Thursday, December 29, 2016

Moral Imagination

What is moral imagination, and what role does (or should) it play in moral reasoning? What is its importance in moral decision-making?
      Moral imagination may be described as an ability to devise new or alternative approaches to moral problem-solving, and thus an ability to formulate new interpretations of the meaning of moral actions and situations.
      It may also be described as an ability to conceive of new or alternative moral principles and values, and thus an ability to engage with, and have a fuller understanding of, one’s own moral capacities and those of a given individual, group, or society.
      It may also be described as an ability to develop new or alternative interpretations of the moral motivations of others, and thus an ability to recognize the range of possibilities available for moral behavior.
      For some individuals, moral imagination may take the form of imagining a kind of morality different from conventional morality. It may take the form of an imagining that what is conventionally taken as right is actually wrong, or that what is conventionally taken as wrong is actually right, or that there actually is no right or wrong.
      For those who do not know right from wrong (such as some young children, perhaps, or some cognitively disabled individuals, or some psychiatrically impaired individuals), moral imagination may be an imagining that something is right or wrong because of the responses that it seems to evoke from others. The emotionally immature or cognitively disabled individual may in some cases only discover that something is right or wrong by becoming acquainted with the moral and social responses of others to it.
      Trying to improve our moral conduct, and striving toward a moral ideal, may also to some extent involve our imagining the kinds of people we could be if we were to be live up to all our responsibilities and fulfill all our moral ideals. In order to become better citizens, we may sometimes have to imagine how we could become better fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, teachers, students, co-workers, colleagues, teammates, friends, or neighbors.
      To imagine something may be to conceive of that thing without ever having actually seen or experienced it. It may also be to perceive something as present or possible without its ever having actually been present for, or accessible to, sensory perception.
      To imagine something may also be to conceive of an object, person, situation, or condition that does not yet, but could, exist. It may be to evoke, summon, or call forth unrealized possibilities.
      If something engages or captivates our imaginations, we may find it to be particularly intriguing or compelling. We may discover that it presents to us a range of possibilities that we were previously unaware of or were only partially aware of. We may then be drawn to further explore its nature, meaning, significance, and implications.
      Moral imagination may be a power or faculty of producing from current or past perceptions new ideas or concepts that have moral applications, implications, or dimensions. It may involve creative and intuitive, as well as analytic and critical thinking. It may be combined with other moral faculties, such as moral perception, intuition, insight, reasoning, and understanding, in order to produce a more secure and reliable foundation for moral judgment.
      Moral imagination may also enable us to recognize that there may be more than one way of looking at and responding to moral problems.
      The ability to be imaginative may depend on an openness to new thoughts, new impressions, and new ways of looking at things
      Moral imagination may therefore enable us to find creative solutions to moral dilemmas. It may enable us to envision and formulate ideal modes of conduct.
      Supererogatory conduct (actions that go beyond what is morally obligatory) may depend on the power of the imagination to inspire us to perform actions that go beyond the call of duty.
      Imagination may also play an important role in such moral attitudes as sympathy, empathy, and compassion. The ability to feel and express sympathy, empathy, or compassion for others may to some extent depend on the ability to imagine what they are feeling, and thus to imagine the pain, suffering, distress, anxiety, embarrassment, shame, sadness, or despair they may be experiencing.
      A constricted moral imagination may constrict the ability to feel sympathy, empathy, or compassion for others. Failure to respond to the suffering and distress of those who are seen as outsiders or strangers may thus in some cases be due to a constriction, deficiency, or failure of imagination.
      Imagination may also enable us to evaluate our own actions in light of what we think others may think about them. It may help us to recognize that our conduct can always be improved.
      Moral imagination may enable us to exercise capacities for moral decision-making that we did not previously know we possessed or were only dimly aware of. It may enable us to anticipate the possible unintended consequences of our actions, and to judge whether those consequences are desirable or undesirable. In cases in which we are compelled to ask ourselves whether we may have failed to treat others as we ourselves would want to be treated, it may enable us to recognize how we would feel if we were treated by others in the same way that we have treated them.
       Moral imagination may also play a role in, or be incorporated into, other forms of imagination, such as religious, aesthetic, literary, poetic, or dramatic imagination. It may inspire the creation of moral comedy or tragedy. It may provide a foundation for moral aesthetics or poetics, including the poetics of moral possibility.
      As a creative enterprise, moral imagination may also be opposed to mimesis, rote repetition, or mechanical mimicry of conventionally accepted behavior. It may be opposed to rigid and inflexible adherence to moral norms and principles of duty. Thus, it may make possible the perception of a kind of moral truth that transcends conventionally accepted truth, and it may inspire new approaches to, and creative strategies for, moral problem-solving.
      Moral imagination may therefore depend less on the seeing of things as they are (though it certainly does depend on this kind of seeing) than on the seeing of things as they might be. The seeing of things as they might be, or as they could possibly be, is also the awareness of possibility, which may be the essence or most fundamental feature of imagination.
      Moral imagination may be something that makes possible Raskolnikov’s overwhelming sense of guilt in Crime and Punishment, Ahab’s maniacal quest for revenge in Moby Dick, Kurz’s ultimate sense of horror in Heart of Darkness, and Joseph K’s inescapable sense of anxiety and desperation in The Trial.
      It may also be something that makes possible Jane’s faithfulness to her sense of duty in Jane Eyre, Strether’s moral scrupulousness and faithfulness to personal conscience in The Ambassadors, Jay Gatsby’s romantic idealism and sense of hope in The Great Gatsby, Emma’s carelessness and capriciousness in Madame Bovary, Hedda’s recklessness and self-indulgence in Hedda Gabler, Blanche’s disdain for Stanley’s crudeness in A Streetcar Named Desire, Levee’s sense of futility and rage in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Dimmesdale’s agonizing sense of guilt in The Scarlet Letter, and Aschenbach’s hopeless infatuation with Tadzio in Death in Venice.
      Matthew Kieran, in an article entitled “Art, Imagination, and the Cultivation of Morals” (1996), explains that morally significant art may promote imaginative understandings of moral problems, concerns, or situations. Art "may extend or deepen our understanding of the values and commitments that underlie our actions and desires,” and it "may also shape our understanding of what we value by showing us how to act…in morally fruitful or harmful ways.”1
      John Dewey (1922) explains that “deliberation is a dramatic rehearsal (in imagination) of various competing possible lines of action….Each habit, each impulse involved in the temporary suspense of overt action takes its turn in being tried out. Deliberation…. is an experiment in making various combinations of selected elements of habits and impulses, [in order] to see what the resultant action would be like if it were entered upon.”2
      Steven Fesmire (2003) extends Dewey’s conception of the role of imagination in moral deliberation by proposing three interrelated theses: (1) moral character, belief, and reasoning are inherently social, embodied, and historically situated, (2) moral deliberation is fundamentally imaginative and takes the form of dramatic rehearsal, and (3) moral imagination may be conceived as a process of aesthetic perception and artistic creation.Fesmire therefore argues that imagination may provide deliberative resources for moral decision-making that are not provided by rigid adherence to abstract principles of morality.
      Mark Johnson (1993) explains that "moral reasoning is...basically an imaginative activity, because it...requires imagination to discern what is morally relevant in situations, to understand empathetically how others experience things, and to envision the full range of possibilities open to us in a particular case."4 He also says that moral situations may be metaphorically conceptualized in order to more clearly understand them, and that "the metaphorical character of moral understanding is precisely what makes it possible to make appropriate moral judgments."5
      Moral imagination may inspire the construction of moral narratives, and it may promote understanding of the ways in which such narratives can be framed or contextualized. Moral narratives may be those that have a moral content, subject matter, theme, purpose, or meaning. The understanding of moral situations may to some extent depend on the understanding of narrative accounts and explanations that have been provided with respect to those situations. Moral understanding may therefore be to some extent a kind of narrative understanding.
      However, moral understanding may be not only analytic, conceptual, thematic, and textual, but also synthetic, imaginative, empathetic, and experiential.
      Moral imagination may include the capacity to perceive previously unrecognized or poorly understood moral dimensions of our actions. It may also include, as a result of the capacity to think creatively about moral possibility and responsibility, the capacity to perceive those moral dimensions of our actions that are not immediately or prima facie evident. It may therefore enable us to develop a fuller understanding of the morally good, and a clearer understanding of the true nature of morality (whatever that may be).
     

