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“Virtue, Obligation and Politics,” Revisited*

  • Richard M. Bank (a1) and Steven R. McCarl (a2)


Stephen Salkever in this Review (“Virtue, Obligation and Politics,” APSR 68 [March, 1974]) discusses two paradigms of politics: one based on the concept of virtue (ancient political philosophy), the other resting on obligation (modern political thought). We analyze the meaning and significance of these two paradigms in terms of the cognitive-developmental moral psychology common to Lawrence Kohlberg, John Dewey, and Jean Piaget. We first present the cognitive-developmental theory and its empirical findings. We then demonstrate that the politics of obligation falls within the virtue paradigm as a necessary stage in the development of virtue, which involves placing Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Rawls within our developmental scheme. Finally, we explore the nature of understanding moral principles from within the cognitive-developmental perspective. In all this, we agree with Salkever's basic assumption that any account of political good (public as opposed to private) must be based on moral psychology, i.e., it must deal with the question of “What is good for the most inclusive of all publics, the human species?” We go two steps beyond Salkever, however, by showing the significance of the question, and by providing an answer to it (both of which bear upon the understanding of morality). An underlying purpose of our research is to present and to promote the political relevance and significance of moral psychology in general and cognitive development in particular.



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1 Salkever, Stephen G., “Virtue, Obligation and Politics,” American Political Science Review, 68 (03, 1974), 7892.

2 Ibid., pp. 81 and 84.

3 See MacIntyre, A. C., “Hume on ‘Is and Ought’,” reprinted in The Is/Ought Question, ed. Hudson, William D. (London: Macmillan, 1969), p. 49.

4 Salkever, , “Virtue,” p. 80.

5 Ibid., p. 79.

6 According to the obligation paradigm, the needs and desires of the individual are either not known, or not knowable, and even if to some extent they are known, they do not lead to moral virtue. Moral virtue is here understood as “the quality on account of whose presence we praise actions and characters as being good.” Salkever, p. 85.

7 Ibid., p. 82.

8 See, e.g., Dewey, John, Human Nature and Conduct (New York: Random House, 1930); Piaget, Jean, The Psychology of Intelligence (Totowa, New Jersey: Little-field, Adams & Co., 1966), and, with Inhelder, Barbel, The Psychology of the Child (New York: Basic Books, 1969); Fischer, Kurt W., Piaget, Learning, and Cognitive Development (W. H. Freeman & Co., 1976); Kohlberg, Lawrence, “Stage and Sequence: The Cognitive Developmental Approach to Socialization” in Handbook of Socialization Theory and Research, ed. Goslin, David (New York: Rand McNally, 1969) and “From Is to Ought: How to Commit the Naturalistic Fallacy and Get Away with It in the Study of Moral Development,” in Cognitive Development and Epistemology, ed. Mischel, Theodore (New York: Academic Press, 1971).

9 Fischer, Piaget.

10 Kohlberg's own research includes a 12-year study of the same 75 boys from adolescence (ages 10–16) through young manhood (ages 22–28) at three-year intervals, plus cross-cultural studies of middle-class boys in Taiwan, Mexico, and Great Britain, together with studies of villagers in Taiwan, Malaysia, Turkey, and Yucatan. A discussion of this research can be found in “From Is to Ought,” pp. 163–183. More recent studies by Kohlberg, and others can be found in Moralization, the Cognitive Developmental Approach, ed. Kohlberg, and Turiel, Elliot (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1973). For a critique of Kohlberg's methodology, see Kurtines, William and Grief, Esther Blank, “The Development of Moral Thought: Review and Evaluation of Kohlberg's Approach,” Psychological Bulletin, 81 (08, 1974), 453470. Kurtines and Grief argue that “the empirical utility of [Kohlberg's] model has yet to be demonstrated.” While their argument deserves attention, it does not compromise the theoretical foundations upon which this article is based. For example, the same three levels of cognitive-moral development that Kohlberg identifies can be found in Dewey, , “Outlines of a Critical Theory of Ethics,” in The Early Works, vol. 3: 1882–1898 (Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1969), especially, pp. 355357. See also, Piaget, , The MoralJudgment of the Child (Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press, 1948).

