Justice - What Is the Right Thing to Do?

Episode 11. The moral battle between Aristotle and Kant can be traced back to the question of community welfare versus individual rights. Aristotle believes that justice requires that we establish a satisfactory conception of the good and create political and social institutions geared toward the attainment of such conception. Needless to say, this approach requires that individuals be assigned appropriate roles to promote social welfare. Kant, on the other hand, believes that individuals are autonomous beings who ought to choose their own individual conception of the good. No one, on his view, should ever be forced to act against her own will, even for the good of the community.

Communitarians argue that radical individualism is predicated upon the false belief that people are individuals. Our real identity, communitarians point out, is not based on consent but on our historical, social, cultural and geographic situation, and try as we might, we cannot truly separate ourselves from these conditions. This being so, the argument continues, we all have certain social obligations of solidarity and loyalty to particular groups that go above and beyond our universal obligations for humanity as a whole.

This conceptual tension gives rise to an interesting and thought-provoking discussion about the morality of patriotism and loyalty. Should we put the interests of our compatriots ahead of the interests of people who belong to different social groups? What should we do when our obligations to one of our communities are in conflict with our obligations to other communities to which we also belong? Is there some intrinsic virtue by which your own group, whoever you happen to be, is entitled to moral obligations that automatically override your obligations to others who don't happen to be members of the same group? Is patriotism a moral virtue or merely a prejudice for our own group?

More controversially still, is the hottie above desecrating the American flag? I say she takes it off, just to be safe :)


Episode list: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.
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