By James R. Otteson
A safeguard of the 'classical liberal' political culture, utilized to modern ethical and political concerns.
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Additional info for Actual Ethics
Not only is that the way to respect people’s personhood—both of the actors and of those affected by their actions—but it also allows to operate the natural incentives that give people the motivations necessary to develop their judgment properly, and hence, we can hope, to make fewer bad decisions in the future. natural human motivation I do not wish to suggest that human beings are exclusively self-interested in any narrow or pernicious sense. Indeed, I take it as all but self-evident that they routinely consider the interests of others in making their decisions.
Singer would have us judge the passerby to be immoral if he does not help the child. And surely he is blameworthy. But the two-place picture I am recommending enables, I believe, a more accurate judgment: we can say that the person is vicious and thus blameworthy, but he is not unjust and thus not punishable. That is, we disapprove of his behavior, but, because he himself did no “real and positive hurt” to the child—he refrained from doing the child a good turn, but he was himself not the cause of the child’s distress or suffering—he committed no injustice.
I wish to say instead that the things one might be inclined to include in the broader, “positive” conception of justice—such as charity, compassion, courtesy, or generosity—are indeed traits we would like others, and ourselves, to have, but that are not necessary for the maintenance of a peaceful society. ” At this point the distinction may seem merely verbal, but in fact it has significant implications: because we usually endorse coercion to enforce justice, exactly what counts as ‘justice’ will be of considerable moment.