Social attachments as conditions for the condition of the good life? A critique of will Kymlicka's moral monism

Philosophy and Social Criticism 32 (3):401-428 (2006)
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The moral justification of Will Kymlicka's theory of minority rights is unconvincing. According to Kymlicka, cultural embeddedness is a necessary condition for personal autonomy (which is, in turn, the precondition for the good life) and for that reason liberals should be concerned about culture. I will criticize this instrumentalism of social attachments and the moral monism behind it. On the basis of a modification of Axel Honneth's theory of recognition, I will reject the false opposition between the instrumental value and the intrinsic value of culture. Honneth makes a distinction between three types of recognition: (1) love; (2) respect; and (3) social esteem. Recognition of cultural difference is situated in the third sphere. But the logic of a recognition of cultural difference also demands a non-evaluative recognition, a respect for difference. Difference-respect cannot be reduced to the recognition of personal autonomy or to the recognition of a culture ‘as such’. Difference-respect is concerned with a formal recognition of difference, namely the recognition of a culture's intrinsic value for the other. By recognizing the moral importance both of personal autonomy and of social attachments, we do not have to surrender to the reductive bent in modern moral philosophy. 1 Key Words: Axel Honneth • identity • instrumentalism • intrinsic value of culture • moral justification • multiculturalism • recognition • value pluralism • Will Kymlicka.



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Bart Richard Van Leeuwen
Radboud University Nijmegen

References found in this work

The importance of autonomy.Thomas E. Hill - 1987 - In Eva Feder Kittay & Diana T. Meyers (eds.), Women and Moral Theory. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 129--138.
Can liberalism be communitarian?Charles Taylor - 1994 - Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society 8 (2):257-262.

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