Chapter

Between Bigotry and Nihilism Moral Judgment in Pluralist Democracies

Thomas A. Spragens

in Naming Evil Judging Evil

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2006 | ISBN: 9780226306735
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226306742 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226306742.003.0010
Between Bigotry and Nihilism Moral Judgment in Pluralist Democracies

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This chapter examines the tension between the norms of tolerance and mutual respect, on the one hand, and the virtue of being a person of good judgment and sound conviction, on the other, particularly in the context of democratic citizenship. The exercise of good moral judgment is a problematic virtue in itself. The tension between the necessity of passing judgment and the necessity of forbearing from it is present in the biblical tradition, for example. But it is particularly problematic in pluralistic democracies where people with different moral vocabularies must reach collective judgments. It is argued that the tension between candor and civility, between taking a stand on principle and biting one's tongue in the name of mutual respect, is not wholly resolvable. But a combination of empathy and judgment can lead us to recognize “that human plurality is not simply an obstacle to moral judgment but also a dialectical resource for achieving it”.

Keywords: tolerance; mutual respect; moral judgment; democratic citizenship; empathy; plurality; bigotry; nihilism; pluralist democracies

Chapter.  12392 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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