11 Kohlberg, , “Stage and Sequence,” p. 348.

12 Dewey, refers to such structures as habits: “The essence of habit is an acquired predisposition to ways or modes of response … rather than bare recurrence of specific acts.” Human Nature, pp. 4041. Piaget and Kohlberg categorize such structures in terms of cognitive stages which form an invariant and hierarchical sequence. These stages form an order of increasingly differentiated and integrated structures to solve the same problems at different levels of complexity and abstraction. Higher stages displace (or rather reintegrate) the structures found at lower stages, and the structures of lower stages are therefore both necessary for and available at higher stages. Analogously, calculus is built upon the arithmetic skills of addition and multiplication and cannot precede them; still, the mathematician who uses calculus can also add and multiply. See Kohlberg, , “Stage and Sequence,” p. 351.

13 Seriation of sticks is a standard Piagetian test. It is not an easy perceptual task as the sticks are generally between ⅛ and ¼ inch different in length. A discussion of procedure and the interpretation of various responses can be found in Piaget, , Genetic Epistemology (New York: Norton, 1971), pp. 2829.

14 Most social learning theories do not make distinctions between quantitative and qualitative changes in behavior because both specific acts and general cognitive categories (space, time, causality, etc.) are considered to be reflections of structures that exist outside the individual. Kohlberg writes: “[Stimulus-response theory] explains the learning of logical operations or ‘truths’ in terms of the same processes as those involved in learning a social dance step (which is cognitively neutral), or those involved in ‘learning’ a psychosis or a pattern of maze errors (which are cognitively erroneous).” “From Is to Ought,” p. 152.

15 Ibid., p. 230.

16 This story is based on one of the nine dilemmas which make up the Kohlberg questionnaire most often used to assess levels of moral reasoning. Each story confronts the subject with a moral dilemma, and following each story, an interviewer asks a series of questions designed to bring out the reasoning a person uses in dealing with the dilemma. A brief account of how to use and score the Kohlberg questionnaire can be found in N. Porter and N. Taylor, “A Handbook for Assessing Moral Reasoning” (mimeograph, available from the Moral Education and Research Foundation, Harvard University).

17 Kohlberg, , “From Is to Ought,” p. 194.

18 These structures are the most basic modes of connecting experienced events—e.g., the relations of causality, substantiality, space, time, quantity, logic (referring to relations of inclusion or implication between classes or propositions), and justice (the mode of organizing role-taking experiences). See Kohlberg, , “Stage and Sequence,” p. 350; see also Berlin's, Isaiah rich essay, “Does Political Theory Still Exist,” reprinted in Contemporary Political Thought: Issues in Scope, Value, and Direction, ed. Gould, J. A. and Thursby, V. V. (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1969), pp. 328357, especially pp. 350–351. If stages depended upon acquired associations, reasoning would vary by culture since different cultures teach different associations. While cultural factors cannot alter the form or sequence of development, they may speed up, slow down, or stop development, depending on the variety of experiences they generate. We discuss the types of experiences conducive to development below.

19 Piaget, , Psychology of Intelligence, pp. 78. Dewey draws the same parallel: “ [H]abits are like [physiological] functions in many respects, and especially in requiring the cooperation of organism and environment. … [N]atural operations like breathing and digesting, acquired ones like speech and honesty, are functions of the surroundings as truly as of a person. They are things done by the environment by means of organic structures or acquired dispositions.” Human Nature, p. 17.

20 Fischer, , Piaget, chapter 2, p. 15 (manuscript).

21 Ibid., p. 12.

22 Ibid., pp. 12–13. For a more general account of the process of equilibration, see Dewey, , Human Nature, pp. 81, 169170.

23 Piaget, , The Origins of Intelligence in Children (New York: Norton, 1963). This means that an infant at the level of primary schemes does not associate his various sensory-motor understandings of objects and events. For example, his rattle is not a “rattle” as we understand it, but a series of unrelated tableaux: a sound tableau, a visual tableau, a tactile tableau, etc.

