can, however, offer some considerations that w i l l help guide our thinking o f whether a judgement o f relevant difference is reasonable or not. Here I would point the reader back to the kinds o f considerations offered in chapter five regarding the meaning, purpose and function o f morality (especially, though not exclusively, i n a democratic context). Such considerations are, admittedly, abstract. However, how these abstract considerations play out i n terms o f moral reasonableness can aide us here. The discussions that follow this section (see sections III and I V below) attempt to make concrete the abstract considerations o f chapter 5 and thus help to answer this question for us. Before moving to these other considerations, however, let us consider two examples here to make clear how the meaning, purpose and function o f morality can guide this judgement. Imagine first that I tell a lie in order to cover up my incompetence at work. This action works against the function of morality i n our society, as it can serve to weaken the social bonds that allow us to live together. A s such, it would be difficult to make the case that privileging my own position in this case is justified. However, consider a second example in which a child lies to his father about breaking a plate. The same problems with lying are possible here, perhaps even more so because of the necessary intimacy between child and parent. However, i f the child expects to be beaten because o f this broken plate, then this would provide a relevant difference that morally absolves the child's lie. The spirit and function o f morality are honoured here because by lying, the child is avoiding a greater evil. O f course the moral difficulty arises in determining when a difference is relevant. Most o f us, I think, can agree that a severe beating is unreasonable punishment and so the lying offers no moral problem. But what o f a spanking? a one-month grounding? a one-week grounding? Here we enter a substantive realm where intend this absoluteness. If this letter is merely an aberration in Kant's thinking and he is better read as  119  moral theory cannot give us an answer. A s an individual moral agent I have my own opinions o f what is reasonable here, how the meaning and function o f morality is honoured. But as a responsible moral agent, I would need to listen and consider the opinions of others involved in a concrete, real-life situation where these facts play out before making any judgement. Rawls's discussion o f reasonableness centres around the notion o f submitting oneself to the same standards and procedures as one expects o f everyone else. I have expanded this notion to cover not only political doctrines, but also the moral aspects o f comprehensive doctrines. If the values I hold are not ones that I can legitimately allow others to hold (this w i l l play out in the differences that I claim to be relevant), then I run the risk o f privileging my own position (or that o f someone I favour). Where we find such an occurrence, others can legitimately question the reasonableness o f my values (or valuing) and so reasonably object to the moral judgement I have reached. In so doing, my judgement has failed to meet my test o f impartiality. The Rawlsian conception o f reasonableness, unfairly privileging one's own position, is one way that judgements/values/beliefs can be unreasonable. Let us now consider a second way.  Ill: John Kekes's Primary and Secondary Goods In his book The Morality of Pluralism, John Kekes (1993) attempts to outline some principles that w i l l help us determine which moral values are acceptable i n a pluralistic society and which are not. Without such principles, there is no hope o f redeeming any rational basis for claiming that some moral actions are good and some are not. The consequence o f this is relativism. Because the same goal motivates my explication o f a standard o f reasonableness (the purpose o f this chapter), the principles that Kekes uses to establish his position w i l l be useful i n helping to make-up my conception o f reasonableness. Kekes begins by making a distinction between primary and secondary values. Values are "benefits whose possession would make a life better than it would be without them and whose lack would make a life worse than it would otherwise be" (1993, p. 38). Sometimes  allowing this sensitivity to context, then his position is closer to the one I am espousing here.  i  120  what makes a life better is particular to only some (or possibly even one) human being. For example, my life is made immeasurably better by living i n a climate that has cold winters. This is obviously not true for everyone as many people quite dislike the cold. In contrast to these particular values, there are some that are shared by all human beings by virtue o f their being human: "Human nature, then, is composed o f universally human, culturally invariant, and historically constant characteristics" (1993, p. 39). These values that are common to all, across all cultures, Kekes calls primary values. Those that are particular to specific cultures or individuals he calls secondary: "secondary values make concrete the primary values and give us possibilities o f life beyond the level where only our most elementary needs are satisfied" (1993, p. 43). There are three distinct classes o f values that he cites as primary: physiological and psychological ("the facts o f the s e l f ) , intimacy, and social order. The physiological are the most obviously universal across all human beings. A s Kekes writes, "Our physiology imposes requirements on all o f us: we need to eat, drink, and breathe to survive, and we need protection from the elements; rest and motion, maturing and ageing, pleasure and pain, consumption and elimination, and sleep and wakefulness form the rhythm o f all human lives" (1993, p. 39). This seems, to me at least, to be quite uncontroversial. The psychological values are somewhat more questionable: "The fact is that we want not merely to satisfy our physiological needs by employing our capacities but to do so in particular ways.. .there is no difference [across people and cultures] in the psychological aspiration to go beyond necessity and enjoy the luxury o f satisfying our needs in whatever ways happen to count as civilized" (1993, p. 39). M a n y Buddhists and others who practice voluntary simplicity would question the universality o f this statement. But we might accept (for argument's sake) that Kekes's proposal here is at least nearly universal. Intimacy is thought to be universal, "because contact with others is also an inevitable feature o f human lives" (1993, p. 40). W e love and hate, share grief and joys, are made happy or sad by those close to us; these are all, according to Kekes, features o f human nature. Social order is universal because part o f being human is living in social settings and this brings with it the need to co-operate in various ways.  121  M y intention here is not to question whether or not this particular list that Kekes has drawn up accurately reflects "human nature".  Instead I simply want to give the reader  some idea o f what Kekes has in mind. We can now move on to see how he and I can both make use o f this concept o f primary values (if not this particular formulation o f it). Kekes believes that this notion o f primary goods can place limiting conditions on 90  what values are acceptable and which aren't: We can say, therefore, that the primary goods o f the self, intimacy, and social order define the minimum requirements o f all conceptions o f a good life. They are necessary for good lives, however such lives are conceived, because they are required for the satisfaction of needs that all human beings have due to our shared nature. (1993, p. 41) If some judgement or action is such that it denies someone fulfilling her basic/primary goods, then that judgement/act can be said to be immoral (or morally wrong, which for me is the same thing). Consider the question o f whether it is acceptable for a teacher (or a parent) to beat a child. To the extent that this denies the child one o f her primary goods (the psychological need to grow-up in an environment full o f love and care), we can say it is morally wrong. O f course some could question whether such an act is in fact denying the child this primary need (arguing that this is a form o f caring, for example). Others may simply deny that such a need exists, or that it exists as a primary value. A s with most things in morality, it is not hard to imagine how disagreements w i l l arise. However, i f we can get agreement on what these goods are and what empirical conditions are needed to meet them, then it appears that Kekes has a promising principle at work: "Since morality aims to foster good lives, it must be committed to fostering conditions in which people can have these primary goods and prohibiting conditions in which people are hindered from having them" (1993, p. 41). Though it uses different language, we can see how Kekes's formulation is not dissimilar to the formulation o f the Categorical Imperative  Nor do I even want to defend how Kekes comes up with this list. Someone might want to construct a list of primary goods based not on what we all share by virtue of being human but by some other category. The appeal of Kekes project, however, is that it seems to get at something we all share (though we might not all share the belief that these things are most important in life). 1 use the terms 'primary values' and 'primary goods' interchangeably here. 9 0  122  which demands that we treat everyone as an end and not merely as a means. To be an "end", to be a moral person i n the Kantian sense, is to be someone with primary needs that must be respected. There are two sorts o f problems with this principle and I w i l l deal with these in a moment. First, however, I want to make the obvious step to show how such a principle can be a basis o f my conception o f reasonableness. Kekes is saying that i f an act or judgement in some way denies someone a primary good, then it must be seen as immoral. In a similar way, I would say these conditions are grounds for determining that the act or judgement is unreasonable (albeit with the acknowledgement o f the metaphysical problem that I w i l l get to soon). Kekes himself makes this connection i n his later work, Moral Wisdom and Good Lives: "Primary values are based on benefits and harms that must count as such for all reasonable conceptions o f a good life" (1995, p. 19, my emphasis). M y test o f impartiality says that a moral judgement is acceptable i f other reasonable people could agree to it (not at all implying that they would choose this same option themselves). If other people disagree with my proposed judgement, then I must ask myself i f their objections are reasonable one or not. If my tentative judgement is denying someone's primary goods, then according to this test, others have reasonable grounds for objecting. Conversely, i f someone's objections fail to take account o f someone's primary goods, then I have cause to think their objection is unreasonable and so I may disregard it. Let us consider some examples here to make this concrete. First, recall the scenario above where I am a teacher considering punishing a student by beating him. M y principal (or anyone else) could come along and say that this act is unacceptable because I am not honouring the child's need to learn in a safe environment. Asking myself i f the principal's objection is reasonable or not, I can see that in so punishing the child, I would be denying this child one o f his primary goods. Thus, I would conclude  123  that my principal's objection is reasonable and so I would have to come up with another way of punishing the c h i l d .  91  Consider now a scenario where I am a teacher, taking a group o f students on a 10-day canoeing trip. Before the trip I am hosting a parents' meeting, discussing contingency plans in case something goes wrong. One worried parent asks me to promise that if, for whatever reason, food supplies get l o w on the trip, I w i l l distribute the food equally among all the students. I inform the parents that I cannot do this because one o f the students is diabetic and i f he does not get adequate nourishment, severe consequences w i l l follow. The parents say this is not good enough and continue to demand this strict equality. A r e their objections reasonable? Assuming that the other students would face nothing more than hunger-pains in this hypothetical situation, then I would conclude their objections are not reasonable.  All  other things being equal, I would distribute food equally. However, given the special circumstances o f the diabetic student, to deny him more than an equal share o f food would be to cause h i m serious physical harm (perhaps even death) and so would be to deny him a primary good. It would thus be unreasonable to expect me to alleviate the hardships of the other students by denying this one a primary good.  a. Extent of Responsibility The reader may raise an important objection here. H o w widely does our responsibility extend i n assuring that primary goods are met? In the previous scenario, it seems fairly obvious that in my role as teacher and trip-leader, I would have a responsibility  Of course, readers may well believe that depending on how I was beating the boy, I may not in fact have been denying him a primary good, that this act would not cause him to feel unsafe in the classroom. Others may believe that the need to have a safe environment in which to learn is not in fact a primary good. But again, my concluding this does not necessarily make it true. My belief here, while I think well founded and quite justifiable, would ideally be the beginning point for a conversation/discussion. As the teacher in this case, it is ultimately up to me to decide how to proceed given such a set of circumstances and so I will need to make a final decision. Butfinalityhere is simply a practical matter, it does not entail that discussion of the quality of the judgement is finished. Again, as ethicist I do not have the final word as to what the right solution is to a moral problem. Rather my job is to attempt to articulate the standards and considerations that would need to be met/heeded for a decision to be adequate. Admittedly, this example is rather straight-forward and not something that would lead to moral doubt on a typical teacher's part. However, because of the complexity of deciding what exactly a primary good is, and what follows from this, I chose this simplistic example to clearly illustrate the point at hand. 91  9 2  93  124  to ensure that all those who are dependent on me have these primary needs met. But what o f the charge that my responsibility extends more globally? Isn't there a sense in which by going out to a nice restaurant and spending more money on food than I need to, I am denying primary goods to those starving millions in the rest o f the world? In other words, every time I participate i n one o f the "luxuries" o f our society, I am "wasting" money that otherwise could be given to provide basic (primary) needs o f many others? Can a reasonable objection be raised on this front? I w i l l leave it to the reader to decide for her/himself whether this is a reasonable claim. Some certainly think it is. A n y time I participate in the pleasures o f the modern western world, I am tacitly endorsing an economic system that is based on the subjugation and oppression o f millions o f people i n the developing world, sometimes at the cost of their lives.  94  While I am sympathetic to this position to an extent, I think it places an unreasonable  burden upon those o f us i n the so-called developed world and thus does not provide a useful standard against which to measure moral reasonableness. Here we are i n the realm o f supererogation—moral acts that are entirely commendable but not necessary (giving away all one's money to the food-bank, for instance). Instead, I think that the responsibility we have to meet certain primary goods is a more local one, arising out o f the various roles we play in life (as teacher, parent, baby-sitter, river-guide, pilot, and so forth).  95  I w i l l have more to say  about this notion o f role responsibility in the discussion below o f Michael Phillips's domainethic.  b. Metaphysical Problem A more serious problem (though not damning) to this analysis is a metaphysical one. I have been arguing along with Kekes that primary goods are fundamental. Whatever the basics are that are needed by all people, these take priority over all other considerations in our moral weighing. A t this time, I am not concerned with the content o f this list, what in fact are the primary goods. For the sake o f argument, let us assume that at the very least,  Or, if the reader objects to this understanding of our capitalist societies, then at the very least it can be argued that I am spending money that would be far more useful in providing primary needs for others. These responsibilities are, of course, in addition to the restriction that prohibits us from acting so as to takeaway the primary goods of others (except in exceptional circumstances). 125 94  95  physical well-being is on this list. Certain basic physiological needs are shared by one and all. Do these always take top priority or can someone make a reasonable claim that some other kind o f good is more important than physiological well-being? People obviously do make such claims all the time, both concretely and metaphysically. Some o f the many folks who choose to smoke are deciding that that pleasure is more important than their health (some are obviously not making this choice but are simply addicted). The same can be said o f any number o f such 'vices' in our society. More esoterically, we are seeing all too many people willing to martyr themselves (while killing others) for various causes (often religious). These people may agree that life (and physical well-being) are important but that there are more important things; eternal salvation, for example. This problem needs to be looked at from two perspectives. First, i n conjunction with autonomy and what latitude people have in deciding for themselves what to do. Second, with regard to how such beliefs permit us to act toward others. When it comes to unhealthy or dangerous activities, we generally think that individuals should have the right to decide for themselves whether to participate in the activity or not ( i f their actions are going to affect themselves only). Autonomy is something fundamental to our social and moral systems and it seems to demand that each (reasonable) person be allowed to decide how best to live her l i f e .  96  Whether someone wishes to smoke or  eat fatty foods, ride a motorcycle without a helmet or attempt risky ascents o f mountains, generally we believe that the decision is the individual's to make. There are, o f course, objections to some practices and, like i n the case o f the motorcycle helmet, occasionally laws that prohibit certain activities. However, these are almost always grounded in the potential social costs to be incurred in case o f an accident or illness. Whether you want to risk smashing your head open on a motorcycle is your choice but since, i f you do, society is going to have to foot enormous medical bills to treat you, we (as a society) are going to make a law against this activity.  There are, of course, many different notions of what autonomy entails. For a good overview, see Sher (1997). There are also many who think autonomy has too prominent a role in our social and moral systems, reflecting a culture obsessed with individual rights at the expense of some other social goods. Here I am not claiming the superiority of an autonomy-focused society, simply describing what I see in our North American context at the beginning of the 21 century. 