Moral Criticism and Structural Injustice

Robin Zheng
2021 Mind  
Moral agency is limited, imperfect, and structurally constrained. This is evident in the many ways we all unwittingly participate in widespread injustice through our everyday actions, which I call 'structural wrongs'. To do justice to these facts, I argue that we should distinguish between summative and formative moral criticism. While summative criticism functions to conclusively assess an agent's performance relative to some benchmark, formative criticism aims only to improve performance in
more » ... ve performance in an ongoing way. I show that the negative sanctions associated with summative responses are only justifiably imposed under certain conditions when persons exercise their agency wrongly — conditions that do not always hold for structural wrongs. Yet even in such cases we can still use formative responses, which are warranted whenever agents fall short of moral ideals. Expanding our repertoire of moral criticism to include both summative and formative responses enables us to better appreciate both the powers and limitations of our agency, and the complexity of moral life.
doi:10.1093/mind/fzaa098 fatcat:x7q5b2lrmrarpkcs2fkpnudd7u