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Phenomenological Communitarianism

  • H. Peter Steeves
Chapter
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Part of the Phaenomenologica book series (PHAE, volume 143)

Abstract

We saw in the last chapter that certain traditional ethical systems are fundamentally misdirected. The judgmental and relational theories (of which Kantianism and Utilitarianism were, respectively, the obvious examples) exhibit an inherent circularity: the former cannot account for the moral character of the categories it employs and the latter can only evaluate methods and actions while the goals of those actions are inexplicably either moral or amoral. In fact, the problem seems to be that such theories are not invalid, rather they are not theories of the type which can adequately classify acts and judge whether or not they belong to the realm of the moral.

Keywords

Common Good Categorical Imperative Club Member Home Team Metaphysical Claim 
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Notes

  1. 2.
    Cf., e.g., Rorty (1991).Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Sandel(1984), 17.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    MacIntyre (1984), 220.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    I do not wish to go into Sandel’s and Maclntyre’s theories in any great detail. Such is not the purpose of this chapter. The specific problems of communitarianism have been documented and discussed in numerous places (Cf. Frazer and Lacey (1993); Buchanan (1989); Rosen-blum (1989); Bell (1993)). Rather, I would like to discuss some of the common traditional problems in communitarian theory as a means of introducing Phenomenological Communitarianism and pointing to its strengths.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    The degree to which metaphysical claims are necessary in ethics is highly debated. Cf., e.g., Frazer and Lacey (1993), 149–158, 181–190, and Rawls (1985).Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Sandel (1984), 17. Emphasis mine.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    Frazer and Lacey (1993), 116. Frazer and Lacey’s point is that feminism is powerless under communitarianism because a woman “cannot find any jumping-off point:…her position as a socially constructed being seems to render her a helpless victim of her situation.”(p.l51) This is an important part of their critique but one with which I cannot deal directly at this time. In the passages which follow, I do hope to show how Phenomenological Communitarianism does not suffer from the problems of the disappearing self, but the specific problem of female subjectivity I have dealt with elsewhere in my “The Possibility of a Feminist Phenomenology,” (1993). 10 See Walzer (1987).Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    Cf., especially, Hobbes’ Leviathan Ch. XIII and Philosophical Rudiments Ch. I (both in The English Works of Thomas Hobbes, vols. II and III, Sir William Molesworth ed., (London: John Bohn, 1839)). Of course, someone might want to argue that Hobbes’ state of nature is actually an example of a communitarian theory. That is, in this pre-contractual state, individuals are defined by their relationship to each other (even though this relationship is one of war). This would be mistaken, however, because the actors here are clearly individuals, each with an individual good to pursue. These classic Liberal selves are not constituted by their warring relationships and there is no instance of taking up another’s good as such as one’s own. Hobbes’ pre-contractual selves are isolated, individuals who happen to be at war—aggressive monads who want to get together and put an end to chaos for their own good. Perhaps the confusion stems from the use of the term “war.” War seems to carry with it an underlying notion of declarations, sides, and historical struggles. Hobbes’ war has none of these qualities. Each individual fears and is feared by all of the others. Again, this paranoia does not constitute them, though. Their “true nature” is to be something other than paranoid and they long for a sovereign to enforce a contract and create a “society.”Google Scholar
  9. 13.
    MacIntyre (1972), 466.Google Scholar
  10. 14.
    Frazer and Lacey (1993), 102.Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    For this reason, many communitarian theorists refrain from positive claims and simply offer negative critiques of other theories. See, for instance, Frazer and Lacey (1993), 102–03.Google Scholar
