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Reconnaissance, identité et intégration sociale

 | 
Christian Lazzeri
, 
Soraya Nour

Reconnaissance et justice

Self-Worth and Social Justice

Heiner Michel

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Introduction

  • 1 I am heavily indebted to the inspiring paper of Seglow Jonathan, “Self-Worth and Egalitarian Justi (...)

1It is good to have a certain level of self-worth. Having self-worth is a constituent and a precondition of a good and flourishing human life. On the other hand, the promotion of a good human life, however it may be conceived, is generally taken to be a core element of justice. This provides reason to examine the relation of self-worth and justice.1

2Part of the background of this paper is the dissatisfaction with the abstractness and shortcomings of contemporary theories of justice, especially its dominant egalitarian strand. Egalitarianism sets out to capture the whole realm of justice with one or two basic egalitarian principles, which are designed to distribute a handful of all-purposemenass—or, as in many recent versions of egalitarianism, only money. Thus, contemporary thought of justice fails to capture the richness of our normative practices, which distributes exchanges or gives in compensation a multiplicity of goods according to a variety of standards of justice, including the importance of self-worth. Thus the investigation of self worth and its relation to social justice is in itself a critique of egalitarianism. Yet the investigation of self-worth and its relation to social justice is mainly of interest on its own.

3The paper sets out with a conceptual investigation of self-worth and the goodness of self-worth. It proceeds with a formal analysis of the basic relation of self-worth and social justice. The importance of self-worth is generally taken for granted. The appeal to self-worth functions as an argument for or against a theory of justice. In the subsequent section, the paper concentrates on one aspect of self-worth: self-esteem. It defends three independent sources promoting self-esteem: merit, luck and recognition. Thus the paper turns explicitly against the dominant political strand, centring on recognition as only source of self-esteem. After a section analysing different layers of self-esteem, the paper explores major shortcomings of egalitarian justice with respect to self-esteem. The final section gives a short outlook on some issues of self-esteem and its relation to social justice, which are requiring further investigation.

Self-worth

4I’d like to begin with some conceptual remarks on self-worth and the goodness of self-worth.

  • 2 Wittgenstein Ludwig, Bemerkungen über die Philosophie der Psychologie, vol. 2, Frankfurt am Main, (...)

51. Self-worth denotes a certain attitude to oneself, in particular one’s status, traits, capacities, projects, and accomplishments. For reasons of convenience, I will refer to these as evaluative features of a person. As attitude self-worth has a characteristic practical expression.2 It shows in someone’s behaviour whether she has a certain level of self-worth or whether her self-worth is damaged or lacking altogether. A typical expression of self-worth is having confidence in one’s abilities, the explicit demand of moral respect, or the self-confident pursuit of realistic projects.

6Apart from practical expression, a further characteristic of attitudes is their temporal extension. Self-worth persists over a certain period of time. This does not mean, of course, that self-worth is not malleable.

72. Two aspects of the goodness of self-worth can be distinguished systematically: self-worth is both of intrinsic and of instrumental goodness.

8a) Self-worth is of intrinsic goodness, because a positive attitude to oneself and one’s evaluative features is good in itself. It is valuable for the experienced quality of one’s life. In contrast to the intrinsic goodness of self-worth, damaged self-worth or a total lack of self-worth is intrinsically bad. Among other things it finds expression as a self-attitude of worthlessness.

9There is the tricky question of how to distinguish among self-worth and happiness. I have to admit that I have no conclusive answer to it.