24 Heinz could also take the role of his wife or lhe role of the druggist, but to do so at the conventional level would only define his duties as a husband and as a generalized member of society respectively.

25 The process of reconciling competing claims, or the process of equilibration generally, can be characterized as a process of controlling anxiety at successive levels of abstraction. For a statement of this view in a number of related contexts, see Maslow, Abraham H., Motivation and Personality (New York: Harper & Row, 1954), Becker, Ernest, The Birth and Death of Meaning, 2nd ed. (New York: Free Press, 1971), and Erikson, Erik H., Identity Youth and Crisis (New York: Norton, 1968), pp. 15–44, 91141.

26 Kohlberg, , “Continuities,” p. 25.

28 Kohlberg, , “From Is to Ought,” p. 185.

29 For Kohlberg, “the increasingly prescriptive nature of more mature moral judgments is reflected in the series of differentiations … of ‘is’ and ‘ought’ (or of morality as internal principles from external events and expectations).” Ibid., p. 184.

30 The value of a person's life is successively differentiated from the value of his property possessions, his “usefulness,” his family, his nation, and his individual rights, so that at Stage 6 his life is valued in-and-of-itself, independent of any other considerations. Ibid., pp. 168–169.

31 Ibid., pp. 185, 213. With respect to the “Heinz example,” the druggist's claim to withhold property at the expense of a life is not reversible, i.e., he could not have recognized this claim as valid in the wife's role; on the other hand, the wife's claim to life at the expense of property rights is a valid claim which she could recognize if she were to switch roles with the druggist. Ibid., p. 213.

32 Piaget, writes: “… development [must be] regarded as an evolution governed by an inherent need for equilibrium.” Psychology of Intelligence, p. 49. The same concept can be found in Dewey, , Human Nature, especially pp. 169170.

33 Rawls, John, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1971).

34 As he does with Rawls, Salkever tends to place Rousseau in the obligation paradigm, although he admits the latter sometimes employs the language of virtue, Salkever, , “Virtue,” pp. 85, 92 (footnote 60). We understand both Rawls and Rousseau in terms of the virtue paradigm. Rousseau's theory of the general will is in fact fundamentally equivalent to Rawls's theory of justice as fairness. Rousseau writes: ‘The undertakings which bind us to the social body are obligatory only because they are mutual; and their nature is such that in fulfilling them we cannot work for others without working for ourselves. Why is it that the general will is always in the right, and that all continually will the happiness of each one, unless it is because there is not a man who does not think of ‘each’ as meaning him, and considers himself in voting for all?” Social Contract, trans. Cole, G. D. H. (New York: Dutton, 1950). II.iv., p. 29. For a discussion of the structural nature of the general will, see, e.g., I. vii., p. 17; II. iv., p. 29; II. vi., pp. 35, 37; also, Bloom, Allan, “Jean-Jacques Rousseau,” in History of Political Philosophy, ed. Strauss, Leo and Cropsey, Joseph (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1963), p. 524. Salkever's paradigmatical scheme cannot account for Rousseau's use of the language of legitmacy and his ambiguity about the best life for man without placing him in the obligation paradigm. We understand Rousseau's concepts of legitimacy and the good life in connection with the general will, and thus within the virtue paradigm. Authority is legitimate for Rousseau only to the extent that it expresses the general will, and the life of virtue must certainly include as a minimum obedience to the general will (or legitimate authority).

35 See Salkever, , “Virtue,” pp. 78 (footnote 4), 80 (footnote 13), 82 (footnote 20).

36 Peters, Richard S., “Concrete Principles and the Rational Passions,” in Moral Education, ed. Nancy, F. and Sizer, T. R. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1970), p. 33.

37 Salkever, , “Virtue,” p. 81 (footnote 19).

38 See Rawls, Justice, sec. 60.

39 Peters, , “Concrete Principles,” p. 34.

40 Emmet, Dorothy, Rules, Roles, and Relations (London: Macmiilan, 1966), chap. 4. For Hare's argument, see Hare, R. M., Freedom and Reason (London: Oxford University Press, 1963), and “Universalizability,” in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 19541955.

