political morality verus individuality morality

In politics, we tend to think at the very least, governments should strive to treat their citizens equally. It’s wrong to impose burdens on one group just for the sake of burdening them (indeed, this would just be oppression) Alternatively, privileging one group (like funding the group’s religion) without doing the same for other groups is also a type of discrimination. This is well in line with the view that morality should reflect the equal moral worth of all people.

However, one large problem for this view of morality is that it forbids partiality. Can I save my mom instead of two other strangers from some danger. What entitles me to bestow my estate to my children versus other people that may have a claim to it?

Anthony Appiah’s answer to this question is that politics and individual life are two different realms. In politics, we must treat all equally, but in individual life, we are allowed, and sometimes required, to treat people differently depending on our ties to them.

Thus, Appiah denies what I call the congruence hypothesis, which is that morality and politics should be aligned. Politics should be an extension of morality or, morality writ large. Appiah thinks that they are separate worlds governed by different rules.

In another post, I want to take up this question more fully, but for now, I have this observation which I think at least makes the presumption rest with congruence of incongruence: states are large agglomerations of individuals. Imagine a homogenous group that treats each other with special consideration. Pretend that this group creates a state and the state’s laws show favoritism to only people from their group and its practices. If these people can show favoritism in their individual lives, why can’t they now show favoritism when they act in concert? What about the creation of a state makes it impermissible to act with favoritism.


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