FOOTNOTES

1Matthew Kieran, “Art, Imagination, and the Cultivation of Morals,” in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 54, No. 4 (1996), p. 345.
2John Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct: An Introduction to Social Psychology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1922), p. 190.
3Steven Fesmire, John Dewey and Moral Imagination: Pragmatism in Ethics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003), p. 4.
4Mark Johnson, Moral Imagination: Implications of Cognitive Science for Ethics (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1993), pp. ix-x.
5Ibid., p. 10.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Health Care as a Basic Human Right

If every person has, or should have, the right to health care, what are the limits of that right? To what kind of health care is every person entitled, if health care is a basic human right?
      I believe the right to health care is indeed a basic human right, along with the right to life, the right to liberty, the right to personal security, the right to due process of law, the right to work, the right to receive an education, and other basic human rights.
      The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25, says that “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”1
      I believe there is a moral argument to be made (which I shall not present here) for providing some level of basic health care to everyone who is in need of care, regardless of his or her ability to pay. What then is the level of basic care that should be provided?
       Allen Buchanan, in an article entitled “The Right to a Decent Minimum of Health Care” (1984), argues that the right to health care is not an unlimited right, but rather a right to a “decent minimum” of care.2 However, I would argue that the concept of a “decent minimum” of care is unacceptable for a number of reasons, and that the right to health care is a right to timely and adequate access to medically necessary care, recognizing that (1) access must be reasonable, not unnecessarily impeded, not unduly burdensome, and actual rather than merely theoretical, and (2) the care provided must be respectful of the human and personal dignity of each individual.
      Medically necessary care may be defined as care provided to prevent, diagnose, or treat a medical condition, in accordance with the accepted medical standard of care for that condition. The standard of care for a given medical condition may be defined as the kind of care that would ordinarily be rendered by a competent health care provider in the same community under similar circumstances. Medically necessary care may also be defined as care without which the patient being treated would suffer debilitating symptoms, preventable complications, irreparable injury, or permanent loss of function.
      The right to health care is not a right to unlimited or unnecessary care. Patients do not have the right to demand unnecessary services, and care providers do not have an obligation to provide unnecessary services. Indeed, care providers have an obligation not to provide unnecessary services, because such services may be harmful to patients and wasteful of health care resources.
      What then is wrong with the concept of a “decent minimum” of care? A “decent minimum” may be defined in a number of ways, some of them quite problematic. For example, from the point of view of party A, who thinks that party B is morally and socially inferior and therefore undeserving of the same level of health care available to party A, a “decent minimum” of care for party B may be something quite lower than what party A is entitled to. Also, from the viewpoint of party A, who lives in wealthy country C, a “decent minimum” of care for party B, who lives in poor country D, may be something quite lower than what party A is entitled to, because of the disparities between the economic and health care resources of countries C and D and the consequent disparity between what people of the two countries may see as the “decent minimum” level of care to which they are entitled. Both of these viewpoints may lead to arbitrariness, inequity, and injustice in the way in which the definition of a “decent minimum” of care is decided upon.
      It may also be argued that people have a right to more than a “decent minimum” of care, and that they have a right to the best quality of medically necessary care that can be provided, within the logistical, economic, and technological constraints of the health care system of the society in which they live.
      The financial cost of health care, of course, has to be taken into account in determining what constitutes the best possible care. The best possible care is also the safest, most reliable, most effective, and most cost-efficient care, as well as the care that is least burdensome for patients and most likely to produce the best possible outcomes.
      Buchanan says that debate about the claim that there is a right to a “decent minimum” of health care may center on two issues: (1) the issue of whether there is a more extensive right to health care, and (2) the issue of what health care services comprise the “decent minimum” of care to which there is a right.3 He admits that the claim that there is a “decent minimum” of care usually presupposes that this “decent minimum” is relative to the given society in which it is said to exist, but he argues that the advantages of the concept of a “decent minimum” for all individuals, as opposed to an equality of opportunity (regarding health care) for all individuals, are that (1) the concept of a “decent minimum” enables us to adjust the level of care according to relevant social conditions, (2) it “avoids the excesses of the strong equal access principle” (that everyone has an equal right to the best health care available) , while still acknowledging a substantive universal right, and (3) it recognizes that there must be some limitation to the right to health care, because of the limitations in resources available to any given society.4
      Buchanan thus explains that it’s reasonable to assume that, just as with other social goods and services, the extent of the right to health care services depends on the resources available to a given society.5 He makes a distinction between universal rights claims (which attribute the same rights to all individuals) and special rights claims (which attribute rights to particular individuals or groups).6 He also explains that special rights claims may be based on past discrimination against an individual or group (because that individual or group may have a special right to goods or services they have previously been denied) or may be based on unjust harms suffered by an individual or group (because that individual or group may have a special right to compensation for the unjust harms they have suffered) or may be based on sacrifices made by an individual or group for the good of society as a whole (because that individual or group may have a special right to compensation for the sacrifices they have made).7
      It may be argued, however, that everyone has a right to the best care available within the logistical, economic, and technological constraints of the health care system of the society in which they live, although everyone may not necessarily the same right. Those who are more in need of health care may have more of a right to the best care available. Those who invest their financial resources in order to ensure that they receive the best care available may also have a special right to receive the best care available. However, need should be considered more important than ability to pay in determining who is most deserving of available health care. Individuals should not be prohibited from investing their financial resources in order to ensure that they receive the best care available, but all individuals should be able to receive the best care available if they are really in need, regardless of their ability to pay.
      Another argument against the acceptability of the concept of a “decent minimum” of care is that care providers may have a duty to provide more than a “decent minimum.” They actually have a duty to fulfill a “reasonable standard of care,” which may be more than a “decent minimum.” Moreover, it may be argued they have a duty to provide the best care they can provide within the constraints of the health care system in which they function as providers. Requiring them to provide only a “decent minimum” of care may conflict with their duty to fulfill a “reasonable standard” of care and to provide the best care they can provide within the constraints of the given health care system.
      I would argue that health care providers also have a duty to provide the best possible care for all their patients, regardless of their patients’ socioeconomic status, age, gender, race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
      Part of the duty of every health care provider is to function as an advocate for his or her patients in order to help them navigate the health care system, and in order to ensure that they have access to all the care they need. Patients have a right to expect that their health care providers will do their best to ensure that they receive all the care they need, and to ensure that they receive the best care possible.
      The concept of a “decent minimum” of care may therefore become a means to unfairly discriminate against individuals, based on their socioeconomic status or other factors. Those who are seen as being of lower socioeconomic status may be seen as being entitled to only a “decent minimum” of care, while those who are seen as being of higher socioeconomic status may be seen as being entitled to the best care available.
      The supposed obligation to provide only a “decent minimum” of care may also become a “slippery slope” for care providers, leading them to provide less and less care until the concept of a “decent minimum” has hardly any meaning. A “decent minimum” may come to mean almost nothing at all. A “decent minimum” may also come to mean a lower level of care than could reasonably be provided within the constraints of the health care system.  A “decent minimum” may become a kind of “race to the bottom,” rather than an effort to make a higher baseline level of health care available to all individuals.
      Perhaps, instead of trying to explore the content of a “decent minimum of care,” we should try to explore the content of an “adequate baseline level of care.”
      Justice in health care does not require that everyone have the same access to care and receive the same level of care, regardless of whether some are more in need of care than others. It does, however, require that everyone be provided with the health care he or she needs, and that an adequate baseline level of health care be made available to all.
      Kenneth Cust (1997) describes a “just minimum of health care” as a more viable concept than a “decent minimum of health care.” He says that