9 6  st  .126  The astute reader w i l l have noticed that in my conception o f autonomy above, this problematic word, 'reasonable', has cropped up again. A s a society, we allow reasonable individuals a great latitude to decide for themselves what the goods are i n life and how best to pursue these goods. W e do not, however, give those judged not competent (children, for example) the same freedom o f choice. Here again we are faced with the question of what is reasonable, who is competent. To explore this distinction, I want to borrow two examples that George Sher analyzes i n his book Beyond Neutrality (1997). In the first, he offers a situation in which a young man must choose between getting married or dedicating himself to a career (1997, p. 54). Either option, he claims, can be chosen autonomously. This is so because the value that we normatively attribute to both pursuits (marriage and career) is sufficient to provide good enough grounds to follow either path. Thus a competent, reasonable agent could choose either path. The second example is that o f a man who must choose between having life-saving surgery or avoiding it because o f the post-operative pain that he would have to endure (1997, p. 53). In this scenario, Sher claims that a competent, reasonable agent could only make one choice, accepting to undergo the surgery. He claims that there cannot be good enough reasons to avoid the surgery and thus it cannot be chosen autonomously. Though it is reasonable to want to avoid pain, when contrasted with the value o f saving one's own life, the avoidance o f pain cannot be the decisive motivating factor. To be charitable to Sher, we can read this second example as typifying a situation in which the post-operative pain w i l l not be too severe. M a n y o f us, I think, can imagine situations in which excessive pain and limited quality o f life would be sufficient to reasonably lead us not to choose the surgery. Though Sher does not make this explicit, we can read his example as ruling out these extreme cases. To get at the metaphysical problem imbedded here, I want to change Sher's second example slightly. Instead o f wanting simply to avoid pain, imagine that the patient is a Jehovah's Witness who refuses life-saving surgery because she does not want a bloodtransfusion. If this were set in the context o f someone not liking needles, or being squeamish of blood-transfusions, then we might claim that the choice was not autonomously made (that is, the evaluation o f competing values was not reasonably made). But when set in the context 127  •1  of saving one's immortal soul, there certainly is strong enough reason to want to avoid the surgery. M a n y o f us may not agree that a blood-transfusion harms our immortal souls. However, we can appreciate that for someone who does hold such a belief/value, this w i l l provide more than strong enough reason to avoid the surgery. We have strayed a bit far from Kekes here so let us retrace our steps and recall how this all fits together. Kekes is arguing that any conception o f a good life must take into account the primary goods that make up human nature. I have borrowed this notion and claimed that any reasonable moral judgement or act must likewise take account of these primary goods. What I am questioning is whether such primary goods can ever reasonably be trumped by other goods (religious/spiritual/metaphysical ones primarily). Contextualism cannot give us an answer to this. This is the type o f substantive question that can only be decided by particular people in particular situations. Contextualism can, however, give us a procedural framework that w i l l help us deliberate about the relevant questions and issues that such an answer demands exploration of. A s the examples above illustrate, it seems that in our society sometimes there can be reasons o f a metaphysical nature that trump primary goods (belief in an afterlife and how one needs to live in this life so as to succeed in that ' w o r l d beyond'). In fact, we often praise the religious martyr as leading a morally exemplary life. Where individuals trump primary goods with values that are deemed unreasonable by society (the patient who refuses life-saving surgery because he is squeamish about needles), the person is judged to be incompetent and so is not allowed to decide for himself how best to live his life. We can see here the layering process involved i n the Contextualist approach; one question begets another which i n turn begets another and so on. This process continues until we either reach agreement or we reach some fundamental values that simply cannot be reconciled. Contextualism is a way of deciding whether a moral judgement is acceptable. I am suggesting that one way o f testing the acceptability o f a judgement is to determine whether it is impartial. To determine impartiality, we need to question whether the judgement is a reasonable one or not. Where primary goods are being trumped, we need to further question whether the value(s) used to so trump are in fact reasonable ones to hold. H o w is this determined? 128  Again, I cannot give a definitive answer to this question. W e would want to look at how consistently the individual has adhered to such a value; whether it is truly representative of how he lives his life or merely a momentary aberration. Further we would want to question how consistently this particular value fits with other values that the person holds to be important. This i n turn w i l l reflect how serious this value is to his overall life plan and his notion o f what is a good l i f e .  9 7  A l l o f these sorts o f questions can help us get at an answer to  what values should be considered reasonable.  98  But no definite answer can be reached  without a concrete situation and the participation o f as wide a panel o f views as possible. Let us turn our attention slightly now. So far we have considered what kinds o f values can trump primary goods in terms o f deciding how to act where the action w i l l impact only us (or primarily us, because obviously the choice o f whether I refuse life-saving treatments w i l l indirectly effect my family and friends who would mourn my death, to cite but one example). But what o f cases where such a metaphysical belief leads us to want to act upon others in ways that deny their primary goods? It is one thing for the Jehovah's Witness patient to refuse a blood transfusion. It is entirely different for a Jehovah's Witness doctor to refuse to give a dying patient a blood transfusion because o f her own religious beliefs. If a doctor agrees to work in a hospital where blood transfusions are routinely done, we generally think it unacceptable for her to refuse to perform such a procedure. Y o u cannot impose your o w n religious values on others (though note, we do find it acceptable that doctors refuse to work i n hospitals or clinics where procedures they find objectionable are often performed). In like fashion, my personal beliefs should not be the basis o f a choice i f I must advocate on behalf o f a friend, my partner or even my ageing parents. The issue is somewhat more contentious when it is a question o f my own children. However, even here I would argue that parents have no special rights over children that allow them to deny children primary needs out o f a parent's religious views. This is why (in Canada at least) the state has ultimate authority over children's well-being and can over-rule a parent's decision.  For a further discussion of this point, see Rawls 1993, p. 58 ff. Rawls is questioning whether comprehensive doctrines are reasonable but the analysis is similar to mine here. Though note, these are only beginning kinds of considerations. Simply because one passes these tests I have elucidated, it does not follow that their views are necessarily good ones. 9 7  98  129  W e may praise the martyr, either for the adherence to a value we share or simply out of the courage displayed i n standing behind one's belief (though this is much harder i f it is a belief we find troublesome or odious). However, we cannot morally praise the suicide bomber who takes the lives o f others because o f a particular value he holds. However important metaphysical beliefs are to you, it does not give you the right to deny others their primary goods." To think otherwise is fanaticism, it is to deny the Kantian injunction to treat others as ends unto themselves. Primary goods/values can be a useful guide in determining reasonableness. There is obviously more to be said regarding what is to count as a primary good and how these various goods are to be interpreted. But given some agreement on these things, we can see how such goods can play a limiting role in what values we consider to be acceptable. A s I have shown, however, these goods are not absolutes. In some cases there may be values that a particular society w i l l view as legitimately trumping primary goods and so these can reasonably hold force in the moral realm in one's evaluation o f competing reasons. But where such trumping goes on, there needs to be clear and strong evidence o f why this is acceptable.  I V : Michael Philips's Domain Ethic In his book Between Universalism and Skepticism, Michael Philips develops a system of moral reasoning that he call Ethics as Social Artifact ( E S A ) . The purpose o f this theory is to find a middle ground between the view that there is The One Right Answer to moral questions (universalism) and the view that there can be no justification for moralities at all (skepticism). E S A "holds that there is a.rational method for evaluating existing moral codes, and that there are rational grounds for saying that one code is better than another. But it denies that there are universal moral standards" (1994, p. 89). In this way, E S A is similar to the Contextualism that I am arguing for (and within) in this thesis;  While accepting the moral weight of this claim, we can also acknowledge that moral objections would do little to convince such a person not to act in this murderous way. The suicide bomber has placed greater priority on religious (or other) views and so has removed himself from the moral realm. Moral arguments will thus carry no weight against this person.  130  A s with any approach to moral reasoning that denies universal moral standards, a question that needs to be addressed is how we justify one judgement/action as being morally superior to another. Philips gives the following answer to this question: " E S A holds that moralities are justified to the degree that they promote reasonably valued ways o f life, and that ways o f life are reasonably valued to the extent that they promote reasonable values" (1994, p. 90). The reader may see in both this justification, and Philips's general approach, a great similarity with the impartiality and Contextualism that I am arguing for. I think, in fact, that we are arguing for similar things but doing so in different (though related) ways. Notice that i n Philips's explication o f the justification o f moralities, the concept of reasonableness comes up three times in the one sentence. Given the title o f this chapter and my use o f reasonableness throughout this thesis, it is not surprising that I think Philips is right to make use o f this term. However, he does not do enough to justify or explicate what constitutes reasonableness. H i s work, though, does offer two useful analyses that I w i l l borrow in fleshing-out my conception o f reasonableness: domain-sensitivity and the problems with the constancy assumption. The constancy assumption is the widely held principle that the weight o f a given moral feature must remain constant across all contexts. Before dispelling this assumption, let us take a moment first to understand why many think it is necessary. M o r a l reasoning approaches that reject universal moral standards are often thought to be too relativistic, too subjective; i f there is not one absolutely right answer, then anything must go. For those, like Philips and myself, who are trying to find a middle ground between universalism and skepticism, we must be able to compare the relative weights o f competing moral claims. W i t h no process to do this, we do degenerate into skepticism (which i n this case amounts to relativism). M a n y believe that i f such a comparison o f relative weights is to be possible, then it is only possible given that relevant moral principles hold constant weight in all realms o f life. Philips explicates it thus: "the constancy assumption holds that i f a moral standard has a weight o f a given magnitude in a given case, it has a weight o f that magnitude in every case" (1994, p. 100). For example, i f in one case telling the truth is judged to be more important than protecting myself, it must be true that truth-telling is always more important  131  than protecting myself. Without such an assumption, it is simply impossible (or so some believe) to reason through any kind o f moral problem. The weakness in this assumption is easily shown by giving some context to the example in the previous paragraph. Imagine that some money has been stolen from a fellow teacher in my school. I am approached by the principal who tells me that she has reason to believe that another teacher, Mary, has stolen the money. Imagine further that Mary and I are competing for a promotion. It would be to my benefit to corroborate the principal's suspicions (discrediting M a r y would make it more likely that I would get the promotion) and yet it would be morally wrong to so lie (an innocent person would be punished for something she did not do). Here, it seems clear to me that truth-telling should take priority over watching out for m y o w n good. But let us think o f another example. Imagine that I am a Jew living in N a z i Germany. A n SS officer comes to my door and asks me i f I am Jewish. If I answer yes, I know I w i l l be taken off to a concentration camp where I w i l l likely be killed. If I lie and say no, no harm w i l l come to anyone. In this case, I imagine anyone but a strict Kantian would say it is entirely justifiable for me to look out for my own interests and that they take priority over telling the truth. This pair o f examples could be multiplied infinitely but this one pair is sufficient to show the absurdity o f the constancy assumption. W e cannot, in the abstract, determine the ordering or importance o f moral principles. Rather, we must look to specific contexts to determine what relevance and what import a particular principle has. This moves us into Philips's discussion o f domains. According to Philips, domains are particular segments o f society, "generated by the way a society organizes itself to meet certain fundamental needs" (1994, p. 91). For every society, this w i l l include things like the need to "raise and educate its young, produce and distribute material goods, heal the sick and injured, enforce its moral standards, and protect itself from attack" (1994, p. 91). The weight a moral claim w i l l have w i l l i n part be determined by what domain it is operating in and what the purpose o f that domain is. Philips makes a distinction between two different types o f moral standards. O n the one hand there are moral standards that must be in place i f a society is to survive. Philips gives examples like homicide, physical violence, property use, sexual access, and 132  information exchange. Different societies may regulate these standards in different ways, but all societies must, in some way, regulate these areas or the society cannot survive (1994, p. 90 f f ) . These standards that exist in all cultures and operate across all domains, he calls, "core moral standards". The other type o f standard is one that is domain-specific, that is, one that operates only within a particular domain (for example, the obligations o f parents towards children have no place outside the domain o f child-rearing). Even for "core moral standards" however, how they operate is dependent on the domain i n which they operate. Let us take the example o f information exchange (lying and truth-telling). Is it the case that lying is always wrong? Philips's system tells us that to determine whether something is wrong, we must look to the harms that can be done by doing a particular action. If someone lies in a court o f law, grave consequences can follow for society. Without a presumption o f truth by witnesses, there is little way o f establishing the guilt or innocence o f someone on trial (for example). Because o f the demands and constraints o f the legal system, truth-telling is vitally important. Without it, the domain cannot function and so the social end it is meant to fulfil cannot be met. In contrast, lying is not always so damaging within trade. If I am negotiating with someone over buying a house and I tell this person, "I w i l l offer you $180,000, but that is my final offer", no great harm is done i f I really don't mean that this is my final offer. In fact in this domain, such lying is accepted (it is almost expected). Following Philips's analysis, it is incorrect to say that lying is wrong in the abstract. It is only wrong in particular cases in particular circumstances. H o w is this relevant for my question o f reasonableness? Let us recall what this test of reasonableness is meant to secure. I am claiming that a moral judgement is sound i f it could be approved by any other person judging reasonably. This question o f domain is relevant in the sense that what a person could reasonably object to (or conversely, what she could reasonably accept) is entirely dependent on what kind o f moral issue is at hand and in what domain it is operating. Further, it depends on some agreement as to what the goal o f that particular domain is. Sometimes these questions are fairly easy to answer. Most o f us, I think, could agree that the primary purpose o f the criminal court system is to determine whether a defendant is 133  guilty or innocent (there are, o f course, concerns over how an investigation was carried out, whether the individual's rights were violated or not, and so on). Given this purpose, it is hard to imagine anyone reasonably arguing that lying is acceptable on the part o f witnesses. Even more clear-cut is the need for the judge in the case (and the jury, i f one exists) to be unbiased. Anyone who disagrees with such constraints simply does not understand the necessities and importance o f the criminal court system. These questions are not always so obvious, however. M u c h moral disagreement arises because there are varying notions o f how the questions should be answered. Consider, for example, whether it is morally wrong to teach students with the aim o f making them into critical thinkers. Most o f us would say no, this is not wrong; that this, i n fact, is the goal of public education. However, some might disagree that this is the goal, citing instead some ideal o f acculturation as the proper goal o f education. Here we can see that a disagreement as to the purpose o f a domain w i l l lead to a disagreement regarding the moral acceptability of an action. The disagreement could run even deeper here. Some might argue that regardless of whether we want schools to produce critical thinkers, when we are talking about matters o f spirituality, morality, sex, it is not the domain o f education that we are in. Many would see these things properly in the domain o f parenting or religion, arguing that such issues have no place in the schools. Here there may be not only a disagreement as to what the goal of a given domain is, but i n fact what domain is under consideration. H o w do we resolve such disagreements? Sometimes we don't and this is fine. Such disagreements are the source o f many differences o f opinion in the moral realm. Later, in chapter 8,1 w i l l explore the consequences o f this persistence o f disagreement and what this says about Contextualism. For now I simply want to say that Contextualism does not promise a remedy to all moral disagreement. It sometimes can resolve these disagreements. A t other times it can help us be clear exactly where and why the disagreement persists, something that can aid i n maintaining the good faith and mutual respect necessary for further moral discussions to take place. For both o f these things to occur, an understanding of domain-sensitivity is crucial.  