Relative Justice: Cultural Diversity, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility

Relative Justice: Cultural Diversity, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility

Relative Justice: Cultural Diversity, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility

Relative Justice: Cultural Diversity, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility

Synopsis

When can we be morally responsible for our behavior? Is it fair to blame people for actions that are determined by heredity and environment? Can we be responsible for the actions of relatives or members of our community? In this provocative book, Tamler Sommers concludes that there are no objectively correct answers to these questions. Drawing on research in anthropology, psychology, and a host of other disciplines, Sommers argues that cross-cultural variation raises serious problems for theories that propose universally applicable conditions for moral responsibility. He then develops a new way of thinking about responsibility that takes cultural diversity into account.



Relative Justice is a novel and accessible contribution to the ancient debate over free will and moral responsibility. Sommers provides a thorough examination of the methodology employed by contemporary philosophers in the debate and a challenge to Western assumptions about individual autonomy and its connection to moral desert.

Excerpt

Just after the shootings at Virginia Tech University, a reporter for the National Public Radio program Day to Day set out to interview Koreans living in Los Angeles about the massacre. At first the reporter had trouble finding anyone who was willing to answer her questions. Some actually fled from the microphone. Finally, a Korean realtor agreed to be interviewed. He claimed to be deeply ashamed about the incident. The reporter was incredulous: “Why?” she asked him. “You had nothing to do with it!” The man replied, “I know, but he was a fellow Korean.”

In the same week Rev. Dong Sun Lim, founder of the Oriental Mission Church in Koreatown, released this statement: “All Koreans in South Korea—as well as here—must bow their heads and apologize to the people of America.” And South Korean Ambassador Lee Taesik called on Korean Americans not just to be ashamed, but to repent. He suggested a thirty-two-day fast, one day for each victim of the carnage.

Many Americans found this attitude baffling. Why should Koreans living thousands of miles away from Blacksburg, Virginia, feel compelled to apologize, never mind starve themselves, for something over which they had no control? What did they have to apologize for? Adrian Hong, a board member of the Mirae . . .

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