Comment on Véronique Zanetti: On Moral Compromise

Analyse & Kritik 33 (2):441-448 (2011)
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In this article, I criticize Véronique Zanetti on the topic of moral compromise. As I understand Zanetti, a compromise could only be called a “moral compromise” if (i) it does not originate under coercive conditions, (ii) it involves conflict whose subject matter is moral, and (iii) “the parties support the solution found for what they take to be moral reasons rather than strategic interests.” I offer three criticisms of Zanetti. First, Zanetti ignores how some parties may not have reason to seek social peace at all. Zanetti’s claim that there is consensus on the aim of social peace can involve idealising away from disagreement in a manner that Zanetti accuses Rawls of. Second, even if there is consensus on the aim of seeking social peace, this leaves open the possibility of disagreement about which society different people should belong to. This idealises away from real world conflict concerning borders. Indeed, Zanetti does not mention that her ‘central example’ of moral disagreement, the German Abortion compromise, was enacted in the wake of German reunification. Third, there are at least two things that can be called the ‘German Abortion compromise.’ The compromise that Zanetti speaks of was imposed by the German Federal Constitutional Court. The court declared unconstitutional a law passed in 1992 that had been negotiated in parliament. Zanetti does not dwell on this lack of democratic credentials. Even the substance of the court-imposed solution is itself a dubious example of a moral compromise between parties based on what is acceptable to their reason. (penultimate version - If you would like the .pdf of the final version for personal scholarly use, please contact me through the email address on my profile or my CV.)
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