“Thus far we have taken the phrase ‘decent minimum of health care’ to mean roughly an adequate amount of health care. However, the concept “decent” has normative content as well. It can mean, for example, conformity with a standard of conduct or propriety. On this account, to say that people were entitled to a decent minimum of health care would mean little more than to say they were entitled to only what we choose to give them. If this is what Buchanan meant by a decent minimum of health care, then it may not be sufficient to meet people’s basic heath care needs.”8

      The right to medically necessary care may imply other rights, such as those enumerated in various statements of patient rights and responsibilities. Patient rights implied by the right to medically necessary care may include such rights as (1) the right to be treated with dignity and respect, (2) the right to be treated in a safe and secure environment, (3) the right to be protected from abuse, neglect, and mistreatment, (4) the right to be protected from discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or disability, (5) the right to informed consent, (6) the right to privacy, (7) the right to confidentiality of personal and health information, (8) the right to participate in medical decision-making concerning one’s own care and treatment, and (9) the right to timely and understandable communications from health care providers.
      Patient responsibilities, on the other hand, may include (1) the responsibility to provide complete and accurate information about present symptoms, present and past medications, past medical history, and past treatment, (2) the responsibility to cooperate with care providers in order to develop plans of treatment, (3) the responsibility to comply with recommended treatment, (4) the responsibility to return for follow-up appointments in a timely fashion, and (5) the responsibility to respect the rights of other patients.


FOOTNOTES

1United Nations, “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” (1948), online at http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/.
2Allen Buchanan,, “The Right to a Decent Minimum of Health Care” (1984), in Justice and Health Care: Selected Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 4.
3Ibid., p. 17.
4Ibid., p. 20.
5Ibid., p. 20.
6Ibid., p. 27.
7Ibid., p. 27.
8Kenneth Cust, A Just Minimum of Health Care (Lanham: University Press of America, 1997), p. 61.


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Seeing Others as Ourselves, and Ourselves as Others

