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Document Details :

Title: Resonantie en herkenning
Resonance and Recognition
Subtitle: Walzer's minimale moraal
Walzer's Minimal Morality
Author(s): TINNEVELT, Ronald
Journal: Bijdragen
Volume: 61    Issue: 2   Date: 2000   
Pages: 175-200
DOI: 10.2143/BIJ.61.2.565653

Abstract :
In his “Thick and Thin. Moral argument at home and abroad” (1994) Michael Walzer tries to make a clear distinction between two different but interrelated kinds of moral arguments, a thin and universal morality and a thick and particular morality. As he describes it himself, they concern “a way of talking among ourselves, here at home, about the thickness of our own history and culture and a way of talking to people abroad, across different cultures, about the inner life we have in common.” Contrary to many other philosophers, minimal morality is not a moral Esperanto that expresses no particularist meaning, but it has to be viewed as reiteratively particularist and locally significant. Minimal morality is intimately bound up with the maximal moralities of the different particularistic societies. According to Walzer, minimal morality is therefore nothing more than the sum of the reiterated features of these different thick moralities. It is the sum of all the values we happen to share with other societies. As a result, the universal moment in Walzer’s theory is not a moral moment, but a factual one. On the basis of a comparison with Rawls’s concept of a freestanding political conception of justice and Habermas’s discourse ethics, we want to show that Walzer hereby confuses the necessary distinction between ethical and moral questions, the distinction between an ethical and a moral employment of practical reason. Walzer tries to answer moral questions, especially the question of universal human rights, by giving an ethical answer. The result is a paradoxical attempt to justify the universal right not to be robbed of live and liberty on the basis of the traditions and histories of specific forms of life. As a consequence morality is robbed of its critical content and reduced to an empty appeal.