41 This is not to suggest that in the Greek view there is no objective good unique to man's nature, only that to understand that good requires its subjective experience. See our discussion of moral understanding, below. More generally, any ethic at the principled level will have some content built into it—this is Emmet's point. We claim only that the Greek concept of intellectual virtue. Kohlberg's Stage 6, Rawls's justice as fairness, and Rousseau's general will are structurally compatible, despite any differences in content. See footnote 62, below.

42 Piaget, , Moral Judgment, p. 196, Kohlberg, , “From Is to Ought,” p. 194.

43 See Salkever's, account of economic man, “Virtue,” pp. 8081.

44 Kohlberg, , “From Is to Ought,” p. 164.

45 The expressions “let the buyer beware” and “honor among thieves” might be said to be statements of preconventional justice since they imply reciprocal relationships governed by preconventional concepts of obligation and retribution. Also relevant here are the descriptions of “traditional” societies found in Duvignaud, Jean, Change at Shebika: Report from a North African Village (New York: Vintage Books, 1970); Geertz, Clifford, Peddlers and Princes: Social Development and Economic Change in Two Indonesian Towns (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1963); and Banfield, Edward C., The Moral Basis of a Backward Society (New York: Free Press, 1958).

46 Dewey, , “Critical Theory of Ethics,” p. 356.

48 Kohlberg, , “From Is to Ought,” p. 199.

50 This particular statement of the equality principle is taken from Benn, S. I. and Peter, R. S., “Justice and Equality,” in The Concept of Equality, ed. Blackstone, William T. (Minneapolis, Minn.: Burgess, 1969), p. 57.

51 According to Andrew Reck, the concept of equality “presupposes metaphysically: 1) that each man is an independent, continuant, individual entity or substance, and 2) that each man partakes of the same essential humanity with other men.” Reck, , “Metaphysics of Equality,” in The Concept of Equality, ed. Blackstone, , p. 139. If we consider these propositions as worthy of respect, thus combining the principle of equality and reciprocity as mutual respect, it follows that we ought to treat individuals as ends. Along these same lines, Paul Tillich writes: “The relation of equality and justice depends on the power of being in a man and his corresponding claim for justice. … What is decisive is only that man is considered as a deliberating, deciding, responsible person. Therefore one had better speak of the principle of personality as a principle of justice. The content of this principle is the demand to treat every person as a person.” Love, Power, and Justice: Ontological Analyses and Ethical Applications (New York: Oxford University Press, 1960), pp. 5960.

52 Mead, George H., Mind, Self, and Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1934) and Baldwin, James Mark, Thoughts and Things (New York: MacMillan, 1906), 3 vols. Corresponding to the two processes of role-taking are the notions that moral judgments are based on sympathy for others and that the moral judge must adopt the perspective of an “impartial spectator” or a “generalized other.” Kohlberg, “From Is to Ought,” p. 190. It is an easy step from here to the claim that justice represents an ideal equilibrium of social interaction if one avoids the pitfalls of the utilitarian maximization principle. According to Rawls, decisions by the “impartial spectator” for utilitarians in general are those which maximize the total sum of happiness. Such decisions almost by definition “short-change” some individuals and are not, therefore, consistent with the process of reacting to others like the self. Rawls, Justice, sec. 5.

53 “From Is to Ought,” p. 193. This idea is also central to Hart's justification of the equality principle. Hart argues that any system of morality which incorporates a notion of “rights” presupposes the equality principle. Hart, H. L. A., “Are There Any Natural Rights?” in Society, Law, and Morality, ed. Olafson, Frederick A. (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1961). For a discussion of Hart's argument, see Blackstone, William T., “On the Meaning and Justification of the Equality Principle” in The Concept of Equality, p. 129. In this same regard, Rawls writes: “The primary subject of justice is the basic structure of society, or more exactly, the way in which social institutions distribute fundamental rights and duties and determine the division of advantages from social cooperation.” Justice, p. 7.

