The justification of national partiality

In Jeff McMahan & Robert McKim (eds.), The Morality of Nationalism. New York, USA: Oxford Unversity Press. pp. 139-57 (1997)
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Abstract

The moral issues about nationalism arise from the character of nationalism as a form of partiality. Nationalists care more about their own nation and its members than about other nations and their members; in that way nationalists are partial to their own national group. The question, then, is whether this national partiality is morally justified or, on the contrary, whether everyone ought to care impartially about all members of all nations. As Jeff McMahan emphasizes in [another chapter of the book in which this essay appears], a philosophical examination of this question must consider the specific features of nationalism as one form of partiality among others. Some partiality--for example, toward one's spouse and children--seems morally acceptable and even a duty. According to commonsense moral thinking, one not only may but also should care more about one's family members than about strangers. But other instances of partiality, most notably racial partiality, are in most circumstances widely condemned. Is national partiality more like familial partiality or more like racial partiality? To answer this question, we must know what in general justifies attitudes of partiality. Caring more about certain people is appropriate when one stands in certain special relations to those people. But what are these relations, and to what degree do they hold among members of the same nation? Assuming they are present within families and not within races, to what degree are they present within nations?

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Thomas Hurka
University of Toronto, St. George Campus

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References found in this work

Is patriotism a virtue?Alasdair MacIntyre - 1984 - In Derek Matravers & Jonathan Pike (eds.), Debates in Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Anthology. Routledge, in Association with the Open University.
The Just War and The Gulf War.Jeff McMahan & Robert McKim - 1993 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 23 (4):501-541.

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