134  V . Conclusion I w i l l conclude this chapter by summarizing the last three chapters and showing how they fit together. These three chapters are key in understanding what my conception of impartiality is and what it entails. It is thus important to be clear about what exactly it is I (think I) have accomplished. In this chapter I have attempted to outline what might constitute a reasonable objection to a moral judgement. Recall that my test o f impartiality holds that a moral judgement is adequate i f no one else can reasonably object to it. For this test to be at all useful, it has been necessary to articulate (at least in outline) what might constitute moral reasonableness. The four different areas in this chapter are each meant to represent a way in which a judgement could fail to meet this reasonableness criterion. Failure on any o f these grounds should give the responsible moral agent cause to re-think one's tentative judgement in light o f the kind o f objection made. , The work in this chapter follows on the arguments i n the previous chapter which showed the many different ways that impartiality is crucial to morality. These arguments provided a justification why impartiality needs to be part o f moral reasoning. But they also provide a foundation from which to build on the various criteria o f reasonableness found in this chapter. In turn, these various arguments from the last chapter can be seen reflected in many o f the central ethical theories from both the past and present o f western ethics. I would argue that these theories are central to our modern philosophy and also to our broader moral sensibilities because they capture or reflect (in a theoretical way) something that we, as a society, believe is fundamental to our moral lives and communities. W i t h that said, let us look at some o f the links. Kant's ethics stress the rights and responsibilities for each to act as an individual, autonomous moral agent. This means that each should have the freedom to decide for oneself one's own conception o f the good and to live one's life in pursuit o f this good (within the bounds o f the law, o f course). This sentiment is found in both the arguments from meaning (chapter 5 section I) and from democracy (chapter 5, section III). The kinds o f concerns outlined in the Rawls section o f chapter 4 also reflect this Kantian concern for moral personhood and the equality that follows. When we get to the criterion o f reasonableness, we can see this concern most 135  centrally in Kekes's discussion o f primary goods. If we understand this moral personhood to be such a primary good, then any act that violates the Kantian injunction to treat others as ends and not merely as means, any act that seems to work against the meaning and democracy arguments in chapter 5, w i l l have grounds to be reasonably objected to under the reasonableness demand o f Kekes's primary good consideration. Failure to respect moral personhood could also likely provide grounds for reasonable objections under Phillips's notion o f the domain-ethic. Because the purpose o f particular domains is meant to protect this moral personhood, the standards that constitute acceptable behaviour in the various domains w i l l arise out o f this concern for autonomy. M i l l ' s Utilitarianism is concerned with consequences o f actions and maximizing good consequences for a society at-large. In chapter five, we see this reflected in the utility argument; i f we can all agree to particular rules, then society w i l l function better and this w i l l provide the basis for-all'to pursue a more lasting and meaningful happiness. In terms o f reasonableness, this is central to the Rawls criterion focused on reciprocity and fair terms of cooperation. If I am to count as a moral being, but only equally so along with all others, then it must be the case that I must hold myself to standards that I expect others to adhere to. If not, i f we are not all playing by the same rules, then the social function o f morality w i l l not be met and the utility w i l l not be recognized. M i l l ' s concerns are also reflected in the reasonableness criterion o f the domain-ethic. If there is some function behind morality, then to understand how morality works w i l l require an understanding o f that function. However, it seems dubious to think that it w i l l operate in the same way i n all domains o f life because these domains exist for different reasons, they have different functions. So considerations o f reasonableness must take adequate account o f the function o f a particular domain and the standards that follow, from this. The kind o f procedural ethics represented by Habermas i n chapter four (and by my discussion o f Contextualism i n chapter three) is supported by the kinds o f substantive moral principles explicated in the areas discussed above. But in addition, there are procedural kinds of considerations that are reflected in the reasonableness criterion discussed at the beginning of this chapter under the heading o f Standards o f Good Practical Reasoning. Such formal considerations involve whether one is considering enough evidence, i f the evidence is correct 136  or not, is it the kind o f evidence that would support the judgement at hand, has one considered enough possible courses o f action, is one imagining likely consequences from these possible courses o f action. So, to summarize my summary here, these three chapters work together to show how some central concerns o f morality could be captured in a series o f reasonableness criteria which in turn constitute the substance o f impartiality. In chapter four I explored some of the major ethical theories in western philosophy. In chapter five, I extracted from those theories the kinds o f considerations which are central to our understanding o f morality. In chapter , six, I have taken these central understandings o f morality and developed a series o f reasonableness tests which are meant to show the ways in which a judgement could fail to be morally adequate (or re-stated, the standards one's judgements must meet to be morally adequate).  137  Chapter 7 : FEMINIST/POSTMODERNIST CRITIQUES  In this chapter, I explore some o f the arguments that have been made against impartiality. Though they come from many different schools o f thought, these critiques are most commonly found i n feminist and post-modernist writings. Because she writes directly against impartiality and represents herself as coming from both o f these traditions, I w i l l look primarily at Iris M a r i o n Young's work in this chapter. She does not cover all o f the possible objections to impartiality. However, she does raise many o f the major ones. B y looking at Y o u n g ' s various objections to impartiality, I w i l l show how my reasonableness conception o f impartiality, as it has been explicated in this thesis, does not fall victim to the problems and dangers described by Y o u n g and others. I. Y o u n g Young has two main arguments against impartiality (within the second argument, there are six sub-arguments. For clarity sake, I w i l l call these sub-arguments critiques, reserving the term argument for the larger, main claims). The first argument is that impartiality creates "an impossible ideal, because the particularities o f context and affiliation cannot and should not be removed from moral reasoning" (1990, p. 97). Notice that as to the impossibility claim, the "cannot" is the important assertion. Whether or not such context and affiliation should or should not be removed from moral reasoning does not bear on the possibility o f it happening. This "should not" claim, however, leads to the second of Young's arguments, that there is danger i n subscribing to the ideal o f impartiality: "It masks the ways in which the particular perspectives o f dominant groups claim universality, and helps justify hierarchical decision-making structures" (p. 97). I am going to argue that neither o f these is as problematic as Y o u n g thinks; that, in fact, my reasonableness conception o f impartiality is immune to the kinds o f charges represented in Young's work.  a. Argument 1 The first argument is the easier to deal with, so let us start there. Whether or not the ideal o f impartiality is possible, looks, on the surface, to be an empirical question. However, Young's defense o f this claim is largely a moral one. If, she claims, such an ideal were 138  realized, there would be consequences we would not likely find acceptable. She thinks that this ideal is achieved only by repressing or eliminating all difference and that this is a bad thing. Whether or not impartiality implies such an elimination and whether that elimination is a bad thing are certainly important questions. However, they do not bear directly on the empirical question and it is important to keep the two separate. These non-empirical questions are related to the second argument cited above and so discussion o f them w i l l be saved until later. Let us then, for now, deal with the empirical part o f the challenge. Notice that Y o u n g ' s question is not whether we can achieve impartiality but whether we can achieve an ideal o f impartiality. The answer to this question must surely be no. Like other ideals (be they o f fairness, justice, kindness or anything else), this one w i l l sometimes be a distant, unachievable goal (we can be fair and just and kind sometimes, but we cannot be perfectly so i n all cases). But it is no less useful for this limitation. N o one, I suspect, would claim to be able to achieve the ideal o f fairness (that is, being absolutely fair in all circumstances). Human beings are flawed creatures, prone to imperfections. A n d even i f a perfect human were conceived, circumstances sometimes do not allow for the exercise of such perfections; events can constrain us, forcing us to choose 'the lesser o f two evils'. But granting this, no one would claim that fairness is therefore useless. Though we can be only imperfectly fair, we still strive (most o f us at least) to be as fair as possible. The ideal may never be reached, but there is still value in working toward that goal. The ideal works as a beacon, helping guide us in the right direction. It is not a necessary implication o f moral theories that they require a judgement to achieve the ideal o f impartiality. Rather, as my R C I holds, to the degree they are impartial, the more likely they are to be morally adequate . The more we can achieve impartiality (that is, the more we can avoid the kind o f biases that w i l l lead us to unfairly privileging our own positions), the better our moral judgements w i l l be (all other things being equal). Thus, the fact that the ideal o f impartiality is not reachable in no way implies any problem with impartiality itself or its place within moral judgements. A useful analogy can be made here with Sandra Harding's notion o f Strong Objectivity (Harding 1991, p. 13 8-163, 1993, p. 49-82). Harding follows many scholars in claiming that it is impossible to be absolutely objective in anything we do. Inevitably-we are 139  influenced by the circumstances o f our lives, our social positions, our genetic heritage; all o f these things w i l l bear on the degree to which our subjectivity encroaches onto decisions or judgements. But Harding recognizes that for all o f this imperfection, objectivity is still a useful concept to use and to strive for. W e can never achieve absolute objectivity, but we still want to be as objective as we can. To this end, Harding suggests that we do everything in our power to be aware o f the kinds o f factors that typically w i l l work against objectivity (wanting to maintain a privileged position, for example). W e still cannot be totally objective, but this process o f critically self-evaluating our motives, values and reasoning w i l l help us to achieve as strong a degree o f objectivity as possible.  100  In a similar way, we can think of impartiality in these terms. W e w i l l never reach the ideal; we w i l l never achieve what Fishkin calls "strict impartiality, that is, [having] no special regard for one's own interests, situation, or relations with others'" (Fishkin 1984, p. 79). But there is value i n striving for impartiality in the non-strict sense—making sure we are not unfairly privileging our own positions. Young seems to have in mind a conception of impartiality that holds anyone who has any bias or perspective or situatedness in the world (i.e. all o f us) cannot be impartial—a 'view from nowhere' understanding o f the concept. In contrast, my R C I holds that we are impartial, even with the biases and perspectives and situatedness that we all have, i f these things do not illegitimately distort our thinking. Thus the argument that we can never achieve the ideal o f impartiality does no damage to the claim that we should strive to be as impartial as we can. However, i f this striving carries with it certain dangers and problems, then this effort might be morally counter-productive. If so, then there is reason to think we should not be striving to be impartial. This is the claim of Young's second argument.  b. Argument 2 Young has two sets o f critiques questioning whether the attempt to achieve impartiality is a good thing or not. The first is that such an attempt can only succeed by  This critical self-evaluation need not be strictly an individual pursuit. In fact Harding would stress how we are far more likely to recognize a lack of objectivity if we consult other people and get other perspectives on the issue at hand. I made the same argument for impartiality in chapters three, four and six. 1 0 0  140.  repressing or eliminating difference. The second set revolves around negative consequences which are caused by our adherence to the ideal o f impartiality.  101  In each o f these two sets,  Young cites three different problems. It w i l l be my claim that my R C I does not fall victim to any o f these six critiques because my understanding o f what impartiality is and what purpose it serves i n moral judgements is different than Young's.  i. The Difference Set Beginning with the 'difference' set, Young claims: "The ideal o f the impartial transcendental subject denies or represses difference in three ways" (1990, p. 100). First o f all, "it denies the particularity o f situations". Secondly, it "seeks to master or eliminate heterogeneity i n the form o f feeling". Thirdly, it reduces "the plurality o f moral subjects to one subjectivity" (1990, p. 100).  a. Critique 1 In what way does impartiality deny the particularity o f a situation? To return to the example cited earlier o f my grandmother and her ugly dress, it is clear that moral judgements cannot be removed from a particular situation. In that example, it is a particular dress that is in question, a particular grandmother. The possibilities o f action are mediated, in part, by my . understanding o f the situation; how my grandmother would feel being lied to, how she would feel being told the truth. This, i n turn, depends upon a 'reading' o f the situation i n that particular moment: what kind o f mood is she in, what is her confidence level, has this dress been purchased for a special occasion which she is worried about? The factors which go in to making such a judgement are too countless to mention. However, what this initial list makes clear is that in no way is a judgement abstracted from a particular situation, let alone does it demand or deny the particularity o f the situation.  The two sets are not totally distinct. Obviously eliminating or repressing difference would be seen as a negative consequence. But the categories are still employed by Young as pointing to different kinds of considerations, even though they overlap to a large extent. 101  141  A t this point some readers may want to claim that this list I am proposing, while dealing with particulars, does not support my argument because it i n no way deals with impartiality. This counter-argument fails however. Even i f the impartiality and particularity are separate, they are not mutually exclusive. Young is claiming that to have any impartiality, one must totally rid the situation o f any particularities. But there is no reason to think this necessary. Even i f questions o f (im)partiality do not bear directly on certain specific elements o f a judgement, it does not follow that the overall judgement cannot, itself, be impartial (understood in the normative sense I have argued throughout this thesis). In other words, my judgement can take account o f all o f the particularities o f a situation and yet not unfairly privilege any particular perspective. If I achieve this, my judgement is impartial. In order to achieve this, I certainly need to be aware o f as many o f the particulars o f the situation as I can. A s is clear i n my articulation o f the Contextualist approach, one cannot do any practical moral reasoning without being grounded in a specific context. Thus i n my account, not only does impartiality not deny the particularity o f a situation, it absolutely demands a direct engagement with these particulars. To understand why Y o u n g might think impartiality denies the particularity of a situation (and by extension, the particularity o f the individuals involved), it may be helpful to pose a sequential question: at what point is the moral reasoner to become impartial? The question is not entirely accurate as it depends on a view o f someone reasoning along a oneway linear path, moving from criterion to criterion o f good reasoning. However, we can at least imagine this sequence in order to make a crucial distinction. Y o u n g seems to have in mind a view o f an agent who, coming to make a moral decision, abandons all particularities (both o f self and o f situation) and retreats to some "moral-point-of-view", the view from nowhere which she criticizes in Nagel's work (Young 1990, p. 100 f f ) .  142  There are several indications throughout her work that she understands impartiality this way. First o f all, in response to the impartiality position she is attacking, Young claims moral reasoning should not "require that one adopt a point o f view emptied o f particularity, a point o f view that is the same for everyone" (1990, p. 105). Implicit in this claim is the notion that to be impartial, one must be the same as everyone else, devoid o f any particularities. Secondly, she seems to hold a view that everyone, acting impartially, would arrive at exactly the same decision. She claims, " A s long as decision-makers strive for impartiality, democracy is unnecessary" (p. 115).  This seems like an odd claim.  Democracy is a way o f governing which attempts to mediate between the competing interests of various citizens (or stake-holders o f one stripe or another). People have differing views about what is valuable in life and what goods should be pursued. To the extent that a common decision must be reached (in terms o f which government to put in power or some such thing), they submit themselves to democratic processes. Democracy would only be seen as unnecessary (as Young claims) i f it were thought that people all shared the same views o f what is valuable, what is good. Young seems to think this is a necessary implication o f impartiality, but this does not follow at all. In place o f her view that we completely abandon our particular selves and situations and go to the 'impartial place' to make a judgement, I have suggested that we use impartiality as a tool to check on the fairness and soundness o f our tentative decisions. In the example o f my grandmother's dress, I would reach what I would think is the most appropriate decision (taking into account all the particularities o f the situation and the people involved) and then check against my standard o f reasonableness (articulated i n the previous chapter) to see i f the judgement is impartial. This in no way implies that all people would reach the same conclusion. Rather, what we strive for in moral judgements are conclusions which are not open to reasonable objections. It might be useful here to consider Rawls' notion o f reasonable pluralism (1993, p. 63 f f ) . Within a given community, there w i l l be many different views regarding what is > valuable or good. Though I may not regard the view which you subscribe to as a good one  It has been pointed out to me that there is an irony in Young's statement here that I am missing. I do think she is being somewhat ironic. But the irony I see is in the possibility of such a state of affairs ever coming 1 0 2  143  (for me), I can accept that it is a reasonable good to pursue. There is nothing in our society that I can imagine would convince me that I would want to be a doctor. Y e t I can understand why other people are drawn to the profession. O n a more metaphysical level, I do not believe in, let alone follow, the Christian God. But I can appreciate why others do and I do not think them unreasonable for doing so. There is nothing about the concept o f impartiality which necessitates the elimination o f this reasonable pluralism. To understand why Young seems to think that reasonable pluralism and impartiality are not compatible  , we can turn to the works of Thomas Nagel and Bernard Williams. I  draw on these two theorists because Young makes use o f both o f them to highlight certain problems and limitations with striving for impartiality. Her usage o f their work is apt and revealing, but it is also limited.