10b) Apart from intrinsic goodness, self-worth is also of instrumental goodness. It is promoting (or hampering) agency. Self-worth provides the necessary self-confidence for individual self-assertion and the pursuit of one’s projects. Thus John Rawls underlines the instrumental goodness of self-worth, which is in his view “perhaps” the most important social good. Without self-worth:

  • 3 Rawls John, A Theory of Justice, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1971, p. 440.

nothing may seem worth doing, or if some things have value for us, we lack the will to strive for them. All desire and activity becomes empty and vain and we sink into apathy and cynicism.3

113. Two aspects of self-worth shall be distinguished systematically: self-respect and self-esteem.

  • Self-respect refers to our self-relation as moral person. We consider ourselves as having a certain moral status, which implies expecting to be treated in a certain way, seeing oneself as having certain rightful claims, considering oneself as responsible person, and so on.
  • Self-esteem refers to our self-estimation of our evaluative features. We value our personal features in the light of valuable projects, traits, and other good-making features. Self-esteem encompasses moral and non-moral evaluative features. An example for moral self-esteem is the self-esteem gained by helping out a friend who is in dire straits. An example for non-moral self-esteem is the self-esteem gained by being good at something, e.g. being a good cyclist.

124. Self-esteem seems to be an intermediate. On one end of the scale is feeling a complete failure; on the other end of the scale self-importance, with adequate self-esteem somewhere in between. Thus, it is desirable to reach an adequate level of self-esteem—not just a level equal to the level of others.

Self-Worth Based Claims of Justice

13Let us have a first view on the relation between justice and self-worth. There are typical self-worth based claims of justice. Their formal structure has four steps:

  • Having a certain sense of self-worth is good—its goodness is either intrinsic or instrumental or both.
  • X promotes (or undermines) self-worth.
  • Therefore, x is instrumentally good (or instrumentally bad).
  • Therefore, we owe each other x (or we owe each other to be protected from x).
  • 4 Feinberg Joel, “The Nature and Value of Rights”, in Journal of Value Inquiry, n° 4, p. 243-257.

14With respect to step 1 of the argument, it is worth noticing that the goodness of having a certain level of self-worth is generally taken for granted. It is not the case that theories of justice found the importance of self-worth. Quite the other way round: the appeal to self-worth is used as an argument in support of certain conceptions of justice or as objection against others. The presupposition of the goodness of self-worth underlines the moral relevance of self-worth.4

  • 5 Cf. Dillon Robin S., “Self-Respect. Moral, Emotional, Political”, in Ethics, n° 107, 1997, p. 226- (...)

15Step 2 of the argument presupposes that self-worth is not or at least not entirely a matter of natural endowment. Self-worth is considered as depending on certain external factors x. A well-known thesis about a beneficial, self-worth promoting external factor x is the recognition thesis: self-worth is (entirely or mainly) depending on the recognition of others.5

16With respect to step 3, typical examples of an instrumentally good, beneficial factor x are the respect and the esteem of other’s. In contrast, picking on someone or humiliating someone are typical examples of an instrumentally bad, detrimental, and self-worth undermining factor x.

Sources of Self-Esteem

17For reasons of space, this investigation will have to focuses on self-esteem, only. When it comes to sources of self-esteem, the dominant theoretical strand centres on a single source: recognition. In contrast to the exclusive recognition thesis, this paper defends three independent sources of self-esteem: merit—things we bring ourselves about, luck—things we do not bring ourselves about, and interpersonal recognition—being recognised by others.

Merit

18Merit is generally considered to be a major source of self-esteem. According to the merit view those evaluative features are likely to gain self-esteem, which a person has brought about herself—or which she has at least largely brought about herself. Hence possible sources of self-esteem are our actual accomplishments, goals, acquired capacities, and so on.

  • 6 Which is a bit curious, since Rawls vigorously refuses to consider merit as distributive principle

19Probably the most prominent theory emphasizing merit as major source of self-esteem is the one of John Rawls.6 Though he is using interchange-ably the terms “self-respect” and “self-esteem” in the terminology suggested in this paper his notion refers to self-esteem.

  • 7 Rawls John, A Theory of Justice, op. cit., p. 440.

