The Category of Moral Persons: On Race, Labor, and Alienation

In Edgar J. Valdez (ed.), Rethinking Kant (2022)
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In this essay, I challenge Charles Mills’s use of the category of moral personhood for advancing a robust anti-racist political critique in nonideal circumstances. I argue that the idea of the moral equality of persons is necessary but insufficient for reparative justice. I enrich the normative basis of political critique to include: (1) a clarification of what the public recognition of moral personhood can legitimately entail as a requirement of justice enforceable by the state, especially with respect to economic reforms that advance equal opportunity and (2) a conception of non-alienated labor that assails identity-based occupational segregation in the labor market. These additional components do not exhaust the plausible bases for political critique, but enrich it in a way that the idea of moral equality alone cannot.

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Elvira Basevich
University of California, Davis


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