Moral Naturalism Of Philosophy
Morality as Part of the Furniture of Reality Considering Naturalism Is True
Sandel argues, “The highest principle of morality is to maximize happiness, the overall balance of pleasure over pain” (23). In naturalism, it is affirmed that all events and beings in the universe are natural. On the other hand, reality is the independent existence and nature of everything knowable by empirical observation, logical inference, or any other form of experience. The link between morality and reality emerges from the ultimate goal of a being, which is living. Human beings focus on actions that support the ultimate goal of surviving. Therefore, a person cannot and does not live without an ultimate goal because the choice to stay alive forms the foundation of life as the ultimate goal. Therefore, if a person chooses to continue living, reality defines what they must do. For example, they must pursue the values needed to improve and sustain their lives. However, if they choose not to continue living, they do not need values and can stop pursuing any action. Therefore, morality can be part of the furniture of reality if naturalism is true because it is chosen based on a person’s choice to stay alive, thus making life the ultimate value. For instance, people living in a society where mob justice is accepted as a form of punishment for those who commit a crime will refrain from crime to avoid being killed because life is the ultimate goal.
However, if a person chooses not to live, they become reckless and does not need morality. The link between morality and reality also emerges from the decisions made to achieve happiness. As mentioned earlier, morality focuses on maximizing happiness. Therefore, the failure or ability to achieve happiness defines a person’s reality. For example, living happily requires acting morally and focusing on actions that create ultimate value. Happiness is also dictated by how a person interacts with others. For example, a person who respects others and fulfills their role in society is likely to achieve happiness because their actions are acceptable. Morality can also be part of reality by defining who a person is based on their behavior and moral convictions. For example, persons with strong moral convictions against controversial issues such as gun ownership and abortion are perceived differently by those for and against their arguments.
Oderberg: Moral Realism and Cosmic Justice
Moral realism is defined as the notion that there are facts that dictate right and wrong actions and how things are bad and good. Oderberg argues that a world without cosmic justice would be unacceptable and absurd. Cosmic justice focuses on rectifying social inequalities that lead to a lack of things and gains for others in society, even though the people affected have not done anything that could create the inequalities. Based on this definition, moral realism entails cosmic justice because it focuses on eliminating inequalities by dictating what is good and bad and the right and wrong actions that could influence equality in society. Shafer-Landau argues that in a society founded on the principles of equality and impartiality, laws that violate the principles are criticized because they yield inequality (11). Therefore, it is hard to achieve cosmic justice without creating a balance between good and evil and right or wrong. The right balance includes reducing the bad and wrong actions that could create social inequalities by creating privileges for some people in society. For instance, in societies where leaders are corrupt, there is a high rate of social inequalities due to a lack of resources and good services such as healthcare services, thus depicting how moral realism entails cosmic justice. According to Bartlett and Collins, arguing that a person who commits injustice has no intention of being unjust is unreasonable (52). Therefore, the person’s acts can be interpreted as wrong and bad based on moral realism because they are committed knowingly. The argument that moral realism entails cosmic justice can also be supported by Sandel’s argument that “Aristotle teaches that justice means giving people what they deserve. And in order to determine who deserves what, we have to determine what virtues are worthy of honor and reward” (11). Determining the virtues requires applying moral realism to distinguish between right and wrong and good and bad. Therefore, it is hard to achieve cosmic justice without actions that may be perceived as right, wrong, good, or bad.
Rawls’ Conception of Justice versus Michael Sandel’s Aristotelian Critique of Rawls’ Theory
Rawls focused on establishing an unbiased version of social justice by applying the social contract approach that posits that society emerges from a form of agreement between the people living within a specific setting. It assumes that society members have agreed to give up some of their freedoms and submit to the authority of those in power for the protection and maintenance of their rights. Rawls’ concept of justice suggests that justice is fairness. He argues that social justice is the first attribute of social institutions. On the other hand, Michael Sandel’s critique of Rawls’ theory suggests that Rawls’ theory is founded on arbitrary decisions, goodness is narrowly conceptualized, and the theory fails to represent human beings accurately. Michael Sandel’s critique is correct because it acknowledges the existence of institutions that promote justice, such as political systems and courts. Humans are selfish by nature and focus on meeting their needs to achieve ultimate satisfaction and happiness. Therefore, it would be hard to create a society where everybody willingly agrees to give up some freedoms and submit to authority to maintain and protect their rights. Institutions such as courts play a vital role in achieving justice because they punish those who do not follow the required code of conduct in society, which includes submitting to authority, such as paying taxes to the government and following the laws set by people in authority. Rawls’ argument fails to represent human beings accurately because it assumes that they are all willing to give up their freedoms for the common good of everyone in society and submit to authority to protect and maintain their social rights. It fails to acknowledge that human beings may be unwilling to submit to the authority of the people in power if submitting denies them the chance to achieve happiness. For instance, criminals know that their actions are against the laws set by the people in authority, but they continue committing crimes to sustain their lifestyles and live a comfortable life, thus creating injustice for those affected by their crimes. In such instances, the authority of power cannot protect and maintain the society members’ right to a safe environment.
Michael Sandel’s Argument That Liberty and Welfare Do Not Cash Out a Viable Conception of Justice
Sandel’s argument that liberty and welfare do not cash out a viable conception of justice means that seeking justice in society requires more than promoting welfare and liberty. He suggests that moral convictions should be engaged to get justice. Notably, Plato’s argument supports Sandel’s argument on justice. Plato suggests that justice is a virtue. He states, “Then to provide these goods would not be virtue any more than not to provide them, but apparently whatever is done with justice will be a virtue, and what is done without anything of the kind is wickedness” (Plato 68). Based on this statement, it is evident that justice is linked to moral convictions. A person’s moral convictions can dictate the intention of their actions, thus influencing justice. For example, in court, judges listen to the arguments presented by the defendant and plaintiff and the evidence presented to support their arguments. Still, they have to apply their moral convictions in making the judgment, thus influencing justice. In such instances, welfare and liberty may be considered in judgment, but they are not enough because the judges also have their perception of what is good or bad. Therefore, it is essential to consider Sandel’s suggestion that we must add moral convictions to create a viable conception of justice. Moral convictions are broad because they are influenced by different factors, including culture, peers, family, emotions, and cognitive development. Therefore, the attitudes towards justice may change based on the context and the relationship between individuals in society, hence the need to integrate welfare, liberty, and moral convictions in reviewing justice. For instance, welfare is applicable in reducing social inequalities that may be viewed as injustice, such as a lack of proper healthcare and adequate housing for underrepresented and marginalized groups. Liberty can be considered in setting boundaries for people to avoid injustices arising from too much freedom to do as one pleases. For instance, laws regulate people’s freedoms to ensure that a person’s actions do not place others at a disadvantage. Adhering to the laws regulating liberty requires strong moral convictions against injustice.
Bartlett, Robert, and Susan Collins. Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics. The University of Chicago Press, 2011.
Plato. Five Dialogues: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo. Hackett Publishing, 2002.
Sandel, Michael. Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? Penguin UK, 2010.
Shafer-Landau, Russ. Whatever Happened to Good and Evil? Oxford UP, USA, 2004.
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Can morality be part of the furniture of reality if naturalism is true?
2) Consider Oderberg. Does moral realism entail cosmic justice?
3) Is Rawls’ conception of justice correct, or is Michael Sandel’s Aristotelian critique of Rawls’ theory correct?
4) Michael Sandel argues that liberty and welfare do not cash out a viable conception of justice. What does he mean, and what does he say we must add?