Arien Mack, Editor
Table of Contents
This special issue of Social Research was occasioned by the publication last year of Avishai Margalit’s important and interesting book, The Decent Society.
Equality and Respect
Presents an article about the alleged moral value of equality. The author proposes to deal with issues that pertain to the moral value of equality. The discussion is motivated exclusively by conceptual or analytic concerns. It is not inspired or shaped by any social ideology or political interest.
Recognition and Moral Obligation
Presents an article about the concept of recognition and moral obligation. It is indeed the case that in one form or another the concept of recognition has always played an essential role in practical philosophy. Thus, in the ethics of classical antiquity the conviction was prevalent that only that person whose modes of action could enjoy social esteem in the polis was able to lead a good life; the moral philosophy of the Scottish Enlightenment is guided by the idea that public recognition or disapproval represents the social mechanism by means of which the individual is prompted to acquire desirable virtues; and in Kant, finally, the concept of “respect” assumes the function of the highest moral principle in the sense that it incorporates the core of categorical imperative to treat every other person only as an end in him- or herself.
Humiliation and the Politics of Identity
Presents an article about the moral and political aspects of humiliation. There are many different ways of maltreating people and there are several ways of classifying these. Recent moral and political theory has focused on four main types of maltreatment: causing suffering, restricting freedom, violating rights, and perpetuating injustice.
Freedom with Honor: A Republican Ideal
Decency is a crucial value in a society, because honor in the sense in question here is of the first importance to human beings. To be deprived of honor is to be cut out of conversation with your fellows. It is to be denied a voice or to be refused an ear: it is not to be allowed to talk or not to be treated as ever worth hearing (Petti and Smith, 1996).
Avishai Margalit’s The Decent Society (1996) is a contribution to a relatively new tradition of books about concrete ethical topics that march resolutely off in the opposite direction from the abstract aridity of most substantial ethical writings of this century. These are philosophically informed and philosophically serious works, but they do not aspire to the argumentative rigor of standard philosophical expositions. The comparative looseness of logical texture makes possible a good deal of experimental thinking, which is more concerned to explore than assertively to conclude.
Responses to Humiliation
Avishai Margalit’s The Decent Society is a contribution to a relatively new tradition of books about concrete ethical topics that march resolutely off in the opposite direction from the abstract aridity of most substantial ethical writings of this century… One would have to carry a very bleak of human life if one were to dissent from Margalit’s governing principle that humiliation and, specifically, humiliation of a society’s members by its institutions is a bad thing.
Amelie Oksenberg Rorty
From Decency to Civility by Way of Economics: "First Let's Eat and Then Talk of Right and Wrong"
Presents an article about social decency, civility and justice and their effects on social and economic relations. There is a discussion of the conceptual and theoretical resources of a decent society as well as an analysis of the basic principles of justice and multiplication of social divisions.
Presents an article about the concept of humiliation. The article comments on the definition of humiliation in the book The Decent Society. It discusses the concept of humiliation in terms of rejection and provides an analysis of the historian's view of humiliation.
Decent Equality and Freedom: A Postscript
Presents an article about the relation between a non-humiliating society and the values of equality and freedom. There is a discussion on the extent to which the decent society must be egalitarian, and the relation between the decent and the just society. The article questions what must be addressed concerning the issue of equality, including the complexities of the caste society in India and the religious categories involved in the administration of holiness.