20As sources of self-esteem Rawls cites worthwhile and sufficiently refined goals, which he addresses as “rational plan of life”7 Unfortunately, Rawls leaves unexplained why a good ‘plan of life” and, what is implied, the carrying out of the corresponding activities, should make self-esteem more likely. Usually, performing worthwhile and sufficiently refined activities are considered as paradigmatic examples of human happiness. Yet a conceptual demarcation between self-esteem and happiness is missing in Rawls. As mentioned above, drawing a line of demarcation between self-esteem and happiness is notoriously difficult. Still it remains to be clarified whether worthwhile and sufficiently refined activities do not only contribute to happiness, but also to self-esteem.

21A further argument is wanting in Rawls’s account of self-esteem. It is not really convincing to assume that no evaluative features outside a “rational plan of life” can function as sources of self-esteem. What about outstanding accomplishments, unforeseen in a “rational plan of life” In contrast to Rawlsian suppositions, they appear to qualify as proper merit based sources of self-esteem. What is more, Rawls neglects non-merit based sources of self-esteem, which are to be discussed in the following section.

  • 8 Laitinen Arto, “Interpersonal Recognition: A Response to Value or a Precondition of Personhood?”, (...)

22But before I would like to confirm merit as one source of self-esteem. Valuable features we brought about ourselves are likely enhancing self-esteem. Some are socially useful, other display excellence in a practice with intrinsic value, and so on.8

23Note that the value of personal features is not depending on subjective choice but on intrinsic value. For being of value it is not sufficient to be chosen by an individual, but to be chosen for the right reasons. There is the possibility of personal error, giving rise to an interesting field of investigation of mistaken sources of self-esteem and their consequences for self-esteem.

Luck

24There seem to be other evaluative features, which are not based on merit but nevertheless function as sources of self-esteem. Evaluative features going back to luck are likely to have a positive effect on self-esteem. Luck-based evaluative features are those features, which a person does not bring about herself.

25Though Rawls neglects luck as a source of self-esteem in his account, he mentions the abilities necessary for pursuing worthwhile and refined goals. Abilities are largely depending on talents and, therefore, part of one’s contingent natural endowment.

  • 9 I take the argument and some of the examples from Yanal Robert, “Self-Esteem”, in Nous, 1987, p. 3 (...)

26There are more sources of self-esteem, which a person has not brought about herself and which, therefore, do qualify as luck. Think about a person’s ravishing appearance, which boosts her self-esteem. Or suppose a sheer piece of good fortune improves a person’s self-esteem: her cherished local football club wins the national championship or she suddenly discovers that she is related to Charles de Gaul or the House of Windsor.9

27Or suppose someone’s self-esteem goes down because she feels to be too ugly, or because she experiences some piece of bad fortune: she loses her lovely appearance in a horrible automobile accident. Also the ceasing love of one’s partner is suited to provide a major blow to one’s self-esteem.—I take all these as examples for evaluative features, which actually have a positive effect on a person’s self-esteem—despite not being brought about by the person.

28It may be good advice to tell someone whose self-esteem is low because she feels too ugly, or too poor, or miserable because she has been abandoned by her partner, that these evaluative features should not count. But in fact they do count towards self-esteem.

29Thus I am suggesting a broader, non-moralised notion of self-esteem, encompassing as sources of self-esteem evaluative features a person has brought about herself (merit) and evaluative features she has not brought about herself (luck).

30The tricky question of how to distinguish among self-esteem and happiness comes in here. It might be that certain chance events like winning a huge amount of money in a lottery just add to personal happiness, but not to self-esteem. But this does not hold for every instance of luck. The ceasing love of one’s partner just mentioned has a negative effect on self-esteem and in many cases this will be just beyond one’s responsibility and control. I take it, that the non-neutrality of luck holds also for the other examples just given.

Interpersonal Recognition

31The recognition thesis holds that a major source of self-esteem and of self-worth in general is being recognised by others. Consequently, self-esteem depends not only on my evaluative features as I determine them, but on my evaluative features as others determine them.