- In both cases, the work she draws upon goes on to make a distinction in moral judgements which she could have usefully heeded. In saying that impartial moral judges must come to the same conclusion, Young seems to have a binary understanding o f moral judgements: they suggest acts that are either prohibited or obligatory. What both Nagel and Williams go on to argue is that there is a third class o f moral judgement, the morally permissible. Nagel makes this distinction by talking about the reasons which underlie moral judging and whether those reasons are neutral or relative to the agent. He writes: "Ethics is concerned not only with what should happen, but also independently with what people should or may do'. Neutral reasons underlie the former; but relative reasons can affect the latter" (1986, p. 165). Nagel then goes on to talk about the ways in which relative reasons can legitimately function in moral arguments: Though using different language, Williams makes a similar distinction. He contrasts moral obligations to morally indifferent acts (1985, p. 181 ff.). In the latter class are those judgements which lead to neither necessary nor forbidden actions. It seems clear from Young's arguments that she has failed to take into account the morally permissible type of reasoning. She may be right that all impartial judges w i l l come to the same conclusion regarding some actions which are morally obligatory (those actions i n which one course o f action is so far superior to others that all reasonable people would judge in the same way). In  about. I do think that she believes her conclusion, however unlikely the counter-factual is. Thus, it seems to me that her view here still supports my claim that she sees impartiality as demanding absolute sameness. Or to put it in the language of this set of critiques, "why Young thinks impartiality demands the elimination or repression of difference...". 103  144  this way there is little room for difference. However, reasonable people w i l l sometimes disagree as to what is morally obligatory or prohibited. Furthermore, there is the far broader class o f actions which are morally permissible but not obligatory. Here we can see that even impartial judges can come to radically divergent choices. Hence, impartiality need not, as she claims, seek to eliminate or repress difference. I wrote earlier that it might be helpful, in trying to understand Young's position, to think sequentially. Another way o f understanding her position is to think o f whether impartiality is the whole o f the moral theory or merely a component. Judging from her arguments about difference, Young seems to think that moral persons need be impartial and nothing else (at least to satisfy the requirements of moral theories that espouse impartiality). In place o f this view, I have suggested that impartiality is a test we apply to check the adequacy o f judgements tentatively reached, but that these judgements are reached through the consideration o f many other factors.  b. Critique 2 The second critique in this section involves what Young sees as the need to master or eliminate feelings. She claims that impartiality "requires abstracting from the particularity o f bodily being, its needs and inclinations, and from the feelings that attach to the experienced particularity o f things and events" (1990, p. 100). Young provides little argument as to why this is the case, but rather thinks it obvious that "reason...stands opposed to desire and affectivity" (p. 100). This view, that reason-based moralities depend on a differentiation between reason and emotion, is a common assertion made by many feminist scholars (Held 1987, 1998, Sherwin 1993). But why should we accept this as necessary? Is it not plausible that feelings can themselves provide good reason to choose one course o f action over another? This appeared to be the case in my grandmother example. The feelings I know that she would have about being told the dress was hideous factor prominently in my decisionmaking. Further, the love and care I feel for her allow me to be attuned to the potential consequences o f each course o f action. Though not bearing directly on the evaluation of alternatives, my feelings do factor prominently in my overall understanding o f the situation and so contribute to the quality o f my moral judgement.  145  There are times when feelings and desires are ruled out. However, this is not because they are from the affective domain, but rather because they are deemed irrelevant to the moral judgement at hand. Recall the example at the beginning o f chapter 1 o f the principal who must recommend one student from his school to nominate for a prestigious scholarship. There are two students deserving o f this honour, though one student is clearly more deserving than the other. However, the second student is the daughter o f the principal's best friend, a girl for whom he has great affection. In deciding who to nominate, the principal should not let these feelings play a role in his decision-making. This is not because he would be exhibiting a feeling, but because the feeling does not provide good grounds to support the action. In his role as principal, fairness demands that he make a judgement on other kinds of factors, those directly relevant to the criteria o f the scholarship. Within the language I used in chapter 6, we could object by claiming that the principal's judgement does not take account o f his role within the particular domain in which he is acting. However, simply because in this one example feelings are seen as not relevant, it does not follow that they are similarly so i n all cases. A s with any other potentially relevant factor in moral decision-making, we must examine feelings and question whether they are relevant to the judgement at hand. Sometimes they w i l l be, sometimes they w i l l not. But in no way does impartiality (as I conceive it) demand an absolute separation o f reason and emotion. To understand why some think reason and feeling are incompatible, it might be useful to look back to Kant's ethics. For Kant, an act was morally good i f and only i f it was done from duty; that is, from a recognition that this is what the moral law requires. It seems that this would allow no room for feeling. This tension is alluded to by Bernard Williams with an example he borrows from Charles Fried.  In this example a number o f people are drowning  after a shipwreck and a man can only save one person. Reasoning through the situation, the man determines that according to impartial morality it is acceptable to save his wife. Williams does not object to this conclusion, but rather how it is arrived at: this construction provides the agent with one thought too many: it might have been hoped (for instance, by his wife) that his motivating thought, fully spelled out, would be the thought that it was his wife, not that it was his wife and that in situations o f this kind it is permissible to save one's wife. (Williams 1981, p. 18)  146  While such an example might be a problem for K a n t i a n s , it is clearly not for my 104  conception o f impartiality. This might, in the abstract, appear to be a moral-conflict problem (whom to save) requiring one to reason through the complexities o f the situation. But in reality it would be so obvious that no thought would be required to determine the appropriate action (at least by most people, I would think). Obviously one is not unfairly privileging one's own position by saving one's wife; privileging yes, but not unfairly. Thus this moral choice would pass my test o f impartiality. But the fact that one could look back and retrospectively justify that act as morally appropriate does not imply that one would necessarily need to reason through it. While a strict Kantian might say that only acts done from duty are morally good, it does not mean that all who are committed to impartiality believe this as well. Before leaving this second critique, there is one more related point that needs to be addressed. Young claims that: "impartiality assumes that from my particular perspective, with my particular history and experience, I can nevertheless empathize with the feelings and perspectives o f others differently situated" (1990, p. 105). If this assumption is made, I think Young is right to critique it. It w i l l be the case that I can never totally empathize with another in a different situation. However, this is problematic only i f we understand impartiality to be solely concerned with reaching an ideal (an absolute, as^discussed in argument one above).  W e can never totally empathize with others i n situations different  from our own, but to greater or lesser degrees we can. A n d to the extent I am successful in doing this, the more sound w i l l be my moral judgements. If we understand impartiality not as an all or nothing affair, but something that admits o f degrees, then this imperfect, but still important, understanding and empathy with others is crucial. This basis o f Young's critique is more understandable once we see the assumption that gives rise to it. M a n y theorists critical o f impartiality have a view o f "impartial moral reasoners" (at least as they are supposedly portrayed by those o f us supporting impartiality) as necessarily isolated, making judgements by themselves, with only their own faculties to guide them. In support o f this view, they often cite Rawls' thought-experiment, the original position. In this, individuals are asked to imagine themselves stripped o f all particularities  Though certainly not all Kantians see this as a problematic example, see Herman 1993, p. 41 ff.  147  and then to judge what would be fair institutions upon which to build a just society. Because many see this as the epitome o f impartiality and that this case suggests individuals carry out this task on their own, many theorists think that impartiality necessarily implies this isolation, what many call monological thinking. A s I stated in chapter four, I am not sure this is a fair critique o f R a w l s .  105  But  regardless, it simply does not follow that all supporters o f impartiality need be committed to this type o f isolationism. A s I have stressed throughout this thesis, our moral judgements w i l l far more likely be impartial (that is, free from reasonable objection), i f we discuss situations with others. The more input, the more perspectives, the more people critiquing our own choices we can have, the better our judgements w i l l be (all other things being equal). Dialogue may not always allow me to understand your position, but it can certainly move me towards such an understanding. But again it must be reiterated that we are not expecting perfection, but rather to achieve the best that we can. There may in fact be differences across which understanding cannot build bridges. Here, the morally wise person w i l l recognize the situation as such and react appropriately. However, I believe that in more cases than not, some significant level o f understanding can be reached. A s human beings, there are a number o f fundamental things we share which should allow us to at least form some appreciation o f where other people are coming from.  c. Critique 3 Young's third critique in the difference set asserts that impartiality reduces "the plurality o f moral subjects to one subjectivity" (1990, p. 100). Part o f a response to this critique can be found i n my earlier analysis o f how Young believes that to be impartial is to totally give up one's identity and personal value system (see section I.b.i.c. above). If anything like R a w l s ' reasonable pluralism is accepted, then it is quite evident that there need not be any reduction to one subjectivity. Moral subjects can operate from their own  Rawls is not proposing a procedure for solving real-life moral problems. Rather he is presenting a heuristic to help us imagine what the foundations of a just society would be. The two are different tasks.  148  particular value and belief systems. Impartiality does not rule any o f this out, but rather rules out the improper imposition o f such value and belief systems into moral judgements. What is to constitute such an improper imposition? This is an open-question that can only be answered within the given context o f each situation. A r e the values and beliefs relevant? To what extent? The Contextualist procedure that I outlined in chapter 3 is a way o f working through these kinds o f questions and helping us to determine what relevance our own subjectivities have i n a given situation. The test o f reasonableness as outlined in chapter 6 is a way o f checking whether the judgement we tentatively arrive at is an adequate one (that is, free o f reasonable objections). A s with the discussion o f feeling above, sometimes the uniqueness o f my subjectivity is relevant in moral decisions and so can be acted upon. But sometimes it is not and the responsible moral agent w i l l transcend her subjectivity where necessary.  x  To further understand why Young might be led to this critique, we can read further into her work. She claims that the "impartial moral judge...ideally should treat all persons alike, according to the same principles, impartially applied" (1990, p. 101). While this might be a common belief about the universality o f moral principles and moral judgements, it is a crude interpretation. What is meant by this claim is that relevantly similar persons, in relevantly similar circumstances, should be treated alike. Thus i f I have good reason to treat B i l l , in situation x, i n a certain way, then it must be the case that I should treat John in the same way, i f the situations are relevantly similar and John and B i l l are relevantly similar. If B i l l is an adult who has stolen something from me, I w i l l treat h i m differently than John, a toddler, who has also 'stolen' something. There is no sensible ethical theory that would assume the two cases need to be treated identically. If I were to treat the adult and the toddler in the same way in this situation, then obviously my judgement would be open to reasonable objections because I have not adequately taken account o f the relevant context of the situations. I would thus fail to meet my standard o f impartiality. In each o f her three claims that impartiality necessitates the elimination or repression of difference, Y o u n g is critiquing a conception o f impartiality that is far removed from mine. We can see, however, that once we hold/grant one o f the three positions explicated in her critiques, then the others seems to follow; they are self-supporting. If I must treat everyone exactly the same way, then obviously the particularity o f the situation is irrelevant. If I  149  completely deny feelings i n moral judgement, then the uniqueness o f individuals is removed and we are all reduced to one subjectivity. If the situation is irrelevant, then the uniqueness of individuals and their differences is similarly irrelevant. However, once we see that my R C I does not demand these things (that in fact it hinges on the opposite), Young's interrelated critiques here do nothing against conceptions o f impartiality like mine.  ii. The Negative Consequences Set This second set o f claims begins with the challenge that I set to her belief that the ideal o f impartiality is an impossibility. A s I stated several pages ago, the fact that we cannot attain this ideal does not imply that we should not strive to realize as much o f it as we possibly can. Y o u n g ' s only reply to the point is to turn to the moral argument: "Not only is impartiality impossible...but commitment to the ideal has adverse ideological consequences" (p. 112). These negative consequences fall into roughly three main categories.  a. Critique 4 The first (and fourth critique overall) claims that impartiality helps to create the fiction o f the neutral state, which i n turn gives support to a distributive justice paradigm (1990, p. 112). Because we believe that individuals can be impartial, we believe there are people working for the state who w i l l act in the best interests o f everyone alike. This in turn provides a basis for allowing these people to achieve a just society by fairly distributing goods. O n the surface, there seems nothing too bad about this unless we think that the distributive justice paradigm is somehow flawed or dangerous. This is, in fact, Young's claim. In an earlier chapter in her book, she has attempted to argue that we are actually just perpetuating inequalities and oppression by buying into distributive justice: " A focus on the distribution o f material goods and resources inappropriately restricts the scope of justice, because i f fails to bring social structures and institutional contexts under evaluation" (1990, p. 20). Young is not advocating ignoring issues o f distribution, rather she wants us to be aware o f a limitation o f conceiving justice in strictly these terms: "There are certainly pressing reasons for philosophers to attend to these issues o f the distribution o f wealth and resources.. .But i n contemporary American society, many public appeals to justice do not concern primarily the distribution o f material goods" (1990, p. 19).  150  Whether or not the distributive paradigm of justice is flawed is not an argument I can get into here. M y R C I can side-step the claim Young is making against impartiality here by making a simple distinction: Young is conceiving impartiality as a state that an individual is in while I am arguing that it is a property (or a measure) o f a judgement. To see judgements as impartial and not individuals defeats her argument. Commitment to impartiality need not lead us to think there are perfectly fair individuals working for the good o f everyone and so commitment to impartiality does not necessitate a commitment to distributive justice.  b. Critique 5 The fifth critique is that the "idea o f the impartial decision-maker function[s] legitimate an undemocratic, authoritarian structure o f decision-making" (1990, p. 112). This critique follows on the fourth one above, arguing against a Lockian/Hegelian notion of the state as an impartial umpire. Young thinks that because we can have faith in the state as not representing any particular interests (that is, as being impartial), then its functionaries, the civil-servants, w i l l likewise be trusted to impartially carry out their duty. W e are thus safe in the knowledge that there are legislators, making decisions for us, who are acting in our best interests. This, however, undermines democracies: "The decision arrived at by the impartial decision-maker is one all those affected would have arrived at i f they had discussed it under circumstances o f mutual respect and equal power. So provided we find impartial decisionmakers, there is no need for discussion" (1990, p. 112). Without the need for discussion, the democratic process is undermined. Implicit in the previous quotation is the idea that all impartial decision-makers w i l l come to the same answer regarding questions of justice. A s I've argued earlier, this last point is simply not true. Impartiality allows a wide-range o f possible views and decisions. So claims like "provided we find impartial decision-makers, there is no need for discussion" (1990, p. 112) do not hold against my reasonable conception of impartiality. A s I have outlined in chapters 3—6, discussion is vital in determining whether a judgement is in fact impartial. A m o n g other things, discussion can help us determine:  what is it that we are deciding about, what are the 'facts' o f this particular  decision, how w i l l it affect various different parties, what w i l l likely happen i f we enact this choice, or that one, what is the best set o f consequences? It may be true that it is ultimately  151  up to one individual, or one particular governmental department, to make a decision. But it does not follow from this that such a decision need be undemocratic or authoritarian.  