54 Just institutions per se may not be enough to generate the opportunities for role-taking necessary for development to the principled or even conventional levels. The institutions of a given social environment must be varied so as to provide, not just opportunities for interpersonal relationships, but a matrix of complex interactions. The fact that the populations of many “traditional” societies remain for the most part at the preconventional level can thus in part be explained. Kohlberg's own research in two isolated villages supports this view. Kohlberg, , “From Is to Ought,” p. 173. Other examples can be found in Duvignaud, Change at Shebika, Geertz, Peddlers and Princes, and Banfield, Moral Basis of a Backward Society. In one setting—Shebika—the case can be made that the role-taking opportunities generated by the presence of Duvignaud's research team precipitated a general movement from preconventional to conventional thought. See Duvignaud, , Shebika, especially pp. 297298.

55 See especially Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics Book 10.

56 Sambursky, S., Physical World of the Greeks, tr. Dagut, Merton (New York: MacMillan, 1956), pp. 241242, cited in Nisbet, Robert A., Social Change and History: Aspects of the Western Theory of Development (New York: Oxford University Press, 1969), p. 21.

57 Nisbet, , Social Change, p. 22. For a standard interpretation of physis, see Strauss, and Cropsey, , History of Political Philosophy, 2nd. ed., p. 3.

58 See Dewey, , Human Nature, pp. 258259.

59 Maturational and environmental theories can be respectively described as involving primarily assimilation or accommodation. See Kohlberg, , “The Concepts of Developmental Psychology as the Central Guide to Education,” a paper presented at the Conference on Psychology and the Process of Schooling in the Next Decade: Alternative Conceptions, Minneapolis, Minn., pp. 23. According to the cognitive-developmental view, maturation serves to open up new possibilities, thus it constitutes a necessary but not a sufficient condition for the appearance of certain cognitive structures. The possibilities thus opened up need to be fulfilled, and for this to occur, the maturation must be reinforced by functional exercise and a minimum of experience. Piaget, and Inhelder, , The Psychology of the Child, p. 154.

60 Dewey, , Human Nature, pp. 1011.

61 Aristotle Ethics Book 10. With respect to Plato's conception of social reform, it can be argued that an interactional account represents an underlying premise of the Republic. The philosopher-kings who are to construct the “ideal” state must develop their knowledge of good without the benefit of the good institutions of such a state. But on the other hand, Socrates and Glaucon hope to derive the meaning of justice from the institutions of the Republic.

62 The major difference between the Greek view, i.e., the virtue paradigm, and the cognitive-developmental perspective is that, from the latter point of view, the Greeks confuse form and content. For example, “intellectual virtue” has content built into it, while Stage 6 is primarily structural or organizational in character. Still, the structural component of intellectual virtue is the structure of Stage 6.

63 Salkever, , “Virtue,” p. 82.

64 Since later stages of development are reintegrations of earlier stages, the latter are both necessary for and available to the former. See footnote 12, above. Thus, while the politics of obligation is justified primarily at the conventional level, it is possible to appeal for support to the preconventional level, as Hobbes and Locke do (see Table 3).

65 Berlin, Isaiah, “The Question of Machiavelli,” in New York Review of Books, 17 (11 4, 1971), p. 23.

66 Arendt, Hannah, “What is Freedom?” in Between Past and Future (Cleveland, Ohio: World Publishing Company, 1963), p. 153. Arendt also makes the interesting point that Christianity understood goodness to consist of acts unrecognized by secular man as good: only in the eyes of God, so to speak, were they recognized. Goodness then was unvirtuous, which helps explain Machiavelli's animosity to the church. Arendt summarizes: “… the problem of religious rule over the secular realm was inescapably this: either the public realm corrupted the religious body and thereby became itself corrupt, or the religious body remained uncorrupt and destroyed the public realm (virtuosity) altogether.” Arendt, , The Human Condition (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1958), p. 77.

67 Hart, H. L. A., Law, Liberty, and Morality (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1963), p. 70.

68 Machiavelli, Niccolo, The Prince, ed. Bergin, Thomas G. (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1947), pp. 2526.

