Social Space and Moral World-Building
Karen Stohr (Georgetown University), Karen Stohr (Georgetown University)

October 12, 2022, 1:00pm - 2:30pm
Department of Philosophy, Rice University

Houston
United States

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Rice University
University of British Columbia

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Abstract: Our social environments shape our social interactions. It stands to reason that if we want morally better interactions, we need social environments that support those interactions. I construct a Kantian case that we are morally obligated to build certain kinds of social spaces, ones that instantiate what Kant calls the ethical commonwealth. The ethical commonwealth is a community of rational agents committed to their individual and collective moral improvement. I argue that the social environments conducive to the ethical commonwealth must discourage vices like contempt, arrogance, and cynicism. For Kant, these vices threaten the prospects for the ethical commonwealth by undermining moral equality and damaging our capacity for hope in ourselves and in each other. Instead, we should strive to create social spaces that foster the attitudes characteristic of the relationships that Kant calls moral friendships. Friendships, for Kant, involve a finely tuned balance between love and respect, between intimacy and the maintenance of appropriate boundaries. I show how the social space of moral friendship can serve as a useful model for constructing the social space of the broader moral community.

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October 12, 2022, 1:00pm CST

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