Raisons Politiques 51:97-120 (2013)

Saladin Meckled-Garcia
University College London
In this paper, I make three points. The first is that there is indeed a distinctive approach to moral methodology, different from standard moral reasoning, that can be described as “practice-dependence”. I argue that its distinctness lies in recommending an aptness claim , namely that moral principles for regulating social practices must be principles for better fulfilling the point of those practices, a point discoverable in shared understandings of the practice. Participants treat domestic political societies as having a different point to the practice of international relations. On this approach, then, different moral principles apply in each case: principles of distributive justice between citizens in the former and principles of cooperative fairness between states in the latter. My second point is that this approach fails, however, an important test which I call the justifiability constraint . Any formulation of a moral principle assigning rights and duties, benefits and burdens, to people should be justifiable to those persons by reference to a moral value. Yet, as I show, the practice-dependence view cannot offer any justification based on moral value for the aptness claim. My last point is that both endorsers and critics of practice-dependence have mistakenly attributed this approach to theorists who restrict the scope of justice on the basis of moral justification. Such views are, in fact, incompatible with the aptness claim given that they offer plausible independently derived moral grounds for restricting the scope of justice. They are also compatible with the justifiability constraint. For these reasons, I conclude that practice-dependence is a red herring for debates on global justice.
Keywords practice-dependence  human rights  global justice
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