69 Ibid., p. 52.

70 Machiavelli's views of human nature also put him in the middle, at the conventional level. His analysis of power shows that political structure is realistic, but human beings are too wicked to make the principled level realistic. For the former, see The Prince, pp. 24–26, 34, 52; for the latter, ibid., pp. 44–45, 48, 51.

71 Strauss, Leo, The Political Philosophy of Hobbes (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1952), p. viii.

72 Hobbes, , Leviathan (New York: Dutton, Everyman's Library, 1914), p. 66. For similar passages in Leviathan supporting and enlarging this theme, see pp. 70, 74, 88–89, 116.

73 See especially Leviathan, pp. 51–54, 64, 88.

74 Coltman, Irene, Private Men & Public Causes: Philosophy & Politics in the English Civil War (London: Faber & Faber Limited, 1962), pp. 2223. See also pp. 140, 161, 189–191. From within the developmental paradigm Hobbes's reaction to people like Falkland and Clarendon is justified; they do not represent an authentic Stage 6. Martin Luther King and Socrates would be authentic examples, because principled thought must include as well as surpass previous stages—loyalty to the political order (conventional level) must be maintained at the same time that principles are. Morality does not transcend the political realm; the political realm is the schoolhouse of morality.

75 Jacobson, Norman, Thomas Hobbes as Creator (New York: General Learning Press, 1971).

76 The function of politics for Hobbes, according to Table 3, is “order for the sake of civil society.” It is true that civil society is worthwhile because of the values it promotes—industry, culture, navigation, knowledge, arts and letters, freedom, etc. Hobbes's concern seems to be that when those values become uppermost in men's minds, then the pursuit of them may undermine civil society. It is for this reason we describe Hobbes's position as order for the sake of civil society.

77 Strauss, Leo, Hobbes, p. viii.

78 Locke, , A Letter Concerning Toleration, citation in Salkever, , “Virtue,” p. 87. Sheldon Wolin makes the interesting point that liberal man is not so much acquisitive as he is ultra-sensitive to his social position, which is dependent upon property. Acquisitiveness results from the fear of losing status in the eyes of the community—a Stage 4 position. Wolin, , Politics & Vision (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown, & Co., 1960), p. 328. On the political significance of property as economic growth, see Goldwin, Robert, “John Locke,” in History of Political Philosophy, 2nd ed., ed. Strauss, and Cropsey, , pp. 469470.

79 Locke, John, Two Treatises of Government, ed. Laslett, Peter (New York and Toronto: The New American Library, Inc., 1965), p. 396. In these passages Locke describes man as too biased to receive the plain and intelligible standards of right and wrong in the law of nature.

80 Wolin, , Politics, p. 298, citing Fox-Bourne, H. R., The Life of John Locke, 2 vols. (New York: King, 1876), vol. 1, p. 396.

81 Locke, , Second Treatise, p. 367.

82 Ibid., p. 401. Also see pp. 393–394, 412–413.

83 Locke, , First Treatise, p. 244.

84 On the nature and significance of trust in Locke, see Laslett, Peter, “Introduction,” in Two Treatises, pp. 126135. Also see Goldwin, , “Locke,” p. 483: “Locke is profound and comprehensive on the reasons for founding political society, but those reasons turn out to be such that he is prevented by their very character from considering in what direction society should develop after the founding is secure.”

85 James S. Coleman argues, however, that the rise of “corporate actors” restricts role-taking opportunities: “… when [an individual] carries out an action toward a corporate actor, he cannot see himself ever in the corporate actor's place. He will never become a corporate actor. For that reason, he will feel fewer pangs of guilt when he rips out a public telephone or steals paper from the office than he would if he had committed similar acts against a person.” Coleman, , Power and the Structure of Society (New York: Norton, 1974), p. 97. We should also state explicitly that, even in the best of environments, few persons will reach the highest levels of cognitive-moral development. See, for example, footnote 88 below.

