Moral Sentiments, Institutions, and Civil Society: Exploiting Family Resemblances between Smith and Hegel to Resolve Some Conceptual Issues in Sen’s Recent Contributions to the Theory of Justice
National Research University Higher School of Economics
Frankfurt School of Finance and Management
June 19, 2012
In his Idea of Justice, Amartya Sen compares the two basic approaches to evaluate institutions, transcendental institutionalism and realization-focused comparisons. Referring to Smith’s Impartial Spectator, he argues in favor of the latter and proposes the principle of Open Impartiality. However, this cannot solve the tension between universalism and contextualization of values that Sen therefore inherits from Smith. Based on recent Hegel scholarship, we argue that some of the difficulties can be resolved, considering the role Smith played in the development of Hegel’s thinking. Hegel’s concept of recognition plays an essential role in establishing the possibility of impartiality both on the level of consciousness and on the level of institutional intersubjectivity. Hegel’s critique of Kants formalist ethics (also considered as transcendental institutionalism by Sen), his analysis of the civil society in the Philosophy of Right, especially his focus on associations and estates, can serve as a model for making Sen’s focus on public discourse theoretically more concise and pragmatically feasible.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 27
Keywords: theory of moral sentiments, Sen, Hegel, recognition, civil society, associations, public discourse
JEL Classification: B12, B25, B52working papers series
Date posted: June 19, 2012
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