Are Particularistic Obligations Justified? A Communitarian Examination
The Review of Politics, Vol. 64, No. 4 (Fall 2002) 573-598
26 Pages Posted: 4 Oct 2012
Date Written: 2002
Are we justified when we care more about "our own kind" than about all others? Some scholars have tried to provide an answer based on what they consider human nature. Others -- on self-interest. The author examines the implications of the constitutive roles community has in our life for this question, as well as the differences it makes when considering what kind of human flourishing we deem of value. If three children go hungry in a community; the members of this community are more distressed than if thousands starve in some far away country. Moreover, people not only care more about members of their own communities, but maintain that they are justified in doing so, that one has a higher level of obligation to one's "own kind" than to all others. Are such particularistic obligations justified, and on what grounds? This question has been the subject of an immense amount of deliberation, which is not reviewed here. This exploration is limited to an examination of communitarian justifications for particularistic obligations, and only to those in a societal rather than political context. That is, if concerns the obligations of members of communities, not those of citizens of states.
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