What does it mean to “love your neighbor as yourself”? Does it mean to love your neighbor as you yourself would want to be loved? Does it mean to care for your neighbor’s well-being as much as you care for your own well-being? Does it mean to love your neighbor as if you yourself were your neighbor and you were in the same situation that your neighbor finds himself or herself in?
      Who exactly is your neighbor? Can your neighbor be anyone you meet, regardless of the particular neighborhood or community they belong to?
      What does it mean to love another (or the other) as self, to love the other as other, to love the self as self, and to love the self as other?
      When we love others as ourselves, we may act for their benefit as often as, or even more often than, we act for our own benefit. We may indeed see their benefit as no different from our own benefit. We may see others as having the same basic needs, interests, and concerns that we have. We may empathize with them when they suffer loss or misfortune, and we may try to “put ourselves in their shoes” when we make judgments about their actions.
      We may also find that seeing ourselves as others is inseparable from seeing others as ourselves. Seeing ourselves as others and seeing others as ourselves may be complementary aspects of self-awareness and social understanding. They both may be ways of becoming ourselves. They may also be ways of transcending ourselves.
       When we see others as ourselves, we cannot ignore them when they are suffering or in distress. Their well-being may become as important to us as our own well-being. We may discover that by promoting their well-being, we also promote our own well-being. We may then need to recognize that from their perspective, we may be the “others.” We may need to recognize our own otherness, and to ask ourselves whether our whole way of conceptualizing sameness and otherness needs to be revised and rethought.
      When we love others as ourselves, their suffering may indirectly become our own suffering, but we still do not directly experience their suffering unless we take that suffering directly upon ourselves in an effort to comfort or relieve them. If we are truly altruistic, then we will, if necessary, sacrifice our own comfort and security in order to relieve the suffering of others, and we will take upon ourselves the task of removing all suffering. We will also show compassion toward those whose suffering cannot be completely remedied or relieved.
      When we love others as others, we love them in all their difference(s) from us. We may even love them for their difference(s) from us. We may celebrate, rather than disparage or mistrust, their difference(s).
       When we love others as others, we also love them for who they are, rather than for who we want them to be. We respect their differences, rather than try to contest or change them. We accept their otherness, and love them without trying to deny or erase their difference(s).
      On the other hand, when we see others as others, we may sometimes make the mistake of seeing only their difference(s) from us. We may try to maintain their otherness, rather than see them as more or less the same as, or similar to, ourselves. We may try to separate ourselves from them, rather than recognize the ways in which they share with us the same basic needs, interests, and concerns. We may see them as others simply because we are ignorant about, or do not really know, them.
      If the idea of seeing others as ourselves makes us feel apprehensive, uncertain, or insecure, then we may also try to maintain their otherness for the sake of our own perceived self-interest. We may see others as fundamentally different from ourselves, even when such an attitude is based on implicit or explicit bias (racial, ethnic, gender, religious, social, or cultural), rather than on objective assessment.
      We may therefore see others as others approvingly or disapprovingly. If we see them as others disapprovingly, then we may try to maintain their otherness, rather than try to see their being in the same way that we see our own being.
      Luce Irigaray (2000), in an interview concerning her book I Love to You: Sketch for a Felicity Within History (1996), says, “’I Love to You’ means: I don’t take you as an object of my love or desire. I love you as irreducibly other. I keep a ‘to’ as an inalienable space between us, a guarantor of your freedom and mine…I protect the two that we are and the relationship between this two: I love to you like I talk to you…”I love to you” means that I will never entirely know you and that to love you implies respecting the mystery that you will always be for me.”1
     The “others” for us may be those who are (racially, ethnically, sexually, politically, socially, or culturally) different from us. But we ourselves are all, to some extent, different from one another. We all are “others” to, or for, others.
      We also are more or less psychologically, emotionally, and cognitively different from one another. We all may to some extent differ in our perceptions of ourselves and of one another.
      There may also be a true and a false sense of otherness. We may sometimes feel as if we are others, when in fact we are not. We may try to become others by appropriating their otherness, but we may not obtain a true otherness by doing so. We may indeed only obtain a false sense of otherness and of being outsiders, when in fact we are merely others and outsiders by choice. The true outsiders may be those who have been excluded by the insiders.
      On the other hand, we may not always be aware of our own otherness. We may have a false sense of being accepted as the same, when in fact we are not accepted as the same, and are different.
      As others, we may sometimes be made objects of suspicion, ridicule, derision, and contempt by those who want to subjugate, oppress, and impose otherness on us. We may be made victims of (racial, ethnic, gender, religious, social, or cultural) prejudice and discrimination. We may be unfairly perceived as interlopers or trespassers.
     We each may have to ask ourselves, “Who am I?” But we may find that we can only answer, “I am myself” or “I am the other.”
      If we love the self as self, then we may see the self as self, and not as other. We may, however, also become selfish or solipsistic. We may put our own interests and concerns before the interests and concerns of others. Our own self-love may guide our attitudes and actions toward others. We may be narcissistic in our concern for, or about, ourselves. We may look favorably on ourselves and unfavorably on others, simply because we see ourselves as different from them, and see them as different from us.
      On the other hand, if we love the self as other, then we may see ourselves as in some way strange and not understood by (or not understandable to) us. We may see ourselves as alien or unknown to us.
      Emmanuel Levinas (1961) describes “Welcoming the Other” as a mode of subjectivity that places the freedom of the self in question, because the self is faced with the infinity of the Other. The self remains free by separating itself from the Other, but the self is responsible for the decisions it makes regarding the use of its own freedom.2
      The dialectic of self and other is also the dialectic of “we” and “they.” “We” are the same or similar, while “they” are different. “We” belong to the same group or community, while “they” are others or outsiders.
      Welcoming others may consist of inviting them to become members of our (residential, professional, academic, religious, social, or cultural) community. It may also be a means of affirming the aims, interests, and concerns we share in common. It may also be a means of promoting social and cultural pluralism.
     

FOOTNOTES

1Luce irigaray, “Different from You/Different Between Us,” in Why Different? A Culture of Two Subjects: Interviews with Luce Irigaray, edited by Luce irigaray and Sylvère Lotringer (New York: Semiotext(e), 2000), p. 81.
2Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity (Totalité et Infini, 1961), translated by Alphonso Lingis (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1969), pp. 27, 85.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Johann Gottlieb Fichte's Attempt at a Critique of All Revelation

Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s Attempt at a Critique of All Revelation (Versuch einer Kritik aller Offenbarung, 1792), despite its title, is a defense, rather than a critique, of the meaningfulness and validity of the concept of revelation, and is an investigation not of “all revelation” (in the sense of both religious and non-religious revelation), but only of religious revelation (which for Fichte constitutes “all revelation”).
      Fichte describes a theory of volition according to which the will to obey principles of morality may be guided by practical reason. Insofar as the idea of God as moral lawgiver may facilitate determinations of the will, it may also guide us to act according to practical reason. The translation of the idea of God as moral lawgiver into the idea of the moral law in human nature is the principle of religion, insofar as this translation of pure into practical reason may serve as a guide for determinations of the will.1
      Fichte distinguishes between natural and revealed religion by saying that God as moral lawgiver may proclaim Himself to us through natural or supernatural means. Natural (or rational) religion is based on recognition of the natural (or rational) means by which God may proclaim Himself to us as lawgiver, while revealed religion is based on recognition of the supernatural means by which God may proclaim Himself to us as lawgiver. Natural and revealed religion may be combined, and they are mutually compatible.
      Revelation, according to Fichte, is an event or experience by which something is made known to us. Something is revealed to us when it is made known to us. Revelation therefore presupposes two internal conditions: the thing that is made known, and the form in which is made known. It also presupposes two external conditions: someone who makes something known, and someone to whom that thing is made known. 2
      The possibility of divine revelation also presupposes the existence of God. Fichte therefore asks: how can we know that a given revelation comes from God? How can we know that it is God who has revealed something to us?
       Such questions may be especially important when we try to distinguish revelation from other phenomena, such as fantasy, hallucination, or the delusion of a deranged person who commits some senseless crime or irrational act and then says, “I heard God’s voice talking to me,” or “I had a vision from God,” or “God made me do it.” In contrast to a delusion, which may be described as a fixed, persistent, idiosyncratic, false belief that is resistant to reason, a revelation may be described as a proclamation or communication from God that apparently conforms to reason.
      In order to answer the question of how we can know that a given revelation comes from God, Fichte describes some criteria for the divinity of a revelation (with regard to its form), including (1) any revelation that has proclaimed, maintained, or propagated itself by immoral means cannot be from God,3 (2) only a revelation that proclaims God as moral lawgiver can be truly believed to be from God,4 and (3) any revelation that attempts to move us to act on account of motives other than reverence and respect for God’s holiness cannot be from God.5
      Fichte describes some additional criteria for the divinity of a revelation (with regard to its content), including: (1) a revelation cannot require faith in teachings that cannot be arrived at by reason, (2) a revelation cannot require faith in teachings that are contradictory to reason (indeed, we can convince ourselves of the divinity of a given revelation only if it conforms to reason6), and (3) the divinity of a revelation must be evident not only on grounds of its conformity to reason, but also on other grounds7 (such as its arising from something supernatural in the sensory world).
      Fichte explains that the essential element of (divine) revelation is the proclamation, through a supernatural effect in the sensory world, of God as moral lawgiver.8 Thus, revelation cannot be proven to have any objective validity, and it may not even have subjective validity for all rational individuals.9 A rational acceptance of a particular revelation as divine is possible only on a priori grounds, and this renders problematic any acceptance of a particular revelation as divine on the basis of principles learned from experience.
      Fichte also explains that a priori knowledge of something is demonstrated, rather than revealed, to us.10 We can have a posteriori knowledge of something on the basis of experience, but only a priori knowledge enables us to conclusively prove or objectively demonstrate it.
      A questionable claim made by Fichte is that something can be made known to us only if we do not already know it. Something that we already know cannot be made known to us; only the fact that we already know it can be made known to us. But this claim raises the question: why can’t something be made known to us more than once? Why can’t something that we already know be repeatedly revealed to us? —Perhaps the repeated revelation of a given thing may secure our knowledge or confirm our certainty of that thing,
      Another questionable claim is that whenever something is made known to us, there must be someone other than ourselves who has directly or indirectly made it known to us. But why isn’t it possible for us to reveal things to ourselves? Why can’t we reveal things to ourselves that we weren’t previously aware of? Perhaps in revealing things about ourselves to others, we may reveal to ourselves things about ourselves that we weren’t previously aware of or that we weren’t previously prepared to acknowledge.
      Another questionable claim is that only things that are known a priori are provable or objectively demonstrable. —What about proof by experience or scientific testing?
      The concept of revelation presupposes an empirically given moral need for revelation, explains Fichte. God would not reveal something to us if it were not logically necessary for Him to do so. Every (divine) revelation proclaims God as moral lawgiver, and therefore only those revelations that have this proclamation as their ultimate purpose can be truly believed to be from God.
     Fichte concludes that (divine) revelation is rationally possible, and that a critique of it can only apply the concept of it to a given event or experience and guide us in doing so; that is to say, a critique of (divine) revelation can only determine the conditions under which the application of the concept of revelation to a given event or experience is possible.11 We may therefore be certain of both the possibility of revelation in general and the possibility of a particular manifestation of it by some event or experience that fulfills the proper criteria.


FOOTNOTES

1Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Attempt at a Critique of All Revelation, edited by Allen Wood, translated by Garrett Green (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 41.
2Ibid., p. 51.
3Ibid., p. 93.
4Ibid., p. 94.
5Ibid., p. 94.
6Ibid., pp. 100-101.
7Ibid., p. 99.
8Ibid., p. 96.
9Ibid., p. 66.
10Ibid., p. 52.
11Ibid., p. 132.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Letter and Spirit of the Law

With regard to the letter and spirit of the law, there may be four kinds of actions: those that obey both the letter and spirit of the law, those that obey the letter but not the spirit of the law, those that obey the spirit but not the letter of the law, and those that obey neither the letter nor the spirit of the law.
      In cases where there is an apparent conflict between the letter and spirit of the law, we may have to determine whether obedience to the letter of the law is more important than obedience to the sprit of the law, or vice versa. We may have to determine whether we can obey the spirit, without strictly obeying the letter, of the law, unless we adopt a legalistic interpretation of our moral duty. If we decide to be legalistic in our interpretation of our duty, then obedience to the letter of the law may be more important than obedience to the spirit of the law, whenever obedience to both cannot simultaneously be achieved.
      Since the spirit of the law may be a subject of debate, we may need to employ a variety of interpretive resources in order to precisely determine its nature. Legal hermeneutics may require social, cultural, linguistic, and historical investigation of legal texts. Since some texts may be imprecise, ambiguous, or unclear, they may require interpretation by judges, jurists, or legal scholars. Our interpretation of the spirit of the law may depend on what we perceive as the law’s intended purposes and effects, as well as on our own notions of what justice, equity, and fairness require.
      Relativism about the law’s letter and spirit may assert that they are merely a matter of interpretation, and that the law is therefore merely a coercive instrument used by those in power to reinforce their position of social, economic, and political advantage over others.
      Legalism with regard to moral duty may be described as the theory that moral duty is a matter of obedience to the law, and that actions are right or wrong insofar as they obey or do not obey the law. It may also be described as the theory that it is always our duty to obey the law, whatever the consequences of that law may be. It may also be described as the theory that our moral duty extends only as far as the law extends.
      According to one possible legalistic interpretation of our moral duty, as long as we obey the law, we cannot be said to have violated our moral duty. We do not have a duty to perform actions that are not legally required; we only have a duty to perform those actions that are legally required, and a duty not to perform those actions that are illegal. We do not have a duty to provide support to those who are helpless or to care for those who are suffering, unless we are legally required to do so. We do not have a duty to offer aid to the unfortunate or to provide shelter for the homeless, unless we are legally required to do so. We do not have a duty to end armed conflict abroad or to relieve world hunger and poverty, unless we are legally required to do so.
      Weaknesses of legalism as a theory of moral duty include the following:
      (1) It may delimit our moral duty to such an extent that we may not be inclined to perform those actions that are not legally required. We may not be inclined to perform generous or unselfish actions if we do not think they are morally obligatory. There may be no laws requiring us to be good Samaritans, and so we may feel we have no duty to extend help to our neighbors when they are in need.
      (2) It may encourage a literalistic interpretation of the law, even when that interpretation is not suitable for present circumstances and does not fulfill the needs of contemporary society. Thus, it may not allow for a situational ethics or a moral pragmatism. It may assert that it is always our moral duty to obey the law, no matter how unfair, inequitable, or unjust that law may be.
      (3) It may not recognize that we do not necessarily have a duty to obey unjust laws; we may indeed have a duty to disobey them. Thus, it may not recognize that civil disobedience may in some cases be justified as a means of seeking social justice.
      (4) It may encourage harsh or merciless punishment of those who disobey the law, even when such punishment is unnecessary and serves no useful social purpose.
      (5) It may encourage the attitude that “the law is the law, regardless of whether it makes sense.” Although there may be some laws that are outdated or that have unexpected loopholes or that have unanticipated consequences, it may not recognize that such laws should be changed and that reform of the legal system is sometimes necessary.
      (6) It may encourage the excessive use of the legal system and adversarial litigation as a means of resolving disputes, rather than promoting the use of less costly, less time-consuming, and less contentious methods of conflict resolution.
      (7) It may attempt to justify acts of legal chicanery or gamesmanship and other morally dubious but legal transactions, on the grounds that even if such actions are morally questionable, they are legal and cannot therefore be criticized for not having fulfilled the principles of moral duty. Thus, for example, legalism may be used as a justification for cheating a person out of her money or property, if such an act cannot be legally prosecuted.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Love and Understanding

