II Value and Humanity

Individuals, Citizens, Persons

In discussing the interplay between norms and their subjects, individual and collective, my main emphasis thus far has been on the role of norms in the construction (and revision) of subjects. I now shift attention to the norms themselves by inquiring into what their involvement in the construction of their subjects can teach us not just about those subjects but also about the norms. In pursuit of this agenda, the present chapter casts a wide net. The aim is to draw from the meaning-conception of self that I have introduced earlier some implications for the general shape of the practical domain, a domain consisting of the totality of norms concerned with guiding our behavior and shaping our life. I call this all-inclusive field ethics. So understood, ethics comprises two prominent subfields, morality and law. It also includes a third: the less commonly recognized yet highly significant domain of prudence, which consists of norms guiding us toward the accomplishment of our individual aims. In discussing ethics, I begin by inquiring about law. Exploring law’s claim on us, what I call its normative grip, reveals it to be intermediate, in a sense to be explained, between the two other clusters of ethical norms, moral and prudential. Recognizing in this way law’s intermediate position offers in the first place a clue to the kind of authority law itself ordinarily claims. More importantly, situating law between prudence and morality suggests a picture of how all three branches of ethics relate to each other, as well as the way they all relate to their common subject, the human self. As is obvious, all this adds up to a rather tall order, and in this chapter I make in its pursuit only some preliminary and tentative comments.

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