86 Dewey, , Human Nature, p. 259.

87 In this respect see Bloom, , Republic, pp. 307436. For example, Bloom writes (p. 410): “He shows what a regime would have to be in order to be just and why such a regime is impossible. Regimes can be improved but never perfected; injustice will always remain. The proper spirit of reform, then, is moderation. Socrates constructs his utopia to point up the dangers of what we would call utopianism; as such it is the greatest critique of political idealism ever written. The Republic serves to moderate the extreme passion for political justice by showing the limits of what can be demanded and expected of the city; and, at the same time, it shows the direction in which the immoderate desires can be meaningfully channeled.”

88 In the “Apology” and “Crito” Socrates understands the conventional level; he is even an expression of it: his loyalty to the polis leads to his death (although his love of philosophy was a factor as well). The jury, however, is not at Socrates's principled level, and cannot appreciate his philosophic activities. What is entailed in understanding a stage is discussed below (901–903).

89 Frohock, Fred M., Normative Political Theory (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1974), pp. 1415.

90 Aristotle, Ethics 1095a.

91 Ibid., 1095b.

92 Schwab, Joseph, College Curriculum & Student Protest (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1969), p. 127.

93 Piaget, , To Understand Is To Invent (New York: Grossman Publishers, 1973), pp. 118119.

94 Ibid., p. 111–112.

95 Ibid., p. 117.

96 Salkever, , “Virtue,” p. 92.

97 Depth of moral understanding has more to do with giving moral principles content than with grasping more and more abstract theories. Giving content to such principles as impartiality, freedom, respect for persons, and consideration of interests requires an understanding of persons which is best arrived at by sharing a common life with them. Breadth of understanding is of equal importance. Awareness of complexity of roles, activities, motives, and rules is important, and knowledge of historical, political, economic, and social facts is indispensable to the process of giving principles realistic content. See Peters, “Concrete Principles,” pp. 53–54.

98 For an account of such principles, see Kohlberg, Table 2; Peters, , “Concrete Principles,” pp. 2955, especially pp. 35–44; Hart, , Law, Liberty, and Morality, pp. 7071.

99 In addition to being open-ended, the developmental perspective is pluralistic: the principles of Stage 6 are not necessarily mutually compatible. The following statement by Berlin can be reconciled with a Stage 6 orientation: “The world that we encounter in ordinary experience is one in which we are faced with choices between ends equally ultimate, the realization of some of which must inevitably involve the sacrifice of others. Indeed, it is because this is their situation that men place such immense value upon the freedom to choose; for if they had the assurance that in some perfect state, realizable by men on earth, no ends pursued by them would ever be in conflict, the necessity and agony of choice would disappear, and with it the central importance of the freedom to choose.” Berlin, Isaiah, Two Concepts of Liberty (London: Oxford University Press, 1958), p. 54.

100 Salkever, . “Virtue,” p. 80.

101 Salkever notes that “Stuart Hampshire argues that any idea of human goodness depends on some idea of the ‘distinctive powers of humanity.’ “We are also arguing that any idea of the distinctive powers of humanity depends on some idea of human goodness. Salkever, , “Virtue,” p. 80.

102 Compare to Strauss: “Hobbes's political philosophy is really, as its originator claims, based on a knowledge of men which is deepened and corroborated by the self-knowledge and self-examination of the individual, and not on a general scientific or metaphysical theory. And because it is based on experience of human life, it can never, in spite of all the temptations of natural science, fall completely into the danger of abstraction from moral life and neglect of moral difference. Hobbes's political philosophy has thus for that very reason a moral basis, because it is not derived from natural science but is founded on firsthand experience of human life.” Strauss, , Hobbes, p. 29.

103 Salkever, , “Virtue,” p. 80.

* The authors wish to thank Dave Bayley, Christopher Deering, Kurt Fischer, Caroline Freeman, David Paulsmeyer, Thomas Schrock, and Peter Steinberger for their critical comments on earlier versions of this article.

“Virtue, Obligation and Politics,” Revisited*

  • Richard M. Bank (a1) and Steven R. McCarl (a2)


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