Does love require a kind of understanding? Does understanding, at least in some cases, require a kind of love?  Does one or the other have moral, logical, or epistemic priority?
      Can there be understanding without love, and love without understanding?
      Do we have to understand (or be able to show understanding toward) someone in order to be able to love them? Do we have to love someone in order to be able to understand (or show understanding toward) them?
      Is understanding a ground of love, and love a ground of understanding? Do we have to “love our enemies” in order to understand them?         
      There may be a certain kind of understanding that requires love of whomever or whatever we’re trying to understand. There may also be a certain kind of love that requires or depends on our presumed understanding of whomever or whatever we think we love.
       There may also be a kind of love of things that are beyond our complete understanding.
      Suppose that instead of saying “I believe, so that I may understand” (“Credo ut intelligam,” as Anselm affirmed) or “I seek to understand, so that I may believe” ("Quaero intelligere ut credam,” as he denied), we each were to say, “I love, so that I may understand” or “I seek to understand, so that I may love”? What would then happen to our perceptions of ourselves and one another?
      There may be many kinds of love: parental, filial, marital, brotherly, sisterly, neighborly, romantic, erotic, and sexual. There may also be many kinds of understanding: analytic, synthetic, intellectual, emotional, empathetic, experiential, practical, and theoretical. An “adequate” understanding of someone or something (however that “adequacy” may be defined) may require more than one kind of understanding of that person or thing.
      There may also be various kinds of self-love and self-understanding,
      Can we truly love someone whom we don’t at all understand? Can we truly love someone if we don’t actually know who she is and who we’re actually in love with? Perhaps we can love someone in spite of not always being able to understand them. Perhaps true love requires that we love others unconditionally and without necessarily having to understand all their thoughts, words, and actions.
      It may be argued that love may sometimes be irrational or unexplainable; but can such an act or emotion properly be called “love” (rather than “infatuation” or “obsession”) if it's utterly irrational?
      Mustn’t we be able to think that we have at least some partial or incomplete understanding of whomever or whatever we think we love?
      Don’t we in some cases love someone for the very reason that we understand them, or understand someone for the very reason that we love them? How much of a role may understanding then play in our falling in or out of love? And how much of our love for someone or something may be determined by our own capacity for self-understanding?
      Loving someone may require at least a willingness to try to understand them, even if we don't have the fully developed capacity to do so. The imperfectness of our love may then be revealed, at least in part, by the imperfectness of our understanding of them.
      There may also be degrees of love and understanding. If we love someone enough, perhaps that means that we’ll be able to sufficiently understand them.
       Is there a threshold level of love that’s necessary for our understanding of someone? Is there a threshold level of understanding that’s necessary for our love of someone?
      Perhaps we should try more often to determine both the nature of our understanding of love and the nature of our love of understanding. Perhaps we should also try more often to determine whether we’re actually developing a greater understanding of the nature of love or whether we’re merely falling in love with the idea of understanding it.


