Visiting Speakers

Adam Cureton, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

Monday, Jan. 10, 2011, 3:30 p.m., 607 Dale Hall Tower. Everyone is welcome!

Solidarity and Social Moral Rules

According to commonsense, the very fact that our marriage, family,
team or group has and observes a rule is sometimes a non-instrumental
reason for us to comply with the rule ourselves. This appears to be
true even when the rule was originally enacted only because of its
consequences, or when the initial reasons for having the rule no
longer obtain, or when we could do more good on a particular occasion
by breaking the rule. Yet those who endorse sticking to the rules in
such circumstances are accused of ‘fetishizing’ or ‘worshipping’
rules. I argue that when we are in a sort of intrinsically valuable
solidarity with one another, and we have established rules among
ourselves to regulate our behavior, the rules themselves can become a
constituitive part of the very relationship we share with one another.

When this happens, I claim, following the rules can be a way of
standing in solidarity with our comrades and so living up to the
demands of that relationship. This style of argument, which can be
extended to other values as well, can explain why we sometimes have
non-instrumental reasons to comply with rules that were enacted for
their instrumental value, even when those benefits no longer obtain.
I go on to argue that the value of solidarity can give us
non-instrumental reasons to follow imperfect or defective rules, work
to improve our rules and even, on rare occasions, to break the
otherwise good rules that help to unite us.