Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Ricoeur's Principle of Civic Inclusion: An Aristotelian Interpretation of Rawls's Theory of Justice

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Ricoeur's Principle of Civic Inclusion: An Aristotelian Interpretation of Rawls's Theory of Justice

Article excerpt

There has been much debate on the issue of priority between redistributive and recognitive justice.1 On one hand, recognition theorists assert that injustice results from the dominant relations of cultural, political, gendered, and racialized misrecognition of society's vulnerable and marginalized members. On the other hand redistributive justice theorists argue that such cultural forms of misrecognition as sexism, racism, ableism, and ageism cannot be fully understood apart from a class analysis of the maldistribution of income, social transfers, old age and disabiUty pensions as well as the exclusion of vulnerable members of society from public institutions of health, education and employment. In this essay, I want to explore Ricoeur's Aristotelian interpretation of the redistribution - recognition debate, and in particular, how he approaches the issue of priority between redistributive and recognitive justice in his reflections on the serial or the lexical ordering of Rawls's principles of justice.2

Recently, Gary Foster has argued that whereas Ricoeur emphasizes the conceptual priority of the good over the right, Rawls's conception of justice as fairness prioritizes the right over the good.3 Foster claims that neither the good nor the right may be shown to have a strict priority over the other. Rather, we may speak of the provisional priority of the right over the good, whereby the idea of justice is continually interpreted through historical and cultural conceptions of the good life. We must go beyond Ricoeur's articulation of the ethical aim, which prioritizes the good, to get at a dialectical relationship between the right and the good. But, as I read Ricoeur's theory of justice, it is both recognitive and redistributive. In developing what he refers to as the lexical ordering of the Rawlsian principles of justice, Ricoeur is not concerned with prioritizing the good over the just, but with developing a citizenship narrative. Rawls's lexical ordering of the principles of justice articulates a principle of civic inclusion, which states that no one is to be excluded from the public institutions of citizenship. This principle of civic inclusion funds the citizenship narrative. It is this civic narrative that gets lost when we become preoccupied by the issue of prioritization between the right (or the principles of justice), and the good (or the ethical intention). Rather than take Foster's issue of priority as a starting point, I begin with Ricoeur's conception of the norm of reciprocity, or the Golden Rule. It is the dialectic of the norm of reciprocity that mediates between the imperative of recognition owed to persons as ends in themselves (reflected in the solicitous care of persons in their singularity) and the imperative of redistributive justice (which extends the ethics of equality articulated by the solicitous care for the otherness of the other to all members of the political community).4 I shall underscore the specifically political character of Ricoeur's norm of reciprocity by following its development through Rawls's principles of justice, reaching in fine the principle of civic inclusion I have here introduced.

From the Problem of Priority to the Norm of Reciprocity

In his concluding remarks on his conception of a mediation between the just and the good, Foster argues that rather than concern ourselves with prioritizing either the right or the good, we are better off thinking of the two notions as co-dependent.5 My own argument departs from Foster's conclusion. In citing Rawls's central claim that justice constitutes the founding virtue of social institutions, Foster goes on to "consider the possibility that justice is not the only 'first virtue of social institutions'"6 but that we would do well to "harmonize" justice with other important social virtues, such as care, emphasized by feminist philosophers. But what a priori meaning could the virtue of justice be held to have, if it did not already encompass the social virtue of care? …

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