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Artscape, Baltimore, 2016




















                       Reggie Wayne Morris


                         Scroll Downers

Monday, June 27, 2016

Luis Villoro's The Challenges of the Coming Society

Luis Villoro (1922-2014) was a Mexican philosopher, historian, writer, diplomat and revolutionary who was born in Barcelona, Spain. His father was Spanish, and his mother was Mexican. He arrived in Mexico at the age of 17, and studied at the Facultad de Filosofía y Letras of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), where he obtained his master’s degree in philosophy in 1949 and his doctoral degree in 1963. He also did postgraduate study at the Sorbonne in Paris, and at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.
      In 1948, Villoro became a member of the Hyperion Group (el grupo Hiperión), a group of young Mexican philosophers who were students of José Gaos (1900-1969) at UNAM, and who were influenced by Gaos to explore phenomenology and existentialism. The Hyperion Group was mostly active from 1948-1952, and included Ricardo Guerra (1927-2007), Jorge Portilla (1918-1963), Emilio Uranga (1921-1988), Salvador Reyes Neváres (1922-1993), Joaquín Sánchez Macgrégor (1925-2008), Fausto Vega (1922-2015), and Leopoldo Zea (1912-2006).
      From 1948, Villoro taught at UNAM, where he was named professor in 1954. From 1971, he was a researcher at the Instituto de Investigaciones Filosofícas. From 1974-1982, he was professor at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM), and from 1972-1982, he was a member of the Board of Governors of UNAM. From 1980-1981, he served as president of the Asociación Filosófica de México, and from 1983-1987, he served as permanent delegate of Mexico to UNESCO in Paris.
      Honors that he received included membership from 1978 onward in The National College (El Colegio Nacional). He also received the National Prize for Arts and Sciences (el Premio Nacional de Ciencias y Artes) in 1986, and the University National Prize (el Premio Universidad Nacional) in 1989. He also received honorary degrees from the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo in 2002 and the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM) in 2004.
      In the 1990’s, Villoro secretly joined the EZLN (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, Zapatista Army of National Liberation). The Zapatistas were, and are still, a leftist revolutionary group based in the southern state of Chiapas who advocate political and economic autonomy for indigenous peoples. They also oppose economic globalization, and they call for indigenous peoples to have greater control over their land and local natural resources.
      Villoro, who was in his 70’s when he joined the EZLN, adopted “Luis Villoro Toranzo” as his nom de guerre. He wore a black beret, and he acted as a sentinel at EZLN guard posts. He kept his membership in the group hidden from even his wife and children.1 He died in March 2014, at the age of 91, in Mexico City.
      In May 2015, a memorial gathering that was held in Oventic, Chiapas in honor of him and of the late Zapatista leader Galeano drew over 5,000 people. In accordance with his wishes, his family turned over a box containing his ashes to the Zapatistas, so that it could be buried at the foot of a tree in Oventic, Chiapas.
      Villoro’s work as a philosopher centered on such fields as the philosophy of history, political philosophy, social philosophy, ethics, and epistemology. His writings included Los grandes momentos del indigenismo en México (1950), El proceso ideológico de la revolución de independencia (1953), La idea y el ente en la filosofía de Descartes (1965), Estudios sobre Husserl (1975), Creer, saber, conocer (1982), El concepto de ideología y otros ensayos (1985), El poder y el valor: fundamentos de un ética política (1997), Estado plural, pluralidad de culturas (1998), De la libertad a la comunidad (2001), Los retos de la sociedad por venir (2007), and La significación del silencio y otros ensayos (2008).
      Los Retos de la Sociedad por Venir: Ensayos sobre Justicia, Democracia, y Multiculturalismo (The Challenges of the Coming Society: Essays on Justice, Democracy, and Multiculturalism) is concerned with such questions as: What is the relation between justice and power? How does justice promote the ability to resist oppressive power? How may society ensure that everyone’s basic rights are respected? How can society prevent the social, economic, or political marginalization of particular social, ethnic, or minority groups? What are the implications of tolerance as a principle of transcultural ethics? How is multiculturalism similar to, or different from, cultural relativism? How is a transcultural ethics similar to, or different from, a universal ethics of human rights? How does the unitary, homogeneous nation-state differ from the plural, multicultural nation-state?
      Villoro describes three main challenges for the society of the future: the promotion of justice, the promotion of democracy, and the promotion of interculturality (multiculturalism). Unless these three challenges are met, we will not be able to achieve social consensus and unity in the context of a plurality of conceptions of the common good.
      To understand the meaning of justice, we may start by trying to understand what justice is not (what injustice consists of). Injustice may be a wrongful harm or injury caused by others. It may also be an infringement of basic rights or a restriction of basic human freedoms, due to domination or oppression by those in power.
      In the face of oppressive power, a response may be to take the moral position of non-power (no-poder). The opposite of the person eager for power is not the powerless person, argues Socrates in Plato’s Republic, but the person who refuses to make the will to power his goal. To seek a life not marked by power, but free from all will to power—that is the aim that, in contradiction to Thrasymachus’s argument that “might makes right,” constitutes the life of the good person.2
      Escaping from power is not equivalent to accepting powerlessness, says Villoro. It is resisting powerlessness. It is not allowing oneself to be subjugated and dominated by those in power. To take a position of non-power may also be to confront power with an opposing counter-power (contrapoder). Counter-power may be a resistance to both powerlessness and the pursuit of power.3
      Counter-power may be exercised in a number of ways: as passive resistance, as non-collaboration, as refusal to comply with the norms established by those in power. It may be exercised by a single individual, by a group, or by a whole class of individuals.
      Injustice may take the form of exclusion of certain persons or groups from access to the social, economic, and political goods that are enjoyed by the rest of society. The experience of injustice by the excluded may lead to their dissent from, and opposition to, the viewpoints held by those who have excluded them. The excluded may proclaim to those who have excluded them, “We are subjects worthy of value. That value equalizes us with you. It transcends our differences.”4
      Thus could be described the situation of persons or social groups excluded from a community of communication by not being considered valid interlocutors in any possible dialogue that could lead to rational consensus.5 Villoro explains that the philosopher Enrique Dussel distinguishes an ideal community of communication from a real community in which there are no excluded members and all members can participate in a “community of justice.” In a real community, each member may have the right to situate himself or herself in a position of exteriority that recognizes his or her differences from the rest of the community, but also affirms the community as a convergence of free and equal members.6
      Villoro says that the idea of justice, starting with the negative experience of exclusion, does not conceive justice as a definitive, final arrangement, but as a historical process that proceeds through various stages. In each stage, the historical meaning of social justice approaches a state in which exclusions and differences are overcome.7
      Justice therefore demands non-exclusion. In a just society, no one is excluded from participation in equal citizenship. A just society is one that permits and favors “the good life” (however that term may be defined) for all its members, and that makes “the good life” possible for all.
      Villoro describes two models of justice, the “deontological model” and the “teleological model.” According to the deontological model, priority is given to rules that are universally valid, and actions are just if they fulfill the rules or norms that govern them. According to the teleological model, priority is given to rules that are valid for the particular situation that individuals are confronted with, and actions are just if they fulfill a worthwhile end or they result in something good.  
      According to Villoro, the way to arrive at knowledge of the content of justice differs in the two models. In both models, justice cannot have subjective validity for an individual without representing his or her own self-interest. Justice is seen as a general rule or objective value that is valid for every individual. But how can we attain knowledge of this general rule or objective value? If the measure of objective value is the universalizable character of the rule—as in the first model—then the way to attain knowledge of the content of justice will be the universal acceptance, by all individuals, of that rule.8 If, on the other hand, the measure of validity of the rule is the goodas in the second modelthen the way to arrive at knowledge of the content of justice will be recognition of the aims or ends that individuals actually pursue. Objective value will be seen in whatever is beneficial to, or is regarded as good by, all individuals in a socially determined whole. To know the just, we must therefore be able to determine what is good for all individuals in the context of their relations with one another.  Knowledge of the common good will not be derived from intersubjective consensus, but from discovery of the ends and values that unify society.9
      Villoro explains that the two models of justice are complementary, but that their difference is expressed as four antinomies: (1) the antinomy of the subject, (2) the antinomy of normative order, (3) the antinomy of the type of association, and (4) the antinomy of duty and ends.
      The antinomy of the subject is that, according to the deontological model, the moral subject is seen as an abstract subject who is not situated in a particular social context, and who is capable of impartial, universalizable judgments. According to the teleological model, however, the moral subject is seen as a concrete subject who is situated in a particular social context, and who acts to fulfill her own conception of the good.
      The antinomy of normative order is that, according to the deontological model, the rationality of universalizable norms as opposed to socially accepted modes of behavior may justify projects of change or reform of the existing social or political order. On the other hand, maintenance of existing norms may be favored over the claims of specific groups who have suffered from social inequality. According to the teleological model, however, projects of change or reform must be adequate to present circumstances, and they must respond to the distinct realities that constitute society. The durability of a just social order may depend as much on recognition of the specific needs of each social group as on continuation of existing political structures.10
      The antinomy of association is that, according to the individualistic conception of justice, corresponding to the deontological model, society is a means of realizing the aims of the individual. Political society fulfills this purpose by guaranteeing basic rights. The public space offers scope for the actualization of individual liberties. It is therefore a place of competition between individuals and groups. This competition must take place within the framework of tolerance and respect for basic rights, which permits cooperation for mutual benefit.11 According to the communitarian conception of justice, corresponding to the teleological model, however, the aims of the individual are realized within a community. The proper aims of the individual include the pursuit of the common good. Competition between individuals must be replaced by pursuit of the good of the whole community.12
      The antinomy of duty and ends is that, according to the deontological model, the morally right is given priority over the morally good. The universality of moral norms is given priority over the plurality of conceptions of the good. According to the teleological model, however, the idea of justice cannot be separated from the idea of the good. The fulfillment of individual rights cannot be separated from the fulfillment of the good of society as a whole.
      Villoro explains how each of these antinomies may be overcome. One strategy may be to consider how the idea of justice can change over the course of time. Another strategy may be to consider how we can respond to the negation or denial of justice, injustice.
      Thus, the antinomy of the subject, which reflects the difference between the abstract, universalizable subject and the concrete, situated subject, may be overcome by the situated subject who acts on the basis of universalizable principles to oppose injustice.
      The antinomy of normative order, which reflects the difference between universalizable norms and socially specific norms of behavior, may be overcome by the situated subject who responds to his or her own concrete situation by acting according to universalizable principles that he or she has abstracted from that situation.
      The antinomy of association, which reflects the difference between individualist and collectivist approaches to justice, may be overcome by the coexistence of individualist and collectivist principles in society, and by the freedom of individuals to pursue their own interests as well as the interests of society as a whole.
      The antinomy of duty and ends, which reflects the difference between the morally right and the morally good, may be overcome when the universality of a moral rule is seen as having a specific cultural and historical context. The universality of the moral rule is therefore seen as only one of a plurality of social, cultural, and historical conceptions of the good.
      Villoro describes the political right and the political left as moral postures or moral attitudes toward democracy, but he confines himself to discussing the political left. “¿Qué es la izquierda?” (“What is the left?”) he asks. His answer (translated) is that the left