c. Critique 6 The final critique I w i l l look at holds that the commitment to impartiality "reinforces oppression by hypostatizing the point o f view o f privileged groups into a universal position" (Young 1990, p. 112). Though we can only make judgements from a particular situation, our attempt to make them impartial "generates a propensity to universalize the particular" (p. 115).  Because there is oppression in our society, the particular which gets universalized w i l l  be that o f the oppressors. Thus, so Young's critique continues, the oppressed groups w i l l be forced to conform to the contours o f the moral sphere as enacted by the oppressors. Further, any attempt to voice a challenge against this supposed neutrality w i l l be dismissed as being biased or selfish (Young 1990, p. 116). It may be true that this type o f thing happens in our society (though it is equally true, I think, that the voices o f the oppressed have been heard and somewhat heeded; think, for example, o f the C i v i l Rights movements in the United States, the successes o f various Women's Liberation groups, the improved treatment o f Native peoples in our country ). 106  But it does not follow that it must be the case.  Because there is a situation in which x  occurs, Y o u n g extrapolates from this that x must occur. However it is a large leap to argue that there is a case o f x to the more sweeping claim that x must be the case. Even i f we grant (the questionable) assumption that in our society it is a commitment to impartiality that causes these problems which Young points to, it does not follow that these problems must follow from a commitment to impartiality. Thus, it is not impartiality which is the problem but rather what we do i n the name o f impartiality. Young's sixth critique also relies on an impoverished notion o f 'universality'. Recall in critique three above, she claimed that impartiality demanded that moral agents treat everyone alike. This implied that all people, in all situations, were to be treated identically. But as I argued above, universality does not i n any way demand this. Once we accept that  1 am not in any way suggesting justice has been met with these examples, we still have a long, long way to go. But I do not think anyone could sensibly argue that conditions for minority and marginalized groups are not better now than they were 100 years ago. 106  152  there can be relevant differences i n individuals and situations, then this crude understanding of universality falls. Thus Young's notion that there is a 'universal position' that all must conform to is flawed. A moral reasoning approach that adopts my reasonableness conception of impartiality can and must take account o f these differences i n people and situations. This sixth critique also seems to be saying something about the possibilities o f how individuals can act i n moral situations. Young is arguing that the range o f what is considered acceptable is determined by the privileged group(s) in society and all others must conform to this. This view, however, is less believable once we accept that impartiality can admit of a range o f possible answers to most moral problems. A s I argued i n critique one above (see section a above) the view that impartiality demands one answer to every problem is simply wrong. M a n y moral problems can be solved in a number o f different ways and as long as one's judgement is free from reasonable objections, then it meets the my criteria o f impartiality. In this way there is no 'universal position' that is hypostatized by any privileged group. There is a counter-argument that can be raised against my argument in the previous paragraph. I am saying that my conception o f impartiality w i l l allow a range o f views. But in a way I am still delineating what views w i l l be acceptable, which w i l l not. I have defined (at least i n vague outlines) what morality is in chapter five. I have set the limits o f reasonableness (again, in broad outline) in chapter six. In essence, I have determined what is to be a morally acceptable answer and so could be seen to be guilty o f Young's sixth critique here. I w i l l deal with this charge i n more depth in the next chapter (see section b.ii.). For now, I would simply say that I do not pretend that mine is the final word on this subject. I have given reasons to support my position as a good one but I am certainly open to hearing counter-reasons that deny my position, or support another as preferable. A n d certainly I do not intend to exert pressure in any way to force people to accept and act from my perspective. But it seems to me to be my job to make pronouncements such as this. To do ethics is to make arguments as to what should be morally acceptable and what should not. In each o f her fourth, fifth and sixth critiques (as I have numbered them here), Young is making a claim against impartiality based on certain failings i n our society. Her arguments are, however, circular. She claims that these three types o f problems show that there is a problem with impartiality in general. However, these things can only be seen to be  153  problematic i f we assume, to begin with, that impartiality is a problem (that is, we must assume that impartiality causes the problems and is not, at most, correlated with them). If she were to establish her central thesis, then these critiques might be useful in supporting her position. But i f she is attempting to use these critiques to establish the thesis in the first place (which she is), then her argument simply begs the question and so fails. This, in fact, is what I have shown it does. What I have argued is that these failings (where they do exist) can better be understood as being caused by something other than our commitment to an ideal o f impartiality (in some cases, a less than adequate realization o f impartiality).  I I . Conclusion Even granting the force o f my arguments in this chapter, the reader may be still be left questioning what I have accomplished. I have, i f successful here, overcome the charges made by a single theorist. What I want to claim is that the arguments that Young makes against impartiality can be understood as not merely her o w n .  1 0 7  Rather, they also represent  the kinds o f concerns typically found in those who oppose impartiality. In overcoming these objections, I have not only shown my reasonableness conception o f impartiality to be immune from Young's challenges, but also from all o f those who argue in a similar vein. According to V i r g i n i a Held, it is possible "to discern various important focal points evident in current feminist attempts to transform ethics into a theoretical and practical activity that could be acceptable from a feminist point of view" (1998, p. 686). Held lists three areas o f bias typically found in ethics that are objectionable from a feminist point of view: "1) the split between reason,and emotion and the devaluation o f emotion; 2) the public/private distinction and the relegation o f the private to the natural; and 3) the concept of the self as constructed from a male point o f view" (1998, p. 686). I w i l l go through each of these three areas i n turn. Held's first point, the split between reason and emotion, is seen directly corresponded in the second critique as listed above. A s I wrote there, my conception o f impartiality in no  I do not mean to suggest at all that the work, and the specific arguments, are not her own. Rather, I am claiming that the points she raises are representative of the kinds of concerns often found in feminist and postmodernist writing.  154  way demands that we rule out emotion/feeling as a relevant factor in our,moral judgements. Sometimes, those feelings w i l l be what primarily determines our judgements. It might be argued, however, that while I admit feeling in my reasoning scheme, I give it a subordinate place to reason and in this way, objections like Young's and Held's still hold; I am still privileging reason.. This is problematic, however, only i f 'reason' is understood in a limited way. Held objects that Kantian and Utilitarian ethics are too concerned with rationality—the cold, calculating application o f abstract principles (1998, p. 687). I largely agree with Held's critique here.  However, i f instead o f rationality, we see  reason as leading to reasonability, then I think the objection has less merit. To demand of a moral judgement (whether it involves feelings or not) that there be good reasons to support it does not unfairly privilege reason. It simply is a way o f demanding that whatever consideration is at play is relevant and is accorded a reasonable valuation. To deny this role of reason is to lay oneself open to all the dangers o f relativism. If we do not demand that  J  there be good reasons to support a judgement, then Hitler's dislike o f Jews would be a morally adequate defense o f the Holocaust. Held's second area o f concern is the distinction between the public and private spheres. There is much that is encapsulated in this dualism. A s it pertains directly to impartiality, the main concern is the way in which the characteristics o f the public sphere are given priority over those typically found in the private. The public sphere is the maledominated one o f politics and business. It favours abstract, rational, principle-based thinking, the kind o f thinking Held associates with the rationality demanded in positions like Kant's or Utilitarianism (see discussion o f her first point above). In contrast, the realm o f the private is characterized by familial relations, as exemplified by the care a mother shows for her children. Because impartiality is seen as representing and favouring the public kind of thinking, and because this thinking has typically excluded women and the ways women approach problematic situations, impartiality is objectionable i n the way it rules out the experiences and perspectives o f women (and other people not i n positions o f public power).  My only reluctance to totally agree stems from the uncertainty of whether Kantian and Utilitarian ethics actually demand strict rationality. But this is not the appropriate place to pursue this question.  155  This distinction between private and public does point to areas in our society that are problematic. However, it does not indicate a problem with my reasonableness conception of impartiality. A s I have stressed throughout, I do not believe that impartiality demands the kind o f abstract, rational thinking that is associated with the public sphere. In fact, I have adamantly rejected this, arguing instead that impartiality can only be understood as growing out o f specific situations with specific individuals. A s such, all who care to offer an opinion on a particular matter deserve to be heard. M y test o f impartiality does not favour one particular group over another. Rather, it demands that all perspectives be listened to and respected in one's moral reasoning. Thus within my scheme, this distinction between public and private is meaningless. This is not to say that the distinction does not exist in our society and that we needn't be aware o f it—we must and do everything i n our power to ensure that it does not effect our moral judgements. To illustrate this, let us recall the example from chapter 1. A mother can choose to send her own daughter to the prestigious art school, even though another child would benefit more from the experience. Given the domain (the family) and the role o f the mother, her judgement would not be open to reasonable objections even though it is favouring her own position (allowing her own child to attend). Because there are no reasonable objections, she has passed my test o f impartiality and there is nothing morally wrong with her judgement. Let us recast this example, however, and see how reasonable objections can arise within the private sphere. Imagine instead o f a friend's child, the situation is one where both of the children are daughters o f this woman. If the mother then chooses the less artistically gifted daughter, the less enthusiastic about attending the school over her other daughter who would get far more benefit and enjoyment out o f the school, simply because she likes the one daughter more than the other, then we might have reason to object to her judgement.  109  Given the mother's responsibility to all her children, we might want to argue that she has failed to meet adequate standards o f impartiality in making her judgement. The merits of this could be argued (do parents have responsibility to not favour one child over another?) but I  Though of course there could be all kinds of extenuating circumstances which would lead the mother to reason that potential success and enjoyment are not the most important criteria in choosing who will attend the college. My example here is meant to rule out these kinds of scenarios, pointing instead only to the mother's preference for one daughter over another.  156  think the example is clear enough to show how considerations o f impartiality are equally applicable within the private sphere as they are i n the public. Held's third area o f concern has to do with the concept o f the self. Her concern is that ethics has typically paid attention to one o f two extremes: "on the one hand, the self as ego, as self-interested individual, and, on the other hand, the universal, everyone, others in general" (Held 1998, p. 692). Within this, impartiality is often called upon to mitigate against the egoistic self. But it does so by going to the opposite extreme, where everyone is to count, but to count equally. What gets neglected in this is the "intermediate realm o f family relations, and relations o f friendship, of group ties and neighborhood concerns, especially from the point o f view o f women" (1998, p. 692). Because traditional moral theories often begin from a basis o f the agent as an isolated, autonomous being, the social/familial ties that make up that person are seen as irrelevant. Thus, theories that rely on impartiality are thought to begin from an erroneous and impoverished notion o f what a human self is. M y R C I does not serve the role attributed to it above by Held, nor does it begin from this faulty assumption o f what a self is. A s I discussed in chapter four i n distinguishing my approach from a Utilitarian one, I do not think that impartiality demands that we all count for one, but only one (see chapter 4, section I.a.). A s the first example in chapter 1 showed, I think that sometimes it is morally acceptable to privilege one's own position, to give extra favour to one's family, friends and neighbours. What impartiality demands, on my view, is that we do not unfairly privilege our own positions. It is this "unfairness" component that makes my conception a normative one. A s my discussion o f Young's work above showed, I certainly do not understand impartiality as demanding that we abandon all those social/familial ties that make up who we are. W e do not strip ourselves o f our particularity and then judge from "an impartial point-of-view". Rather we make judgements, acknowledging these particularities and attempt to give the particularities their appropriate weight in whatever situation we find ourselves. A s Held explains it, a central concern for ethics is how we accommodate the "particular other" as opposed to the "generalized other" that is often found in traditional  157  moral theories (1998, p. 6 9 2 ) .  110  Within Contextualism, it is always the particular other that  we are concerned about because moral problems only arise in specific contexts with particular people. What we owe, or what we can give, these particular others depends on the context too. A s I argued in chapter 6 this w i l l be determined in large part by the domain in which we find ourselves and specifically the role we are playing. In determining whether a moral judgement is acceptable or not, it may be relevant that I am judging as a father, or a teacher, or a friend. Certain kinds o f considerations w i l l involve all people equally and so in this sense can be seen as representing the generalized other (for example, all people deserve the respect afforded human beings). But more often, the moral judgement w i l l hinge on more particular factors: particularities both about myself and those who w i l l be affected by my judgement. The specific concerns o f Young that I have argued against in this chapter are accounted for in the more broadly sketched concerns o f feminists as summarized by Held. That my conception o f impartiality is immune to both suggests that it is one that could be supported by feminist scholars and theorists. What lies behind much o f the feminist and post-modernist ethics projects is the concern that certain voices are not heard in moral deliberation.  111  If I can show that this is not the case with my scheme o f moral reasoning,  this would give further credence to the claim that my reasonableness conception o f impartiality would be acceptable to those scholars from these ethical traditions/orientations. There are two ways in which voices might not be heard. The first is in the actual practice o f the moral reasoning process. If, for example, a moral theory ignores particular people's viewpoints (especially particular groups o f people) then obviously some voices are excluded. But as I have made clear throughout this work, Contextualism demands that we listen to all voices. If anyone can raise a reasonable objection to a tentative moral judgement, then we need to question that judgement. O f course this leads back to the question o f what constitutes a reasonable objection. Implied in this are certain normative/substantive ideas o f what morality is. This  111  For more on this problem, see Benhabib 1986, 1992. The use of the term 'voice' here I take from Gilligan's work (1982).  158  determination o f the essence o f morality is a second area in which voices can be ignored or pushed aside. A m I guilty on this front? B y the very nature o f this process, I am a solitary writer expressing my o w n views on the subject, advancing these views as what I believe to be right. However, i n advancing these views, I have attempted to take into consideration views expressed by those who have traditionally been excluded from the dominant discourse.  112  B y acknowledging the importance of these critiques from the outset, I believe I  have paid attention to these typically marginalized voices. It is up to the reader to determine i f this attention has been adequate.  By this I mean that I have tried to come up with a conception of impartiality that avoids the problems that feminist, post-modernist and other theorists have argued against. While writers from these traditions often speak from a position of concern for these marginalized voices, it is not always the case that they are themselves part of a marginalized group. 112  159  Chapter 8: Conclusion This final chapter w i l l wrap up the work in three ways. The first w i l l be a restating of the purpose, looking at the uses o f my conception o f impartiality from various perspectives. The second w i l l be a partial defence o f the theory, defending it against imagined possible objections. The third w i l l look to the educational implications o f the theory. In laying out this practical outlet, I w i l l give a detailed summary o f what I have argued.  