Communitarianism (Epistemology)


Our upbringing and social structures shape our world view.  Sayers:

Sean Sayers, Identity and Community, Paper Presented 3/4/96.

According to Taylor, having a moral framework of what he calls `strong evaluations' is constitutive of our selves as human agents and hence of our identities. `It is a form of self-delusion to think that we do not speak from a moral orientation which we take to be right. This is a condition of being a functioning self.'9 These `strong evaluations' are not, and cannot be, the purely subjective preferences described by emotivism[.] and existentialism. On the contrary, they are constitutive of the self and its very ability to choose and have preferences. Initially at least such `constitutive' values are given not chosen. The individual is born into a particular family, a particular community, a particular culture, with no power of choice in the matter. The self is formed and develops within the frameworks of understandings and values, [and] allegiances and identifications, which membership of these groups involves. Identity is created in and through such frameworks. The individual cannot reject them without in effect denying its own identity[.] and turning itself against itself. In that sense such frameworks are `inescapable'.

 And even if we can make choices after our values are shaped by socialization, our identities play a role in how we are treated by society and how we view ourselves per other social groups.  Sayers 2:

Such historically developed and relative autonomy must not be confused with the absolute, `unencumbered' autonomy of liberal social theory. For the autonomy of the modern self is something which develops as a specific product of specific social conditions.14 To borrow Marx's words, it is still `stamped with the birth marks' of its origins; and formed and limited by them.15 Even in the most liberal societies, family, sex, class, race and nation are formative of identity and still often, in effect, constitute social fates, with respect to which autonomy is developed only partially and to a degree.

Therefore, arguments that deal with individuals outside of their social context are irrelevant since it is impossible to have knowledge absent an examination of those constraints. Also, arguments must derive obligation from the community or they are not consistent with identity, so any ethical theory not linked to the community can’t guide action