Princeton University Press (1998)

Mark Tunick
Florida Atlantic University
Are there universally valid moral principles that dictate what's right regardless of what the consensus is within a particular society? Or are moral judgments culturally relative, ultimately dictated by conventions and practices which vary among societies? Practices and Principles takes up the debate between cultural relativists and universalists, and the related debate in political philosophy between communitarians and liberals, each of which has roots in an earlier debate between Kant and Hegel. Rejecting uncritical deference to social practice, I acknowledge the need for standards for judging existing practices; but, I argue, the fact that there are principles we can use to criticize practices does not mean we can ignore social practice when making ethical and legal judgments. While defending principled criticism,I show the important role social practices have both in selecting and applying principles. I show precisely how both principles and practices interact through three case studies: promises, contract law, and the fourth amendment issue of whether an expectation of privacy is reasonable. When we turn to particular instances of ethical and legal judging we find that it is appropriate sometimes to appeal to principles that seem foreign to a culture to criticize aspects of that culture, sometimes to appeal to principles immanent in a culture and its practices, sometimes to defer to expectations arising from practices without subjecting the practices to critical scrutiny. I reject simplifying dichotomies that force us to choose between either practices or principles, universalism or relativism, and liberalism or communitarianism.
Keywords liberalism  communitarianism  cultural relativism
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Reprint years 2000
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ISBN(s) 0691070792   9780691070797   0691015600
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Kant's Moral Philosophy.Robert N. Johnson - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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