What ought the nation to be?

Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 50:269-277 (2008)
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Renan’s paradigmatic question ‘What is the nation?’ has been inflected in many ways: When is the nation? Where is the nation? Why is the nation? etc. However, few have explicitly considered the normative question: ‘What ought the nation to be?’, which raises the distinctively moral and philosophical-political question of the normativity of the nation in general, and in turn, that of the normative criteria that underpin the nation’s normativity. Since the choice of these criteria is clearly arbitrary and culturally-determined, any normative justification will have a counterfactual character. Nonetheless, in spite of its inherent limitations resulting from axiological relativism, such an approach has the advantage of providing not only a descriptive model for countries subscribing to theselected normative principles, but also a critical basis for the evaluation of their national aspirations



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