Explaining the feelings of justice

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 2 (4):365-398 (1999)
Philosophical theories about justice feelings and axiological feelings generally suffer from the fact that they look for simple criteria of justice, legitimacy, fairness. For this reason, they appear as of little help to account for the findings from sociological empirical studies. Weber's notion of "axiological rationality" can be interpreted as suggesting a "cognitivist" theory of axiological feelings. According to this theory, the causes responsible for the fact that a social actor endorses an axiological statement would not be basically different from the causes responsible for his endorsement of a representational statement. He would endorse the statement "X is fair" as he endorses "X is true", because these statements appear to him as grounded on strong reasons, though he may not perceive these reasons explicitly. This cognitivist theory was used by analysts of collective moral sentiments, as Adam Smith, before Max Weber. A careful examination of two empirical studies shows that the cognitivist theory can make the observational findings more easily understandable. The "cognitivist theory" eliminates the weaknesses of the major general philosophical and sociological theories of axiological feelings. It shows notably that these feelings can be context-dependent without this contextuality making them irrational. This theory includes two major principles: that instrumental rationality does not overlap with rationality shortly; that there are no simple criteria of "fairness", "legitimacy", etc.
Keywords axiological rationality  cognitivist theory  contextuality and universitality  fairness  instrumental rationality  legitimacy  moral sentiments  philosophical theories of justice  social justice
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DOI 10.1023/A:1009918510993
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