Railton on Alienation

Railton on Alienation - Normative ethics/Merli Railton on...

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Railton on Alienation I. The problem Heeding morality’s demands may lead to alienation from morality—estrangement, distancing, the presentation of moral demands as disconnected from our actual concerns, etc. This is a problem. You might ask why—after all, the moral point of view requires us to go beyond our personal point of view, and of course it has to make demands that might be alienating. But this is a bit too easy. Morality has to take into account that the sorts of relationships perhaps damaged by the moral point of view are some of the most valuable things in life. Part of the issue: what morality demands of us seems to conflict with other intuitions about the place of morality in the prudentially good life. II. Some examples. John and Anne: John seems like a model husband. He says he’s specially positioned to make his wife happy; he justifies his actions by appealing to general features. Lisa and Helen: Lisa wants to thank Helen for her support during difficult times. Helen’s attitude seems to be weirdly impersonal, based on impersonal commitment to duty and reciprocity. What’s left out: it’s for your sake that I do these things. John should say “because she’s my wife!” Helen too seems to be missing something, as if the friendship were a transaction of some kind. Accusation: there’s estrangement from our relationships arising from this sort of ‘detached, rational’ point of view. III. The moral point of view Part of morality just is the demand to go beyond the personal point of view, and if the criticism here amounts to nothing more than noting this demand, it doesn’t come to much. Why this is too complacent: (i) practical reasoning should unify the self, not divide it further; (ii) this doesn’t sufficiently value the goods of friendship and love; (iii) more generally morality as an ideal should fit well with actual humans and their concerns. IV.
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This note was uploaded on 04/18/2008 for the course PHI 374 taught by Professor Merli during the Fall '07 term at F & M.

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Railton on Alienation - Normative ethics/Merli Railton on...

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