Communitarianism Framework

The value criterion is...consistency with communal obligations.

Here are some of the best justifications for a communitarianism framework.

NECESSARY LINK: see page Communitarianism (Epistemology)

First, since morality must guide action, it assumes that humans have value that makes actions good or bad. Our ability to make choices makes us valuable as opposed to rocks which can’t choose and thus aren’t valuable, so morality requires that these choices be respected. Since we cannot divorce these choices from our community, respecting individuals as capable of choice requires creating communal conditions that allow those choices to be made. Taylor:

Taylor, Charles. “Atomism.” 1985.

But this independence from a moral obligation of self-realization cannot be made good all around.  All choices are equally valid; but they must be choices.  The view that makes freedom of choice this absolute is one that exalts choice as a human capacity.  It carries with it the demand[s] that we become beings capable of choice, that we rise to the level of self-consciousness and autonomy where we can exercise choice, that we [and] not remain enmired through fear, sloth, ignorance, or superstition in some code imposed by tradition, society, or fate, which tells us how we should dispose of what belongs to us.  Ultra-liberalism can only appear unconnected with any affirmation of worth and hence [is the] obligation of self-fulfillment, where people have come to accept the utterly facile moral psychology of traditional empiricism, according to which human agents possess the full capacity of choice as given rather than as potential which has to be developed.  If all this is valid, then the doctrine of the primacy of rights is not as independent as its proponents want to claim from considerations about human nature and the human social condition.  For the doctrine could be undermined by arguments which succeeded in showing that men were not self-sufficient in the sense of the above argument – that is, that they [people] could not develop their characteristically human potentialities outside of society[.] or outside of certain kinds of society.  The doctrine would in this sense be dependent on an atomist thesis, which affirms this kind of self-sufficiency.  The connection I want to establish here can be made following the earlier discussion of the background of rights.  If we cannot ascribe natural rights without affirming the worth of human capacities, and if this affirmation has other normative consequences (i.e., that we should foster and nurture these capacities in ourselves and others), then any proof that [since] these capacities can only develop in society or in a society of a certain kind is a proof that we ought to belong to or sustain society[.] or this kind of society.  But then, provided a social (i.e., an anti-atomist) thesis of the right kind can be true, an assertion of the primacy of rights is impossible; for to assert the rights in question is to affirm the capacities, and granted the social thesis is true concerning these capacities, this commits us to an obligation to belong.  This will be as fundamental as the assertion of rights, because it will be inseparable from it.  So that it would be incoherent to try to assert the rights, while denying the obligation or giving it the status of optional extra which we may or may not contract; this assertion what the primacy doctrine makes.

We are all responsible for the messages our communities make. While shaping society to allow particular norms is important, it is most important that individuals within a particular community are engaged in that shaping. Nozick:

Robert Nozick [Prof., Harvard University], The Examined Life: Philosophical Mediations, New

York: Simon & Schuster (1989), p. 288-289]

The point is not simply to accomplish the particular purpose – that might be done through private contributions alone – or to get the others to pay too – that could occur through stealing the necessary funds from them – but also to speak solemnly in everyone’s name, in the name of the society, about what it holds dear.  A particular individual might prefer to speak only for himself. But to live in a society and to identify with it necessarily lays you open to being ashamed of things for which you are not personally responsible – wars of oppression or subverting of foreign governments – and to being proud of things you yourself have not done. A society sometimes speaks in our names. We could satisfy the people who object to the joint public expression of caring and solidarity and their attendant programs by eliminating such expressions, but this would leave the rest of us ashamed[.] of our society, whose public voice of concern is silent. That silence would then speak for us.  “Just [And to] stop identifying with the society, then! You then won’t have to be ashamed of what it does or doesn’t’ do or say.” To accommodate the objector to the public program, then, not only must we thwart our desire and need to jointly mark what [is] we hold to be most central about our interrelations – a desire and need that are continuous with those for personal self-expression – we must stop identifying with our society despite all this means for our emotional life and sense of ourselves. The cost is too great. 

Thus, the criterion is the consistency with communal obligations.

In addition, ethical theories that create moral rules without having referents in the current social context fail to analyze asymmetries in wealth and treatment.

NECESSARY LINK: see page Ideal Theories Bad

So, our ethical obligations must also involve certain positive duties to correct systemic injustice, because non-interference alone would ignore the non-ideal.  And, a social context is necessary to guide action since our obligations are different for different contexts.