is not a system of beliefs or an ideology, but a collective attitude against domination…The disruptive attitude cannot be translated into collective action if it is not motivated by the interests of those who suffer under the domination of the system…However…in a complex society, the groups who suffer domination are various, and their interests may be dissimilar…A system of domination creates many diverse groups that have their own interests. The counter-power (contrapoder) facing this system must express the interests of all in their diversity. The actual left cannot be less than a multiple, heterogeneous movement. There is not a class or privileged sector of dissidence. There is no revolutionary vanguard. A dissident program cannot be reduced to a class ideology…All dominated groups share, in distinct ways, a common interest: to rightly liberate themselves from domination. They can therefore unify their voices in the same counter-power. This will be the task of a movement of the left.”13

      Principles of intercultural ethics, explains Villoro, include mutual tolerance, respect for cultural autonomy, respect for cultural authenticity, respect for cultural valuative rationality, and respect for cultural efficacy. Any system of intercultural ethics must also recognize that each culture is unique and not replaceable by others. It must recognize and appreciate the multiplicity and diversity of cultures.
      Tolerance, says Villoro, does not consist merely in accepting coexistence with other cultures and not interfering with them. Rather, it implies concern with the fortune (suerte) and destiny of other cultures, concern with sharing their aims and understanding their values, and concern with assisting them to satisfy their basic needs. It implies reciprocity.14
      Respect for cultural autonomy may be expressed as non-interference with, and non-domination of, other cultures.
      Respect for cultural authenticity may take the form of recognition of the true, as opposed to the misperceived or misappropriated, aspects of other cultures, as well as respect for the integrity of the customs, traditions, and value systems of other cultures.
      Respect for cultural valuative rationality may be expressed as recognition of the extent to which (or the efficacy with which) other cultures are able to integrate their proposed aims and preferred values into the lives of their members.
      Respect for cultural efficacy may be expressed as recognition of the capacity for other cultures to fulfill their roles and functions.
      Villoro argues that the aim of a participatory democracy in a pluralistic society should be the transition from a single, homogeneous state to a plural, heterogeneous state that respects its own internal diversity.15 More than tolerance is necessary to maintain the unity of the plural state. Cooperation is also necessary.16
      The traditional conception of the nation-state responds to the question of how to establish unity in a society in which there are varying conceptions of the common good by saying that unity is achieved by imposing a single historical conception of the common good on all members of society. Multiculturalist conceptions, however, provide a different response: unity is achieved by reciprocal recognition of social and cultural differences, and by acceptance of the plurality of existing conceptions of the common good. Unity results from freely made accords between various social and cultural groups who have different viewpoints.17
      Villoro explains that according to cultural relativism, the validity of a particular culture’s traditions depends on the viewpoint of the observer, and the traditions of any culture may be considered to be as valid as those of any other culture. Thus, cultural relativism calls into question the claim of any culture to be universal and to represent a model for all other cultures. Absolute relativism, however, holds that all cultural traditions are equally valid, no matter how oppressive or dominating they may be in relation to the traditions of other cultures. Absolute relativism is therefore incompatible with multiculturalism, since multiculturalism is opposed to any form of cultural oppression or domination.


FOOTNOTES

1Ángeles Mariscal, “Philosopher-Historian Luis Villoro was Secret Zapatista Sentinel,” translated by Jane Brundage, CNN Mexico, May 3, 2015, translated May 7, 2015, at https://dorsetchiapassolidarity.wordpress.com/2015/07/07/philosopher-historian-luis-villoro-was-secret-zapatista-sentinel/.
2Luis Villoro, Los Retos de la Sociedad por Venir: Ensayos sobre Justicia, Democracia, y Multiculturalismo (México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2007), p. 18.
3Ibid., p. 18.
4Ibid., p. 24.
5Ibid., p. 26.
6Ibid., p. 27.
7Ibid., p. 35.
8Ibid., p. 48.
9Ibid., p. 49.
10Ibid., pp. 92-93.
11Ibid., pp. 94-95.
12Ibid., p. 95.
13Ibid., pp. 132-134.
14Ibid., p. 149.
15Ibid., p. 183.
16Ibid., p. 184.
17Ibid., pp. 198-199.