Towards a sociological turn in contextualist moral philosophy

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 7 (2):133-146 (2004)
Abstract
Contextualist moral philosophers criticise hands-off liberal theories of justice for abstracting from the cultural context in which people make choices. Will Kymlicka and Joseph Carens, for example, demonstrate that these theories are disadvantageous to cultural minorities who want to pursue their own way of life. I argue that Pierre Bourdieu's critique of moral reason radicalises contextualist moral philosophy by giving it a sociological turn. In Bourdieu's view it is not enough to provide marginalised groups or subgroups with equal access to public institutions and specific cultural rights—in some cases this may in fact be detrimental. He contends that scientists, politicians and other intellectuals have a duty to take seriously the social presuppositions of free deliberate choice and public opinion and to support cultural minorities with instruments to liberate themselves from their often precarious situation.
Keywords class  contextualist ethics  cultural minorities  equality  ethos  group-differentiated rights  moral philosophy  Pierre Bourdieu  public sphere  social science
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