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A Job for Philosophers: Causality, Responsibility, and Explaining Social Inequality

  • ROBIN ZHENG (a1)
Abstract

People disagree about the causes of social inequality and how to most effectively intervene in them. These may seem like empirical questions for social scientists, not philosophers. However, causal explanation itself depends on broadly normative commitments. From this it follows that (moral) philosophers have an important role to play in determining those causal explanations. I examine the case of causal explanations of poverty to demonstrate these claims. In short, philosophers who work to reshape our moral expectations also work, on the back end, to restructure acceptable causal explanationsand hence solutionsfor social inequality. Empirical and normative inquiry, then, are a two-way street.

On se dispute souvent au sujet des causes des inégalités sociales et de la meilleure façon de les corriger. Ces discussions peuvent sembler relever du domaine des sciences sociales plus que de la philosophie. Cependant, l’explication causale des inégalités sociales dépend elle-même d’engagements normatifs : les philosophes ont donc ici un rôle important à jouer. J’examine le cas des explications causales de la pauvreté afin de démontrer ces assertions. Pour résumer, les philosophes qui essaient de remodeler nos attentes morales peuvent également restructurer des explications causales des inégalités sociales — et donc proposer des solutions à celles-ci. La recherche empirique et la recherche normative sont donc en relation de réciprocité.

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*<robin.zheng@yale-nus.edu.sg>
References
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Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review / Revue canadienne de philosophie
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