I. Purpose of the Thesis There are numerous ways to understand what I have done i n this thesis. Primarily, I have outlined a useful framework for moral education. If we are concerned with getting students to a post-conventional stage, making them autonomous moral thinkers, then they need some understanding o f how to engage genuine moral problems. The system (I use 'system' throughout this chapter to refer both to the Contextualist procedures outlined in chapter 3 and the standards that underlie this procedure as developed in chapters 4-6) I outline here provides a procedure for tackling such problems as well as an understanding of the standards that would help us determine i f we have done this well. A s chapter 2 showed, however, the project is entirely consistent with other approaches to moral education. If one is committed to a character education approach, one needs to be concerned with how students take the virtues that are taught and learn to interpret and apply them to new and unique situations. M y system can help to give students these tools. For example, even i f one learns to value fairness and to strive for it, there are situations in which it is not clear what fairness demands. Having the ability to work through my system, with an understanding o f the standards that underlie it, w i l l w i l l help students judge what particular virtues require or entail in specific situations. If one is committed to something like Kohlberg's cognitive-developmental model o f moral education, then a more thorough working out o f stage 6 is required. Recall that Kohlberg characterizes stage 6 reasoning in terms o f simple reversibility. However, as we saw earlier, he is not entirely clear what is involved with reversibility, when it has been met or how we determine its demands. M y reasonableness conception o f impartiality gets more  160  deeply into the issues that Kohlberg wants to address with reversibility and so rounds out the picture he is trying to paint. A s we saw in chapter 2, the Ethic o f Care has evolved from its initial formulation as diametrically opposed to any justice ethic to a position where care needs to be supplemented by some principles/judgements (of justice—or whatever else is relevant to a given case). M y reasonableness conception o f impartiality can help us determine what Care would demand in any given situation; that is, what the caring thing to do would be. It incorporates principles like a justice approach, yet retains the sensitivity to context and relationship that Care theorists rightly demand. In chapter 2 I also looked at Robert Nash's Real W o r l d Ethics. While recommending much o f what he outlines, I saw a flaw in the work in how it lacks a sufficient description of what it would mean to come up with a defensible moral judgement. H i s procedures for working through moral problems are rich in detail and admirably sensitive to the complexities o f moral decision making. Yet he gives little guidance in determining i f our working through moral problems has been done well. M y reasonableness test o f impartiality could help to complete the project Nash has begun. Finally, we can consider the project in terms o f Israel Scheffler's description o f disciplines (1966, p. 99-114). Each subject area, according to Scheffler, is a 'live, evolving tradition' with its own rules for how it operates. In teaching, we are initiating students into that tradition. For example, i n teaching history, we are not simply teaching historical facts. Rather, we teach how to think like an historian: how historians use evidence, what kind o f evidence is considered good, what sorts o f inferences can be made, what kinds of conclusions can be drawn. Initiating students into the discipline allows them to critically examine, for themselves, any historical claim. The same is true i n physics and math and literature and any other subject we teach in schools. What Scheffler is really arguing for here is the teaching o f critical thinking—we teach students the standards o f a discipline so that they can think critically about questions in that discipline. W i t h this thesis, I am taking Scheffler's project and adapting it to the moral realm. According to this understanding, one goal o f moral education is to get students to be good critical thinkers about moral issues. For this to occur, they need to know the standards that underlie good thinking in morality. However, unlike other disciplines typically taught in  161  schools, there is not wide-spread agreement as to what would constitute good moral thinking. In part this might be because o f the complexities involved with the value issues o f morality (other disciplines are not so dependent upon judgements o f value). In part it might be because theorists have typically approached ethics not from this practical/pragmatic perspective (though obviously there have been some), but rather from an all-encompassing, highly abstract theoretical perspective. Whatever the reason for this lack o f agreement, my R C I is an attempt to fill i n this void, making explicit what the standards o f good moral thinking might be. Thus my project understood, in its simplest form, as outlining what good critical thinking is in morality. Lest I be misunderstood in the previous paragraph, this focus on critical thinking by no means suggests that morality is a strictly logical, reason-based, endeavour. A s I have argued throughout this thesis, there is ample room in my system for moral intuition, moral perception and moral feeling. Without these things, we cannot even get started in reasoning because we w i l l not see a situation as a moral one and hence not problematic. While fully recognizing the importance o f intuition, perception and feeling, this thesis has focused primarily on reasoning. However; this focus does not imply that intuition, perception and feeling are subservient to reason in any kind o f rational-deductive model o f ethics.  II. Defending My Reasonableness Conception  a. Arguments in Summary The question facing us now is how I can justify that my reasonableness conception of impartiality is a good one, fulfilling the goals variously outlined in the previous section. One response to this is found in the previous section in how my work complements many current approaches to moral education. Because each o f the possibilities talked about in the previous section has purchase on many o f us, there must be something in these approaches that captures a genuinely desirable feature o f moral development. Because my system is consistent with each o f these approaches, this gives us reason to believe that my system is tapping into what is good and valuable in each o f them. If m y system were fundamentally at odds with any favoured approach, then there would be reason to question what is lacking in my work. It is certainly the case that I am focusing on specific aspects o f  162  moral developmental that might not have great emphasis i n any o f these other approaches. However, this focus o f mine is not inconsistent with the work o f virtue theorists, character educators, proponents o f the Ethic o f Care, Kohlbergians or 'Real W o r l d ' Ethicists like Nash. This complementarity gives us prima facie reason to think there is value in my conception. A similar defence can be made from the standpoint o f ethics. In chapter 4,1 explored various ways in which impartiality has been central to ethical theories throughout the history of western philosophy. Because o f their enduring importance, these theories seem to capture something central about our moral thinking. M y reasonableness conception o f impartiality takes what is most important from these theories and weaves the various ideas together in a more robust conception. While there are obvious points o f departure between myself and Kant, M i l l , Rawls, Hare and Habermas, there are crucial areas o f overlap as well. With Kant, I share the recognition o f people's fundamental worth-—this plays out in terms o f acknowledging primary goods (see chapter 6, section 3). With M i l l , I share the belief that others matter and morality demands sufficient attention to the claims o f others and how our moral judgements/actions w i l l impact upon them. Like Rawls's thought experiment, the original position, I claim it can be valuable in making moral decisions to try to abstract from the particular characteristics o f my own situation that might bias my judgements and 'see' the situation from others' perspectives. A l o n g with Hare, I agree that moral judgements must be consistent in various kinds o f ways. With Habermas, I see impartiality as a property of judgements and not o f individuals—it obtains when judgements are made in particular ways that gain sanction from others. That my conception can incorporate these essential features from other moral systems is, again, prima facie evidence that my conception is useful. A third kind o f defence shows the flip side o f the previous argument. There I showed how my reasonableness conception is consistent with many common uses o f impartiality. This third defence shows how my reasonableness conception is immune to the charges brought against these standard conceptions. In chapter 7,1 explored some common critiques brought against impartiality—especially as arising from the feminist and post-modernist camps. M y normative understanding o f impartiality admits that we can never fully abstract from who we are, nor do I argue that it is desirable to attempt this. Instead, what I demand is that our own particular positions do not unfairly influence our moral judgements. This commitment to fairness is one that these various critics o f impartiality would agree with  163  (even i f they would prefer not to use the concept o f impartiality to get at this fairness). This agreement gives further support to my conception.  b. Possible Objections While chapter 7 looked at actual charges brought against impartiality (showing how my reasonableness conception was immune to them) we can also look to imagined critiques of my conception. To the extent that I am able to deflect these critiques, we have further evidence that my conception is a good one. I w i l l look at two such possible critiques below.  /. Overly Formal—Relativistic One possible objection to my system  is that it gives us insufficient guidance in  determining answers to moral problems. Because I am arguing for procedures that individuals must work through without giving any hard and fast rules for how to carry out these procedures, I have failed. A related argument could hold that because my theory is overly formalistic, there is not sufficient substantive content within the theory to rule out morally questionable actions. Given this lack, my system is implicitly endorsing relativism o f one sort or another. If the charges here are effectively arguing that my system w i l l not solve all moral problems, then I accept guilt. However, as I have argued throughout this thesis, it is not the job o f ethics (understanding this term broadly here) to give us answers to real life moral problems. The best we can hope for from ethics is guidance i n how we should go about solving these problems. W i t h this guidance, we still need to make personal judgements about the situation at hand. To expect more from ethical theories is to misunderstand what ethics can offer. Recall that I am developing a system not to solve all moral disputes. Rather, I want a system that w i l l give an individual some tools in solving these problems. The system is intended for the person o f good moral w i l l , she who genuinely wants to do what is morally  Again, as throughout the thesis, I make use of the term 'system' to refer to the Contextualist approach to moral reasoning and the standards that underlie this approach. 113  164  right but is unsure o f what that is. The Contextualist procedures and the standards that underlie them can help such an individual see the complexities o f the moral problem, the ethical issues that are at play and the competing claims o f the various people involved. However, it is still up to this individual to utilize these tools and come to a judgement about what morality demands. Does this absolve me from the charge o f relativism? I am saying that even with the tools I offer here, it is still up to the individual to decide for him/herself what is morally appropriate in any given situation. Others can raise objections against my tentative judgement but it is up to me to decide i f these objections are good ones or not (the tests outlined in chapter 6 give me guidance in thinking through these questions). A s such, it appears as though I am the final arbiter o f what is morally right (at least as it pertains to me). This smacks o f relativism. While it is true that I am the final arbiter o f what I shall judge to be morally appropriate, this is a practical matter and not an endorsement o f relativism. What it says is that it is ultimately I, facing this moral problem in my life, that must judge how I am going to act. The more I can talk through this with others, gaining their perspective and thoughts on the problem, the better my judgement w i l l be (other things being equal). Ultimately, however, / must act and so I must decide how / am going to act. M y choosing o f any particular course o f action does not, however, make it right. A l l things considered I might think it is the best one possible. But even i f I am truly openminded and approaching the problem in good moral faith (that is, genuinely wanting to consider the competing claims o f others and do what is morally right) I might come to a poor decision (failing in any o f the ways outlined in chapter 6). While I may not see the problem in my decision, others well could and still claim that there is something morally problematic in my judgement. Thus the relativism problem seems to be avoided. The non-relativist can still admit that everyone might think s/he is right. However, with recourse to some standards other than mere personal opinion, we can legitimately argue that some o f those people are simply in error. A s the many examples throughout the thesis show, my system certainly has enough teeth to claim that some moral actions/judgements are simply wrong. To the extent that any system can claim this, it is not endorsing relativism (at least not at a person level—  165  there is still frame-work relativism that is possible; see the next section for a discussion of this possibility). One could back away from the relativism claim here and yet still object that my system allows for too much disagreement to remain. If a result o f following my system is that we are left with the possibility o f everyone thinking she is right and yet conflicting with everyone else, what use is there i n what I offer? This persistence o f disagreement is unfortunate and yet reflects the complexity o f moral life. Unless one thinks that ethical theories can give the right answer to moral problems, then we are forced to accept this possibility o f disagreement enduring. A s I argued earlier in this section, we cannot, and should not, expect ethics to solve all moral problems. Ethics can help guide our choices, but those choices still need to be made. Anywhere you have choices, especially about complex issues, there w i l l be the possibility for disagreement. The best we can hope for is that people genuinely give each other a fair hearing and that, where differences persist, we can respect those differences (even while we disagree with the moral actions that follow from them) and maintain the good w i l l needed for future moral deliberation (to say nothing o f living together as friends, family members, colleagues, neighbours, fellow citizens and so forth.). Contextualism (with my test o f impartiality) is not meant to give us the "right answer" to moral problems. N o r is there any god-like figure who w i l l paralyze you if, having gone through this process, you still encounter people who disagree with you. What Contextualism offers is the chance, for those who are sincerely concerned about the moral appropriateness o f their tentative judgements, to test these judgements. It offers a procedure to follow that w i l l , to the extent possible, take into consideration others' points-of-view and give the agent the chance to discuss (again, where possible) the judgement with those likely to be affected by it (and anyone else who might have some perspective to offer on the matter). If an agent sincerely and open-mindedly goes through this process and still cannot gain agreement from someone else (or some others), then he or she may still act in good conscience with the assurance that s/he has done everything s/he can to defeat this tentative judgement and has failed to do so (in his or her own mind). W i l l this lead to a perfect moral world? N o , obviously not; wherever disagreements persist, someone may believe that he has been treated unjustly. But given the imperfections and complexities o f our world, such a moral outcome is perhaps the best we can hope for.  166  One final critique here might hold that with the standards I have outlined in chapter 6, there is still too much room for judgement. If this critique is simply repeating the objection cited above, that my system does not give us answers, then it holds little merit (for the reasons given.above). However, i f this critique is arguing that the standards outlined in chapter 6 are insufficiently worked.out then I w i l l accept guilt. There is obviously more that needs to be said about each o f the four "tests" discussed in chapter 6. Because each test requires judgements about how to apply it, the more sophisticated our understanding of these tests, the better we w i l l be able to utilize them. Thus, I fully admit there is far more detail to be worked out with each o f the tests. What I've attempted to do within the limited scope of this thesis is to first suggest various tests (that is, various ways in which tentative moral judgements can be defeated), second to justify why those tests are important to our moral reasoning and finally to give some beginning understanding o f the crucial factors involved with each o f the tests. But this is only a beginning—if one were to adopt my system here, there is obviously more work needed in refining our understandings o f these tests.  ii. Overly Substantial—Not Respecting Diversity While the above critique held that there is not enough substantive content built into my system, one could also argue the opposite, that it is overly substantive. I am trying to offer a system that respects reasonable diversity yet has enough teeth to say that certain moral actions/judgements are wrong. To get the latter into the theory, I've needed to develop something like what Rawls has called 'a thin theory o f the good'. That is, I am not determining what is morally good for all people, i n all situations. Rather I am offering some minimum threshold o f moral goodness that must be met i f an action/judgement is to be considered morally adequate. But what i f my thin theory o f the good is not as thin as I might like to think? Or what i f it is sufficiently thin, but simply wrong or at least biased in a problematic way? If either o f these objections holds, then I might be guilty o f something like Young's sixth critique cited i n the previous chapter, attempting to hypostatize "the point o f view of privileged groups into a universal position" (Young 1990, p. 112). The charge that m y thin theory o f the good is actually more robust than I imagine, might be a way o f arguing that I am overly committed to a moral realist position. This would mean that I believe there are moral 'facts' that exist objectively in the world, independent of  167  anyone's holding them and as such there are moral precepts that are unquestionable. While remaining agnostic on the realism question, I can still argue that certain things are morally right and wrong. For example, I can unequivocally state that it is wrong to torture children for fun. Such a strong commitment is not necessarily a commitment to any kind o f realist position , nor an indication that the theory o f the good that underlies my system is thicker 114  than I would like. Rather it is simply an admission that the reasons to object to this action are so overwhelming that no reasonable person (who shares my basic understanding o f morality) could ever endorse it. To have a strong conviction that certain acts are morally right or wrong need not commit one to a moral realist position.  /  Further evidence that I have not developed a thick theory o f the (moral) good is my insistence throughout the thesis that ethicists (here I count myself amongst this group) do not have the final say on what is morally right or wrong. W e can have opinions, hopefully backed by strong reasons. But i n any case o f moral perplexity, an answer can only be arrived at by engaging the concrete details o f the case in a real life context. Abstract, theoretical thinking w i l l not solve real problems. Because this engagement with the context o f the problem is so central to my system, it must take into account the various conceptions o f the good that the individual actors bring to the moral problem. What then o f the charge that my theory o f the good is indeed a thin one, but one that is overly partial? In response to this, I would point to the many examples o f where a diversity of possible solutions to a given moral problem would be possible within my system. Recall the example in chapter 3, section V o f the counsellor having to decide whether he would keep the student's secrets confidential. A s I argued there, I believe that there are many possible, legitimate solutions to this problem, falling into roughly three categories: 1) say you w i l l keep it confidential and mean it, 2) say you w i l l keep it confidential, but think to yourself in certain circumstances you would have to go back on this promise and 3) say you cannot promise to keep it confidential. Each o f these three options has good reasons supporting it. Depending on how one is reading the situation and how one evaluates the relative importance o f the competing claims, one could reasonably come to any o f the three choices. This is but one example o f how my system allows for diversity and to this extent, I  Though it could be entirely consistent with a realist position.  168  think it does not overstep its commitment to any particular conception o f the good. Said in another way, because my system w i l l allow a diversity o f acceptable solutions to many moral problems, it is not committed to too limited a conception o f the good. Another possible defence here is that in developing my system, I have taken into consideration (and hopefully overcome) the problems that some theorists have with impartiality. To find common g r o u n d  115  with theorists from radically different orientations  suggests that the thin theory o f the good that underlies my system is broad enough that all reasonable people could agree with it. O f course even i f I've found common ground with Young (see chapter 7) t l m does not show that I've similarly succeeded with all people. However, i f I have indeed overcome many o f the central critiques made against impartiality, this does seem a defence o f my system. What o f the charges that my system is too culturally based or too culturally biased? The first critique is arguing that my system, while useful for 'our' society, is limited to that sphere and has no applicability beyond its boundaries. This is the frame-work relativism of which I spoke above and it is something that theorists like Alistair Maclntyre (1988) would see as a necessary limitation o f any moral system.  116  To an extent I have argued in such a  way as to invite this criticism. In chapter 5,1 argued that given 'our' understanding o f morality, a certain consideration o f others (in effect, recognizing them as moral persons) is necessary. This follows too from living in a democratic context; i n recognizing the equality of citizens, we need to acknowledge the inherent worth o f all people. But what o f others who do not share this conception o f morality, or who do not live within a democratic context? The simple answer here is that we are simply using different language, talking past one another. If we have such a fundamentally different starting point in our understandings of morality, then there is little hope that we can get agreement upon the specific details o f what morality demands. However, it does not follow from this that I cannot still make judgements about the actions o f people in other cultures/frame-works. I w i l l still  This assumes, of course, that I have found common ground—that is, that I have been successful in overcoming the objections made against impartiality by theorists like Young. Though strictly speaking it would be wrong to call Maclntyre a framework relativist because he believes there can be reasons to prefer one system over another. 115  116  169  unequivocally state that it is wrong for anyone, in any context, to torture children for fun. This is not simply a statement about my culture, given the starting-points that we share here. I am making this claim for all people, i n all cultures. That said, someone else who begins with a different understanding o f morality and its demands may not find the reasons I give to support my judgement compelling. Thus, within my system, it is possible to make judgements about actions/people from other frame-works. However, it is not so easy to convince these others that my view is right. This problem, while real and important, is not so damaging to my system with its focus on giving students i n our society the tools they need to function as good moral beings in our society. Because we start with some common understandings about morality, we share a frame-work within which we can hold moral discussions. But what then o f the charge that my system is too culturally biased—that is, that my understanding o f 'our' society is really not representative o f all the voices that need to be heeded in 'our' society? This is definitely a possible danger for me. Throughout the work, I have relied on examples that I think ' w e ' all could agree with. However, there is a huge assumption on my part that ' w e ' all would come to the same conclusions about these examples. I have tried to be as inclusive as I can; taking what I see as the essence o f many popular uses o f impartiality throughout western philosophy, taking account o f the critiques made against impartiality by theorists with orientations quite different than mine. There are many voices speaking about issues relating to impartiality and, more generally, moral fairness. I hope I have been able to 117  find some common ground amongst these voices, an overlapping consensus  of sorts. To  what extent I have been successful in this endeavour must be left to the reader to consider. However, I would stress that what I offer here is best understood as the starting point of a discussion. In no sense am I proclaiming this system as the complete and definitive ethical theory for all time.  117  Borrowing and adapting the expressionfromRawls. 170  c. Does it Work? This final defence is really the crucial one—does my system make sense, does it work? A s Margaret Urban Walker (1998, p. 2 7  118  ) rightly argues, it is not the ethicist's job  to stand outside o f the moral realm and somehow create it. Rather, we must recognize that we are inside that realm. Far from creating the moral realm, our work is successful i f it helps to make sense o f what we are observing around us. Our job is to help gain some insight into the complexity o f the moral world and help to guide our thinking about what it is to live as a morally good person. Ultimately then my system is good in so far as it is useful. Does it accord with our common moral perceptions and intuitions? Does it lead to judgements that we would typically agree with? Does it allow for a range o f possible moral solutions where this is appropriate? Does it help us i n determining what to do in morally problematic situations? One test o f this would be to go back through the examples I have given in this work and see i f they accord with our common judgements. If the reader agrees with the solutions I have proposed, then there is reason to think the system a good one. If the reader does not agree, then the question is whether that is because o f a fault i n the system, or how I have used the system. A second test would look to other moral problems that I have not covered. Think o f any morally problematic situation and how you would, intuitively (or by any other means) solve that problem. Then tackle the same problem with the system I propose and see i f you reach a similar judgement. If yes, then again this provides support for my system. If no, then one needs to ask oneself which solution is preferable. A third test looks to the success my system would have i n resolving (or at least helping one to work through) problems o f moral relevance and conflict. Recall in chapter 2 I stated that any adequate program o f moral education must help students develop the capacities to deal with these two problem types. B y my own criterion, I have been successful only i f my system has some use in these two cases.  See also Nielsen (1987, p. 145) for a similar view on this topic.  171  Generally these two problems arise because the ways we have developed for dealing with moral issues need to be adapted or expanded to deal with new and different situations. A s Wallace writes: W e have succeeded in solving a relevance or conflict problem to the extent that the altered ways w i l l enable us to deal with the sorts o f matters addressed by the old ways, while at the same time enabling us to cope with the unprecedented situation. It is important too that any disruptions elsewhere occasioned by the modifications be tolerable. (Wallace 1988, p. 52-3) While this applies to both relevance and conflict problems, it may be helpful to explore each separately. To solve a problem o f moral relevance, we need as rich an understanding o f the moral concept i n question as possible. Consider an example from the latest Harry Potter (Rowling 2005, chapter 9) book. Harry has gotten hold o f a textbook with highly useful margin notes that allow him amazing success in his Potions work—so successful that he wins a competition and a coveted prize. Hermione questions whether he has fairly won the competition (i.e. whether he has cheated because of an unfair advantage). R o n counter-claims, saying that everyone is simply following instructions out o f a book and Harry's book just happens to have different instructions. A l l would agree that it is wrong to cheat but the difficulty i n this case is determining whether this is an instance o f cheating or not. N o w imagine this scenario with Harry, having had some education in the kind of moral system I have outlined, trying to decide whether he should use these margin notes. Working through a Contextualist method, he might arrive at a tentative judgement that this is not an instance o f cheating and thus he is justified i n using the notes. To gain greater confidence i n this judgement, he tests it against m y R C I . Is Harry meeting adequate standards o f practical reasoning? Let us assume that he is—he is evaluating a sufficiently wide range considerations and possible resolutions to this problem and that the kinds o f consequences he is imagining are indeed likely. What o f his consistency i n applying these considerations?, Here we can think of something like the role-exchange test that Coombs writes o f (1980, p. 30-55).  172  What would Harry think o f the situation if, say, Malfoy had gotten hold o f this book and as a result had w o n the competition? It is not hard to imagine that one could accept these circumstances i f it led to one's own, or a friend's benefit but not so happy when it is one's enemy who so benefits. If Harry could not accept the situation with Malfoy benefiting from the advantage then there is reason to think that it is unjust for h i m to benefit (and hence this is a case o f cheating). H o w would a consideration o f primary goods help Harry? This would depend, o f course, on what one considers to be a primary good. Assuming something like a Kantian respect for persons here , Harry might conclude that given 119  everyone's fundamental moral worth, we are extending respect only when everyone is on an equal footing with regard to the competition (meaning that everyone is working from the same textbook, having the same resources). Contrary to this, however, would be considerations o f how luck is already present in many ways: some are lucky enough to have more natural talent at Potions, some have had a stronger education at home giving them an advantage even before they got to school, some might have been lucky i n the kinds o f teachers they had leading up to this point and so on. Given these apparently acceptable instantiations o f luck, Harry might question why his bit o f luck shouldn't also be acceptable. Finally, what could a consideration o f domain contribute to Harry's thinking on this problem? To see how this is relevant, one would need to question what the purposes o f education are. Assuming one goal is something involving critical thinking, then education is successful only when the learner understands something from a lesson and is able to "make that her o w n " (that is, to apply that knowledge to new and different situations).  Admittedly this is somewhat of a different interpretation of primary goods than Kekes's notion that I discussed in chapter 6. 1 1 9  173  B y using these extra notes, is Harry learning the kinds o f things that the lesson was intended to teach? If not, then we might say that while passing this 'test', Harry has not really benefited i n the way that was intended by the teacher. In other words, i f we can conclude that the basic knowledge and understanding o f Potions that was meant to be conveyed was not learned by Harry, then he is not in a position to take that knowledge and apply it in other situations. To draw upon Scheffler's (1966, p. 106) distinction between knowledge and belief, Harry had a true belief (that is, he knew how to follow the steps to make this particular Potion) but not knowledge because he did not "earn the his right to his assurance o f the truth i n question" (that is, he did not know why what he was doing led to a successful potion and hence was not in a position to apply this learning). One could, o f course, read this situation in an entirely different way. It is possible that one could have a different understanding o f the purposes o f education. One could believe that even i f Harry did not use these margin notes, the lesson set by Professor Slughorn would not have yielded any deeper understanding o f Potions anyway and so the purposes o f the domain are not thwarted by Harry's actions. However, i f Harry does agree with critical thinking as a basic goal o f education and accepts that his actions would lead to h i m not realizing this goal, then he has reason to question his tentative judgement. Though brief (and incomplete), this analysis shows us how the tests I outline in chapter 6 could help someone trying to reason through a problem o f moral relevance. A s Coombs rightly argues, "the major task in reasoning about a problem of relevance is not to build a theory, but rather to adapt our moral concepts and 191  principles intelligently to the new and problematic case" (1998, p. 565 ). The tests I ,zl  have outlined here can help us in determining when such an adaptation has been done well (intelligently). H o w might my system be used in a case o f moral conflict? Let us rethink this same example from the perspective o f the teacher. However, instead o f Harry having  Though notice here how this shifts the issue of cheating awayfromthe competition somewhat toward more pedagogical considerations. Here Coombs is summarizing Wallace's work (1988, chapter 3). 121  174  received the written-in book, it was Neville, a student who has had very little success in school because he has devastatingly l o w self-esteem that severely limits his ability to live up to his potential. Here Professor Slughorn seems to be caught in a conflict problem. O n the one hand is an issue o f fairness to all the students (arising from Neville cheating by using the added notes i n the textbook). O n the other, is the ,teacher's duty to help foster the growth o f all students (especially those, like Neville, who are functioning far below their potential). Imagine that Slughorn has found out about N e v i l l e ' s book (and determines that cheating has occurred) and sees himself faced with a dilemma: either he denies Neville his prize on the grounds o f fairness or he ignores the cheating in order to boost Neville's self-confidence. L i k e Harry in the example before, Slughorn works through something like Contextualism arid arrives at a tentative judgement that he w i l l ignore the cheating and let Neville have his prize. He then consults my four tests to evaluate whether this judgement has good enough reasons to support it (i.e. does it pass my RCI?). After some reflection, Slughorn might think that his practical reasoning has been weak. He realizes that the dilemma he has set-up is actually a false one. There are other possible resolutions to the situation. For example, Slughorn could honour Neville for the skill he showed in making the potion (and perhaps even award him some prize) but acknowledge in the interests o f fairness that a new competition should be held for the big prize because one student had an unfair advantage in the previous one. O f course, this possible resolution would need to be critically evaluated and tested as well. However, that a significant possible resolution was not considered by Slughorn i n his initial deliberations provides reasonable grounds for objecting to his tentative judgement (which isn't to say that on further reflection, the original judgement might not still prove to be the most preferable). To the second test, a consideration o f relevant differences might reveal aspects of the case that Slughorn had not previously considered. A g a i n performing the roleexchange test (or a version thereof) Slughorn could ask himself i f this conflict would exist, and i f his judgement would remain the same, i f it were a student other than Neville. Obviously i f another student were in Neville's position, but did not lack for  175  self-esteem and self-confidence, then the conflict would not exist at all. What o f another case, whether the other student is identical to Neville i n all ways, except that the teacher feels less sympathy for him? Here we could imagine the morally responsible teacher recognizing this difference and how it is affecting his motivation, but realize that this should not be a relevant consideration and hence not change his judgement. Slughorn could imagine a third alternate scenario in which the student is equally lacking in self-confidence, Slughorn feels equal sympathy for this other student, yet judges this other student to have less potential than Neville; is this a relevant difference? A major reason why Slughorn is inclined to ignore the cheating in Neville's case is because he thinks that Neville, with heightened self-confidence, could achieve much more. However, because he believes this other student is not capable o f much, there is less to be gained by ignoring the cheating and so places greater emphasis on the fairness side o f this conflict. Considering these various alternate scenarios could lead the teacher to feel uncomfortable with the kinds o f considerations upon which he is basing his judgements. Realizing that his sympathy and expectations o f his students should not carry the kind o f moral weight he is offering here could, conceivably, lead the teacher to revise his initial judgement. The third test looks to primary goods. A s Kekes talks about them, one o f the primary goods is self-esteem. Assuming Slughorn agrees with Kekes here, he might conclude that to deny Neville this prize could do serious harm i n this regard and so would be leery o f denying Neville the prize. O f course i f one decided the fairness considerations were the most important, there could be ways o f denying Neville the prize that limited the risk to his self-esteem. Given, however, that Slughorn has decided to ignore the cheating there is nothing in the consideration o f primary goods that would defeat his tentative judgement i n this situation.  This does not imply that sympathy cannot be a relevant consideration. Perhaps some readers would think the level of sympathy teachers feel for students is important and that this legitimately bears on the decision at hand. I think these people would be wrong but my thinking this does not make it so. 1 2 2  176  In contrast, a consideration o f domain might lead Slughorn to re-think his tentative judgement. Given the nature o f the pedagogical relationship it is crucial for students to trust their teachers.  Given this, Slughorn might conclude that i f he  ignores the issue o f fairness here and the students find out, trust could be lost rendering future teaching more difficult (if not impossible). In addition to the loss o f trust, Slughorn could also lose the respect o f his students which could also harm his future teaching effectiveness. Setting these considerations against his role as teacher, within the domain o f education, could lead Slughorn to re-evaluate the relative weight he has given each side o f this conflict. A s Wallace (1988, chapter 3) says, a successful resolution o f a moral conflict problem w i l l retain as much o f the importance o f the competing claims as possible. To achieve this success it is necessary to understand the various moral concepts at play in as deep a way as possible. In the above example, solving the conflict problem requires that we understand both the importance o f fairness and the promotion o f selfesteem (especially in the role o f teacher) and how these considerations fit into a wider moral ecology. The better our understanding o f these concepts and their complexities, the better position we w i l l be in to find a resolution to a problem that, "modifies] the considerations [in] ways so that the meanings, the points, o f the original considerations are preserved as far as possible" (Wallace 1988, p. 92). For both relevance and conflict problems, expanding and deepening our understanding of moral concepts seems to be key. A s Coombs writes: Because o f the open texture o f moral concepts, the primary means o f acquiring sophistication in their use is through seeing how they are interpreted in a wide range o f diverse cases. One thing that might be learned by the discussion o f cases, then, is an increased appreciation o f the rationale and range o f application o f the public moral concepts. (1998, p. 564) To teach good moral reasoning, then, we offer students the chance to enter "into the practice of moral discussion with someone who knows what good moral reasoning requires" (Coombs  For a good discussion on this topic, see Strike 1982, p. 41-53.  177  1998, p. 565).  In this thesis I have attempted to outline some standards that explicitly  show these requirements. Teaching these standards to students w i l l help them to develop the kind o f sophistication o f which Coombs speaks, in turn better equipping them to deal with problems o f relevance and conflict in their own lives.  III. Educational Implications A s I stressed in chapter 1,1 see myself primarily concerned with educational questions and secondly with philosophical/ethical ones. The nature o f this thesis has been such, however, that the ethical questions have needed to take centre stage for the most part. However, I want to finish the work by pointing us back to education and the practical implications that follow from my analysis. There is not sufficient space here to get into specific details about how these prescriptions can play out i n the classroom. M o r a l learning can occur in many forms; through the study o f literature, o f history, of current society, o f students' lived experiences and, following Kohlberg's Just Community Schools, through the real interactions within the school. I am not sure what is best for my goals—the actual curricular detail w i l l be left for another project. However, I can summarize the work by looking at the kinds o f things students w i l l need to learn i n order to be good moral reasoners (at least as I have outlined this in this thesis). This w i l l roughly follow two parts: first, the procedures o f Contextualism and second, the standards explicated in my reasonableness conception o f impartiality. Students need to be able to recognize the moral features o f situations. We cannot even begin to have moral discussions until we perceive what exactly makes a situation/problem a moral one. Hand i n hand with this is the need to be able to perceive what makes a given situation unique, what are the distinguishing features o f the individuals involved.  Here, moral perception is a key attainment to be gained.  W i t h this perception o f the moral features o f a situation comes the need to relate this particular situation to a wider moral understanding. If I judge a particular situation to involve  Though I do not have space here to discuss this, Coombs's quotation raises an interesting question about who has this moral expertise and hence, who is qualified to teach morality. As I cautioned in chapter 2, it can be problematic to think of these components as discrete steps. In our actual moral thinking, these run together and we move back and forth throughout them. However, for clarity's sake in writing about them, it is useful to list them as a more linear series of steps to follow. 125  178  issues o f fairness, justice and compassion, how do these particular virtues fit into my larger conceptual ecology? In other words, moral reasoners w i l l need to have a broad understanding o f the importance o f these virtues and/or concepts so as to be able to apply them to a particular situation. One must be able to move back and forth between the general principle and how it plays out i n a given context. The more sophisticated our understanding of these general principles and the more opportunity we have had to apply them, the better we w i l l be able to move back and forth as described. Given a situation, moral imagination becomes crucial. W e need to imagine possible resolutions to the problem. The more we understand the complexity o f the problem and the moral issues involved, the better we w i l l be able to imagine these various possible resolutions. We also need to be able to imagine likely consequences o f acting in the various ways proposed. Often times this w i l l be inexact, as one cannot predict the future. However, with greater moral experience comes greater facility at anticipating consequences and understanding how individuals w i l l react in given situations. This imagination w i l l also be helped by a greater understanding o f the world, natural phenomenon.and social interactions. A l l o f these things may not be perceived directly as moral education, but they w i l l help in making moral judgements. Finally, students need to be able to compare the relative merits o f the possible courses of action and choose intelligently which course has the best reasons supporting it. This is by no means a simple thing. Often there w i l l be multiple competing claims, resting on varying degrees o f certainty regarding their likelihood in coming to pass. H o w do we decide which of the many claims is the most important and how much weight that should hold in the face of other claims? W e must make difficult judgements, and while nothing can absolve us from this difficult task, it can be made easier by having practice. N o t only w i l l this practice give us the experience o f having gone through this judgement process but more importantly, it w i l l get us thinking about larger and deeper questions regarding what is important in life. Ultimately, how we evaluate competing value claims, w i l l rest on what we consider a good life to be and those things that are most important to fulfilling that good life. To get students thinking about these questions, and putting their immediately day-to-day choices against this larger back drop, w i l l be a good start in making their moral reasoning more sophisticated.  179  The previous five paragraphs have outlined the Contextualist approach to moral reasoning that I described in chapter 3. We can see with each o f the components that there are various skills, knowledge and attitudes that would usefully be passed on to students. Developing any o f these attainments would help one's moral reasoning. However, anyone can go through this process. The key question for this thesis has been whether one has gone through it well; in other words, we need to ask whether our moral reasoning is adequate o f not. This leads us to the question o f what standards could underlie moral thinking. Somehow we need to get students to be able to distinguish moral thinking from good moral thinking. In this thesis I have outlined some standards that can be used to distinguish these two categories and this can form a helpful backdrop for moral educators. However, as I have argued elsewhere (in a slightly different context—Rosenblith and Priestman, 2004), it can be useful to have the students try to come up with these standards themselves. In other words, have discussions with students about their basic moral commitments, what they think words like right and wrong mean i n morality—essentially do metaethics with the students (or what Robert Nash (2002) has called First Moral Language—see discussion in chapter 2). I am confident something like my four tests, as outlined i n chapter 6, would emerge from such a discussion (at least i n basic outline). The teacher's role then would be to expand upon those discussions and give the students as sophisticated an understanding o f morality as is possible. Outlining the Contextualist procedures is a start. Then we can introduce the concept of defeasibility  and get students to see the value in this approach—how our judgements are  constantly open to new evidence and new perspectives, how we need to consider the claims of others and, where possible, give an open-minded listen to anyone who wishes to comment on the judgement. W e then try to imagine various ways i n which our tentative judgements could be defeated. In this thesis I have suggested a test o f impartiality: a moral judgement is adequate i f no one could reasonably object to it. Again, this does not mean others would necessarily choose this particular resolution themselves. Rather it states that any one judging reasonably could see that I have good enough reasons to choose the option I do. O f course  The idea that moral judgements cannot be proven to be true (in any absolute sense). Rather, we take a tentative hypothesis, attempt to defeat it in any way we can. If we cannot defeat it, then we have reasonable confidence in its moral adequacy.  180  the key question then becomes what is a reasonable objection. In chapter 6,1 outlined four general ways in which one could reasonably object to a judgement. Giving students an understanding o f each o f these four tests would give them a wide-ranging and comprehensive (though by no means complete) understanding o f morality, its importance and its complexity. Equipped with this understanding, the students would then be i n a position to self-reflectively critique their own moral judgements—essentially becoming autonomous moral thinkers. The first test o f reasonability explores the standards o f good practical reasoning. Because what one does with this Contextualist approach is reason through a practical problem, one must meet adequate standards of practical reasoning. W e can fail here in a number o f ways; by not taking into account relevant information; i f our information is faulty; i f we are not considering important possible resolutions to the problem; i f the consequences we imagine would follow from a given act are in fact unlikely. Though by no means straight-forward, these considerations are relatively unproblematic. That is not the case, however, when we consider whether our evaluation o f the reasons and possible courses of action is good. This is so because such an evaluation rests upon what value we place on various things—not least o f which are moral values. This, then, moves us to a question of what are acceptable moral values to hold. Tests two through four attempt to give some outline o f an answer to this question. Test two focuses on the notion o f relevant differences and the consistency one has in applying moral principles. A simple understanding of justice holds that we must treat equal cases equally, different cases differently—but this simple understanding does not tell us when a difference is relevant. If I think it is wrong for a stranger to steal, then I must also hold that it is wrong for my mother to steal—even i f I might profit by her thievery. The fact that she is my mother and not some random stranger is not a relevant difference. But i f by stealing something, my mother could save many lives then most o f us would judge this to be a relevant difference and so we would need to re-consider whether stealing was morally wrong in this case. There is no simple rule or formula we can teach students to get them to recognize a relevant difference from an irrelevant one. This can only be determined from an examination of a particular case with all the uniqueness o f its context, though any such examination could still yield conflicting ideas o f what is relevant and not. But in thinking more broadly about  181  morality, its meaning and its function, students can begin to get an understanding of the claims o f morality. This, in turn, w i l l help them in determining when differences are relevant—and where relevant, what follows from this. Again, there is great pedagogical value in having students come up with standards that could guide our thinking in this, as opposed to just telling them what they should believe. Working through examples is always helpful. Over the course o f many examples, students can begin to see some consistencies between differences that are obviously relevant and differences that are obviously irrelevant. From these simple cases we can build up to a discussion o f more complex cases. Informed by the previous understandings and the kinds o f discussions that arise out o f disagreements, students can deepen their understanding o f morality and sharpen their use o f this relevance test. The third test looks to a foundation for morality that all could share.  There can be  things like religion, sexuality, family structure and life-style that are central to who we are as individuals. However, given the differences across people on these fronts, there is little i n any o f these areas that could offer hope o f providing a foundation to which all could agree. Because morality is a social thing, regulating how people are to live together and act toward one another, we want some kind o f foundation that does not privilege one conception of morality over another. W e thus need to look for this foundation elsewhere, in things that are central to who we are not just as individuals, but as human beings. W e all need nourishment, water and protection from the elements. We all come into the world unable to take care o f ourselves, needing the care o f others. We all need some kind o f teaching i f we are to grow 127  into functioning people. Getting i l l , growing older, dying are all things we go through. These commonalities, what John Kekes refers to as primary goods, can form a basis o f how we ought to treat other people. There can, obviously, be disagreement about what actually is a primary good. Again, an open discussion with students about what is fundamental to being a human being is a great entry point into discussions o f morality. Further, the importance that such primary goods play, (i.e. the limiting conditions they set on moral actions), is likewise a useful debate to  Obviously these things happen to different extents for different people but I think it is reasonable to argue that these things are all part of the human condition. 127  182  have. I have proposed that honouring these primary goods is a fundamental starting point for morality. Without something like this, we do not acknowledge the inherent worth o f people, failing to treat them, in Kant's words, as ends unto themselves. Thus, i f any act we propose is going to deny someone a primary good, then there are reasonable grounds to object to this 1 98  judgement. The fourth test looks to the domain in which an act is being carried out. The thinking behind this is that the importance o f a moral principle w i l l change given the realm of life within which one is operating. L y i n g , for example, has potentially disastrous consequences in a court o f law or in a classroom. It is not, perhaps, so dire i n the case o f a business negotiation. Because different realms o f life have different purposes, we can only understand the moral significance o f something relative to this purpose. Understood i n a different way, domain consideration asks us to consider the role o f the agent and the rights and responsibilities that come with this role. For example, in the role o f teacher or parent, we have responsibilities to the children in our care that would not fall upon a random stranger. This consideration is related somewhat to the second test in that the role someone is playing can provide a relevant difference i n one's moral judgements. The importance o f domain and role are huge, but determining what follows from them is not easy. A s with the other tests, there w i l l be differences o f opinion in how to apply the test and when a judgement has, or has not, passed the test. But such differences of opinion can help us to understand the moral life. Thus, here again, discussions with students about the nature o f particular domains, their functions and the significance o f particular roles, is useful. This w i l l help facilitate an understanding o f how particular moral principles and considerations operate in different realms o f life and in what way these differences are relevant ( i f at all). Once more, such considerations can help broaden and deepen a student's understanding o f morality and its demands.  On its own such an objection does not necessarily defeat a judgement. There can be exceptional circumstances in which we have no choice but to violate someone's primary goods—here we can imagine situations in which we are forced to choose 'the lesser of two evils'. 128  183  IV. Conclusion A s I have discussed i n the previous summary, the value o f what I offer is more pedagogical than ethical. It can help our thinking about a particular moral problem. However, its real value is more in how it can help individuals come to understand the complexities and nature o f morality. The procedures I outline, and the tests o f reasonableness that underlie them, can be o f use to anyone concerned with acting in a morally appropriate way. But for those engaged i n moral education, this system provides not only this practical tool, but also a vehicle for delving more deeply into the issues that are at the root o f morality. A s I argued in chapters 1 and 2, a central goal o f moral education is to equip students with the tools necessary for grappling with the real life moral issues they w i l l face in their lives. Anyone can make moral judgements. But without a rich and sophisticated understanding o f the complexities o f morality, one is less able to reach intelligent, reasonable solutions to complex moral problems. Giving students such an understanding w i l l allow them to better grapple with the moral problems they w i l l encounter in their lives. A s a last word, I offer a few suggestions o f where the work could go from here. A s I have stated earlier i n this chapter, there is much more work to be done fleshing-out the tests I talk about in chapter 6. W i t h each o f these tests, the more sophisticated our understanding of them, the better we w i l l be able to intelligently and reasonably apply them to new and unique situations. This could involve looking at each o f the tests in isolation and developing them in various ways. It could also be helpful to more adequately ground my conception o f impartiality i n the literature that continues to be published on the topic. Seeing how other people are treating impartiality could help to strengthen my conceptualization o f R C I . A second area for continuing the work would be to think more directly about how to implement this kind o f a framework in classrooms. For me, this is an on-going process working informally with my own students. It is also possible to begin to work more formally with other teachers to see what their experiences are using something like the system I am proposing.  129  A l o n g these lines, it would be helpful to compare the kinds o f tests I am  proposing against similar kinds o f tests in use by others teaching in the areas o f moral  To develop something more formal like this would require some thinking about how one would measure the success of such a program. How does one measure moral growth? Not an easy question, though it is an important one.  184  education or, especially, professional ethics.  A s I have stressed throughout this thesis, my  main concern is practical and hence this system I propose is good only so far as it is useful. To the extent that it can be helpful to teachers and students, I have accomplished something. However, we can only know that, ultimately, by putting it into practice.  (  1 have done this in chapter 2 with the work of Robert Nash. 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