Social Constraints On Moral Address

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 98 (1):167-189 (2019)
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The moral community is a social community, and as such it is vulnerable to social problems and pathologies. In this essay I identify a particular way in which participation in the moral community can be constrained by social factors. I argue that features of the social world—including power imbalances, oppression, intergroup conflict, communication barriers, and stereotyping—can make it nearly impossible for some members of the moral community to hold others responsible for wrongdoing. Specifically, social circumstances prevent some marginalized people from engaging in what Stephen Darwall calls “felicitous moral address” (Darwall 2006). We should think of some members of the moral community as having “second-class moral citizenship” in ways that parallel second-class political citizenship. The injustice of second-class moral citizenship can be understood by drawing an analogy with Miranda Fricker’s notion of “epistemic injustice” (Fricker 2007). Fricker’s account of how people can be undermined in their capacity as knowers can be extended to show how people can be undermined in their capacity as makers of moral claims, which can be called “claimant injustice”.

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Vanessa Carbonell
University of Cincinnati


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