  12. 18.
    Walzer(1987), 20.Google Scholar
  13. 19.
    Hart (1992), 307.Google Scholar
  14. 20.
    See Hart (1992), chapter VI, §7–13.Google Scholar
  15. 21.
    Hart (1992), 458.Google Scholar
  16. 22.
    Hart (1992), 451.Google Scholar
  17. 23.
    Walzer (1987), 20,29,30,32.Google Scholar
  18. 25.
    See Hart’s convincing critique of Rousseau in Hart (1992), 449–51.Google Scholar
  19. 26.
    Oppressing people is an example of such an action, and is deeply tied to taking up another’s evil as your good or another’s good as your evil. To do either is to oppress, and as Freire has pointed out, there is an objectification (loss of subjectivity) in both oppressors and oppressed when such actions occur. “Dehumanization,” he writes, “…marks not only those whose humanity has been stolen, but also…those who have stolen it” (Freire (1971), 28). To oppress, to put it in other terms, is to take up another’s evil as one’s good (or vice versa) and that in turn leads to an experience of one’s Self and the Other as less-than-persons—an experience which goes against the fundamental experience of one’s Self and the Other (which made the act of oppression possible in the first place).Google Scholar
  20. 27.
    Hart (1992), 450.Google Scholar
  21. 33.
    Frazer and Lacey (1993), 153.Google Scholar
  22. 34.
    See Carr (1986), 153–85. I have considered the role of narrative in the constitution of community and Self as well (Cf. Steeves (1994)).Google Scholar
  23. 35.
    See Hauerwas(1981).Google Scholar
  24. 36.
    Cf. Maclntyre(1984).Google Scholar
  25. 37.
    Cf. Walzer (1987). In this work, Walzer ponders whose interpretation “counts” based on the critics’ “distance” from the tradition. The problem is, of course, unnecessary, and I will say something about this shortly.Google Scholar
  26. 38.
    Rachels(1986), 144.Google Scholar
  27. 40.
    Hart (1992), 209.Google Scholar
  28. 41.
    Hart (1992), 211.Google Scholar
  29. 42.
    Husserl as quoted by Hart (1992), 248.Google Scholar
  30. 43.
    Husserl as quoted by Hart (1992), 372.Google Scholar
  31. 45.
    This is a particularly illuminating example because it might seem that if I am shopping at the mall as well, then there is a common agency. Nothing could be further from the truth, for even though we might be engaged in similar actions, we are not pursuing a common goal, but rather we have a goal in common. Indeed, my absence (both my physical absence and the absence of my will) would no doubt please most of the other shoppers. In Hart’s words, our being together is not out of a desire to be together, “not a result of social-communicative acts.” (Cf. Hart (1992), 249.)Google Scholar
  32. 47.
    See Sbragia(1992), 1.Google Scholar
  33. 48.
    Sbragia (1992), 5–6.Google Scholar
  34. 49.
    Miles Kahler, “The Survival of the State in European International Relations,” in Maier (1987), 300.Google Scholar
  35. 51.
    Sbragia(1992), 16.Google Scholar
  36. 53.
    See Oldenquist(1986).Google Scholar
  37. 54.
    Cf. Sandel (1982), 161–65.Google Scholar
  38. 57.
    See Hardin (1974), 38–43, 123–126.Google Scholar
  39. 58.
    Robert Nisbet, “The Problem of Community” in Daly (1994), 141–43.Google Scholar
  40. 59.
    Michael Sandel, “The Procedural Republic and the Unencumbered Self,” in Avineri and De-Shalit (1992), 28.Google Scholar
  41. 60.
    Quoted by Shirley Brice Heath in Resnick (1991), 122.Google Scholar
  42. 61.
    Shirley Brice Heath in Resnick (1991), 122.Google Scholar
  43. 63.
    Kohn (1986), 117–18.Google Scholar
  44. 64.
    Kohn(1986), 129.Google Scholar
  45. 65.
    Kohn (1986), 127.Google Scholar
  46. 66.
    Kohn(1986), 134.Google Scholar
  47. 68.
    Kemmis(1990), 117, 122, 118–19.Google Scholar
  48. 69.
    Berry (1977), 22. This observation about non-human life as neighbor will be important to keep in mind for chapter 6.Google Scholar
  49. 70.
    Bolívar(1971), 51.Google Scholar
  50. 71.
    Simon (1962), 65.Google Scholar
  51. 72.
    Simon(1962),66.Google Scholar
  52. 73.
    Simon(1962), 30.Google Scholar
  53. 74.
    Simon(1962), 125.Google Scholar
  54. 75.
    Simon(1962), 25.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. Peter Steeves
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyCalifornia State UniversityFresnoUSA

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