- Slides: 14
The Role & Responsibilities of Bystanders Immanuel Kant and Thomas Hill, Jr. Oppression & Justice (Fall 2013) Laura Guidry-Grimes
Immanuel Kant on Virtue 1724 -1804 , East Prussia
Background: Kantian Ethical Theory �Human reason as source of knowledge, concepts, duty �Wants to ground ethical duties in necessity �should not be grounded in contingencies of time, place, culture, experience, inclinations (desire, feeling) �Focuses on motivation, rather than the quality of actions or consequences �An action must be done from duty to have moral worth
On Being Properly Motivated �Natural receptivity towards moral duty �Moral feeling : pleasure/displeasure in acting from duty Should cultivate �Conscience : presents duty for acceptance/rejection Should sharpen understanding of what duty requires �Love of fellows : inclination to helping others in their ends Should be produced through practiced �Respect : beneficence reverence for moral law Should recognize why duty compels certain
On Human Dignity �Rational beings have absolute worth in virtue of having capacity for reason �Ends in themselves; intrinsically valuable; not fungible �Must respect self and others as moral equals Contrary to �Servility? �Forcing someone into servility? fundamental duties to self and others in ANY circumstances!
Beneficence& Sympathy �Duty to promote others’ happiness without demanding reciprocity � Should be based on their notions of happiness (avoid unnecessary paternalism) �Obligation matter of degree � Those with abundant means “should hardly even regard beneficence as a meritorious duty on his part” (DV § 31) � Especially praiseworthy “when the benefactor’s means are limited” (ibid. ) � Extreme self-sacrifice violates duties to self �“It is therefore a duty not to avoid the places where the poor who lack the most basic necessities are to be found but rather to seek them out, and not to shun sickrooms or debtors’ prisons” (DV
Discussion Questions �What are some specific ways that you can make yourself more sensitive to, perceptive of, or accepting of your moral obligations? �Are there circumstances where we should not judge someone too harshly for being servile? �What if someone appears naturally servile or seems to take pleasure in being another’s lackey? �Do you agree that highly privileged individuals have a stronger and wider duty of beneficence than others?
Thomas Hill, Jr. on Bystanders Contemporary Neo-Kantian
Types of Responsibility �Backward-looking �Assigning praise or blame �Matter of degree � Depends on ability to do otherwise �Forward-looking �Preventative �Relative to one’s social/political/economic position �“What is the range of things that it is my moral job, as it were, to take charge of—to promote and to protect, or when necessary, to fix or reform? ” (30)
Calling All Bystanders �Contribute to oppression despite being �Well-intentioned �Unaware �Positioned to accept forward-looking responsibility �Having minimal to no causal connection to oppression �Reasons for inaction… �Reluctance to challenge status quo �Risk aversion �Blaming other people or systems �Hidden/masked oppressive forces �Inaction of others �Pressures to conform Do some of these reasons seem better or more compelling than others? Do some actually justify inaction?
Combating Oppression �First-order responsibility: “do what we can to oppose and eliminate oppression, by all morally legitimate means” (32) �Second-order responsibilities: “what must we do to understand implement our primary responsibility” (32) �Apply to primary oppressors, bystanders, and victims to greater and lesser degrees �Contextual
Second-Order Responsibilities �Due care in moral deliberation �Moral perception + sensitivity + coherence checks �Moral self-scrutiny �Take stock of and question motivations, reasoning �Look for deception, misrepresentations, negligence, cognitive dissonance, moral distress �Develop moral virtue �Resist easy, passive path – develop strong will to do the right thing
Respecting Victims �“continuing to be a bystander when one can protest and do something about oppression would be to fail to respect its victims” (37) �Also fail to respect ourselves as moral agents �Are you convinced that bystanders have all of these responsibilities? �How should we prioritize our obligations? For example, are you more responsible for oppression in the United States than in Bangladesh?