Conflict and Universal Moral Theory

Political Theory 35 (5):598-623 (2007)
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Abstract

The solutions to moral problems offered by contemporary moral theories largely depend on how they understand pluralism. This article compares two different kinds of universal moral theories, liberal impartiality theory and discourse ethics. It defends the twofold thesis that (1) a dialogical theory such as discourse ethics is better equipped to give an account of pluralism than impartiality theory due to a more correct understanding of the nature of conflict, but that (2) discourse ethics cannot, contrary to what Jürgen Habermas claims, embrace the notion of impartiality connected to agent-neutrality. The article argues that pluralism reflects conflicts among values not only between but also within people and that discourse ethics can include both these dimensions since it recognizes the constitutive connection between deliberation and (moral) conflict. Thus, unlike impartiality theory, it can elucidate the transformative aspects of pluralism.

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Eva Erman
Stockholm University

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References found in this work

Consciousness in Action.Jennifer Church & S. L. Hurley - 2000 - Philosophical Review 109 (3):465.
The Impracticality of Impartiality.Marilyn Friedman - 1989 - Journal of Philosophy 86 (11):645-656.
Modernity and morality in Habermas's discourse ethics.James Gordon Finlayson - 2000 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 43 (3):319 – 340.
Recognition and moral obligation.Honneth Axel - 1997 - Social Research: An International Quarterly 64 (1).

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