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Unpublished Paper
Universalism and the Communal Claims of the Self
ExpressO (2014)
  • Leon R Calleja, Brooklyn Law School

John Rawls famously characterized the relationship between autonomy, law, and a just society with the following slogan: “the self is prior to the ends which are affirmed by it.” This idea has been criticized as an inadequate account of values that individuals and communities most cherish in their own lives. In particular, Michael Sandel has critically referred to this as a neo-Kantian ideal rooted in an “unencumbered self,” one that fails to account for significant “obligations that … may claim us for reasons unrelated to a choice.” Sandel calls these “individual or communal claims.”

This paper argues that these communal claims get their normative force from a different notion of autonomy that is nonetheless compatible with the Kantian notion of moral autonomy that puts the self prior to the ends affirmed by it. This other notion of autonomy is found in Kant’s Critique of Judgment, where it is posited as central to aesthetic judgments and values. Accordingly, I refer to this as “aesthetic autonomy” to bring it into relief against the moral autonomy found in Kant’s moral philosophy. I advance a framework that views aesthetic autonomy and moral autonomy working in tandem to give a robust account of the origin and basis for value. Gaining a better understanding of this framework, in turn, can broach constructive discussions on how and why individual and communal claims inform our understanding of human rights and their foundational relationship to law, public policy, and society.

  • Autonomy,
  • Communal Claims,
  • Aesthetics,
  • Aesthetic Autonomy,
  • Self,
  • Value,
  • Unencumbered Self,
  • Morality,
  • Justice,
  • Human Rights,
  • Rawls,
  • Kant,
  • Sandel,
  • Bernard Williams,
  • Charles Taylor,
  • Edward Said,
  • Rorty,
  • Law and Literature,
  • Religion
Publication Date
January 8, 2014
Citation Information
Leon R Calleja. "Universalism and the Communal Claims of the Self" ExpressO (2014)
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