Normative CriticismsJune 28, 2021
Another consequence of collectivists’ arguments that individuals are bearers of social values is the impossibility of universal ethics. Liberals claim that truth prevails over good.
According to this, universal truths are superior to the good of the society. However, this claim is heavily criticized by collectivists. According to collectivists, since personality develops through the sharing of values within the community, these values are necessarily the determinant of any claim to truth. In other words, all moral and political institutions in society, including law, are a reflection of community values, not universal ethics.
Alasdair MacIntyre, one of the most conservative figures of collectivism, argues that the individualist liberal understanding, which is considered on the basis of universal morality, also deprives individuals of the possibilities of verification (MacIntyre 2001: Chapters 2 and 17). While the liberal individualist approach constructs individuals independently of the social norms that precede it, it claims that individuals determine all kinds of actions on their own. However, in such a case, liberals invite a society of selfish individuals who think of nothing but themselves and do not have an authority to judge their actions.
His view of the relationship between morality and politics leads to differences of opinion among those who are considered to be defenders of the liberal tradition. Hobbes and his successors exclude morality from the field of politics, which they see as a mechanism of balance and control. According to them, the state is the expression of the balance of interests. On the other hand, liberals in line with Kant and John Rawls, whose traces are traced in the contemporary world, deal with politics with its moral character. In this line, politics has a moral content in the sense of following the chosen good and respecting the right of others to follow the good they choose. Respecting the choices and goodness of others as well as my own choices and goodness leads to a sense of justice that frees individuals from their selfish attitudes. However, it cannot be claimed that justice has a certain content. The collectivist approach, on the other hand, follows Aristotle’s views on the importance and value of social life. For collectivists, who set out from the claim that man is a social/political entity, the meaning of community is not only the coexistence of equal and free people, but also shared practices and understandings (Üstel 1999, pp. 66-67). For this reason, the actions of individuals have a meaning within social and moral practices. In other words, according to the collectivists, politics is an activity to practice the virtues that have been transmitted through tradition. The ability of individuals to protect the values of their communities within this activity requires political participation.
While liberal democracies reduce politics to a mechanism of balance and control, they see institutionalizations that balance the interests of individuals as carriers of action-oriented values such as morality and virtue. It is the institutions formed by the state mechanism that will ensure the harmony between the interests of selfish individuals. In this case, it is the correct arrangement of institutions that direct individuals to virtuous action. However, for collectivists, moral action and virtuous individual are individuals who represent their values in the public sphere, that is, they participate. Participation refers to the preservation of the moral values of different communities in a society and the harmony between these values. In other words, for collectivists, participation is the representation of different “goods” in the public sphere.
Compiled by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Atatürk University Department of Sociology Lecture Notes for Grade 1 “Introduction to Philosophy” and Grade 3 “History of Contemporary Philosophy” (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook