The familiar idea of a gap between theory and practice cannot be understood in terms of distinctions such as general-particular or abstract-concrete. A "gap" suggests a more fundamental difference. The underlying distinction is that between two incomplete and incompatible models of morality, a doctrine model and a practice model. Morality can be described in terms of interaction, a practice, and it can be described as a set of precepts, an ethical doctrine. This distinction may help us to understand various debates (...) and problems in ethics. It explains why there is so little progress in methodological discussions on reflective equilibrium. In a doctrine perspective, reflective equilibrium is a method to attain moral truth; in a practice perspective it is a process of continuous critical reflection. The distinction also explains conflicting views on moral expertise. In a practice perspective, moral philosophers are not moral experts, whereas in a doctrine perspective they are. (shrink)
In this article we present a conceptual overview of relevant interpretations of what state neutrality may imply; we suggest a distinction between inclusive neutrality and exclusive neutrality. This distinction provides a useful framework for understanding the several positions as presented by the parties in the Lautsi case. We conclude by suggesting a solution of the Lautsi case that might provide a more viable solution.
Moral ideals should not be seen as simple and purely personal, but as complex values with a social dimension that transcend attempts to formulate or realize them. Orientation towards ideals needs a realistic component: people should identify with the quest for an ideal, not with the ideal itself, and consider the possibility of negative consequences of their pursuit. Such realism about ideals includes acknowledging that ideals are not the only, nor the most important, motivating force of morality.
In this article, I argue that law has two oftenneglected functions: the expressive and thecommunicative functions. They are especially importantfor legislation on moral issues, such as biomedicalethics and anti-discrimination law. The communicativefunction of law is a complex one: law may create anormative framework, a vocabulary to structurenormative discussions, as well as institutions andprocedures that promote further discussion. Theexpressive function of law is at stake when itexpresses which fundamental standards, which valuesare regarded as important. The recognition of thesefunctions is not only (...) important for descriptivepurposes; it is also fruitful for normative theory. (shrink)
In this article, we sketch a new approach to law and ethics. The traditional paradigm, exemplified in the debate on liberal moralism, becomes increasingly inadequate. Its basic assumptions are that there are clear moral norms of positive or critical morality, and that making statutory norms is an effective method to have citizens conform to those norms. However, for many ethical issues that are on the legislative agenda, e.g. with respect to bioethics and anti-discrimination law, the moral norms are controversial, vague (...) or still evolving. Moreover, law proves not to be a very effective instrument. Therefore, we need a new paradigm, both for descriptive and for normative analysis. This interactive paradigm, as a normative position, can be summarised in two theses. The process of legislation on ethical issues should be structured as a process of interaction between the legislature and society or relevant sectors of society, so that the development of new moral norms and the development of new legal norms may reinforce each other. And legislation on ethical issues should be designed in such a way that it is an effective form of communication which, moreover, facilitates an ongoing moral debate and an ongoing reflection on such issues, because this is the best method to ensure that the practice remains oriented to the ideals and values the law tries to realise. (shrink)
The central thesis of this paper is that, for most issues of multiculturalism, regarding them as a problem of tolerance puts us on the wrong track because there are certain biases inherent in the principle of tolerance. These biases – individualism, combined with a focus on religion and a focus on beliefs rather than on persons or practices – can be regarded as distinctly Protestant. Extending the scope of tolerance may seem a solution but if we really want to counter (...) these biases, the principle of tolerance becomes so general that it loses any distinctive meaning. Therefore, we should accept the limited scope of tolerance and its biases. The principle of tolerance can still be useful for some problems where there is a clear and direct link to political or religious beliefs. Moreover, it should be cherished as a more general attitude or practice in Dutch society. For most problems of multiculturalism, however, we should appeal to broader theoretical frameworks that do justice to persons and practices. (shrink)
I analyze three forms of the slippery slope argument (two logical and one empirical) using two questions: 1) in the context of what kind of norms are we considering a first step on a possible slope: statute law, precedent law, positive morality, or critical morality? 2) What is meant by "If we allow this first step"? The conclusion is that the argument's greatest force is in a context of institutionalized norms, like law, whereas its importance in morality is only marginal.