The Social Creation of Morality and Complicity in Collective Harms:A Kantian Account

Williams, Garrath David (2019) The Social Creation of Morality and Complicity in Collective Harms:A Kantian Account. Journal of Applied Philosophy, 36 (3). pp. 457-470. ISSN 0264-3758

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This article considers the charge that citizens of developed societies are complicit in large‐scale harms, using climate destabilisation as its central example. It contends that we have yet to create a lived morality – a fabric of practices and institutions – that is adequate to our situation. As a result, we participate in systematic injustice, despite all good efforts and intentions. To make this case, the article draws on recent discussions of Kant's ethics and politics. Section 2 considers Tamar Schapiro's account of how otherwise decent actions can be corrupted by others’ betrayals, and hence fall into complicity. Section 3 turns to discussions by Christine Korsgaard and Lucy Allais, which highlight how people can be left without innocent choices if shared frameworks of interaction do not instantiate core ideals. Section 4 brings these ideas together in order to make sense of the charge of complicity in grave collective harms, and addresses some worries that the idea of unavoidable complicity may raise.

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Journal Article
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Journal of Applied Philosophy
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This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Williams, G. (2018), The Social Creation of Morality and Complicity in Collective Harms: A Kantian Account. J Appl Philos. . doi:10.1111/japp.12334 which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.
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10 Aug 2018 12:56
Last Modified:
21 Sep 2023 02:26