32One reason why the esteem of others functions as source of self-esteem seems to be, that others are often in a better position to judge my evaluative features. Thus there seems to be a similarity between recognition as source of self-esteem and personal well being. In both cases, there is no first person authority. One might be mistaken about what is good for one. As well one might be mistaken about the actual value of one’s features. Both, error and self-deception have to be mentioned here.

33But the main reason why the esteem of others serves as source of self-esteem seems to be the need of recognition. We are in need of recognition and experience recognition as intrinsically good.

34Though in principal the estimation of every person may affect one’s self-esteem, the degree of the effect of the estimation of another person is often depending on the relation to the other. If, for example, one holds someone else in high regard, her estimation will have a greater effect on one’s self-esteem as the esteem of someone assessed as incompetent. Thus self-esteem is not a mere reflex, but there is a crucial role of the person, evaluating herself the esteem of others.

35That self-esteem is partly depending on the esteem of person’s we esteem, gives rise to the problem of ideological recognition. A loan shark may enjoy high estimation of her peers for being an especially reckless and, therefore, successful loan shark. In result, the esteem enjoyed among her fellow loan sharks is likely to have a positive effect on her self-esteem. There are immoral evaluative features giving rise to estimation and promoting self-esteem.

36Apparently, there are problematic forms of recognition. This may hold for a society in general. There might be social esteem for worthless or even immoral evaluative features, giving rise to a general problem of ideological recognition. What is more, if social recognition is largely distorted, the need for recognition might result in a dilemma: if there is no other source of esteem at hand, one might have to bow to distorted and personally detested standards of social estimation.

37There is a puzzle: esteem is rather fractioned and fickle. A person might receive appraisal for some of her evaluative features and blame for other evaluative features. Furthermore, esteem for an evaluative feature is liable to change: one day a person might be esteemed for being a good teacher, while on the next day she is blamed for teaching poorly. The puzzle is: since self-esteem is (a) persistent over time and (b) an attitude to the self as a whole, how does this fractioned and fickle esteem of others count towards self-esteem?

  • 10 Simmons Robert, “Blacks and High Self-Esteem: A Puzzle”, in Social Psychology, n° 41, 1, 1978, p. (...)

38Concerning the relation of self-esteem and social justice, there is another difficulty for the recognition thesis. There are cases, where there seems to be a mismatch between social recognition and self-esteem. One example is the robust self-esteem observed in Black Americans. It has been widely assumed, that due to a history of oppression and ongoing discrimination Black Americans would suffer from damaged self-esteem. But surveys on this matter revealed that Black Americans enjoy a remarkably high level self-esteem.10—An explanation why Black Americans were found not to suffer from damaged self-esteem is provided by peer esteem—the esteem Black Americans get in their peer group. If this is the case, peer esteem has to play a major role in recognition politics.

The Recognition Only-Thesis

39Sometimes the recognition thesis is assumed to be exclusive: the esteem of other’s is thought to be the only source of self-esteem. According to the recognition only thesis, a person is able to acquire positive self-esteem by being esteemed only.

40In its exclusive form, the recognition thesis is not convincing. It is in contradiction to common examples, where self-esteem is gained without actual esteem. There is the example of a judge. Quite apart from the actual esteem of others, she enjoys high self-esteem because she is aware of living up to professional juridical standards. Her self-esteem originates from nothing but her evaluation of her good-making features.

41Supporters of an exclusive recognition thesis could respond to this objection by turning to an ambitious value thesis. They could maintain that the very value of evaluative features is set by recognition. Evaluative features would be of value in virtue of recognition only. Thus self-esteem would still exclusively depend on recognition, though in an indirect way.

  • 11 Laitinen Arto, “Interpersonal Recognition: A Response to Value or a Precondition of Personhood?”, (...)

42The reply is problematic. It plays on the ambiguity of recognition and conflates interpersonal recognition of evaluative features and acknowledgement of value.11 But even if we grant the shift to the acknowledgement of value thesis, there is a problem.

43The revised thesis touches the tricky questions of value. I will quickly discuss a weak and a strong reading of the acknowledgement thesis of value. According to the weak reading, only collective acknowledgement discloses what is of value. Without collective acknowledgement, a person cannot access value. According to the strong reading, collective acknowledgement generates what is of value. Without collective acknowledgement, there is nothing of value.

44Important value theories dispute both readings. In the light of these theories what is of value is of value in virtue of independent reasons. Value is not created by acknowledgement. Quite the other way round: acknowledgement has to respond appropriately to value. Acknowledgement has to be consistent with the evaluative features of a person. It has to regard excellence and to despise vice.

  • 12 For an in depth analysis of the relation of value, collective acknowledgement, and social practice (...)

45What is more, the possibility of an appropriate individual response to value is independently from preceding collective acknowledgement of the value in question. An example is provided by the creative discovery of new value. Take the invention of a new kind of sports activity or a new form of musical expression. Both are bringing with them new value and new forms of excellence. In each case, the value of the new practice is independent of actual acknowledgement by others. In each case, the possibility of appropriate individual response to value is independent of the preceding collective acknowledgement of the value in question.12

46The value theory just sketched does not only refute the two readings of the acknowledgement thesis of value, it provides further support for our claim that recognition is not the only source of self-esteem. If response to value has to be appropriate, this seems to hold for one’s evaluative features as well. An appropriate response to one’s good-making features is esteem. Therefore, the appropriate response is self-esteem.

Towards a Complex Notion of Self-Esteem: Basal Self-Esteem

  • 13 Dillon Robin S., “Self-Respect: Moral, Emotional, Political”, in Ethics, n° 107, 1997, p. 226-249.

47There seem to be different layers of self-esteem. To elucidate this point, I would like to present an example of Robin Dillon.13 It is the example of a woman called Ann: though Ann is performing well as a professional and though she is assuaging professional standards, she considers herself as wholly inadequate and a complete failure. She is not able to acknowledge the appraisal of her colleagues and thinks that her screw-ups give a more adequate account of herself than her so-called successes. She lives in fear of the unmasking of her mediocrity. Only in some of her more reflective moments she is able to acknowledge that she is in fact performing well and living up to professional standards.

48The example of Ann suggests that the ability to accept appraisal and the confidence in successfully pursuing one’s goals relies on a deeper layer of self-esteem. Dillon calls it “basal self-esteem” If basal self-esteem is damaged and there is a lack of positive basal self-esteem, this is expressed as inadequate self-estimation of one’s accomplishments and other evaluative features.

49The pain of damaged self-esteem underlines the importance of self-esteem for a flourishing life.

50Dillon gives the case of Anne a feminist reading. In her view the damaged basal self-esteem is caused by the general depreciation of women in our culture. Thus, there is collective responsibility to rearrange the framework of esteem.

51I would like to add, that damaged basal self-esteem might befall all human beings. Kafka’s novel The Trial and the general appraisal of his novel seem to point in this direction. The hero of Kafka’s The Trial apparently suffers from severely damaged basal self-esteem and basal self-respect.

52A widely shared view about basal self-esteem is that its foundation is laid during infancy and childhood. In particular, the validation of agency during infancy and childhood is seen as a major source of basal self-esteem. It is assumed that infants and children transform the attitude to their evaluative features into a self-attitude.

Self-Esteem and Egalitarian Justice

53Rawls’s theory of justice sparked off an intense debate about justice. Taking for granted the central role of equality, the predominantly Anglo-Saxon debate asked for the right space of equality. It is therefore known as Equality of What-Debate. The issue of self-esteem, initially stressed by Rawls, got a bit lost in this debate.

54That self-esteem and self-worth in general have vanished in the course of the debate might have happened because of a by-product view of self-esteem, which is already implicit in Rawls. The by-product view is that, once there is an equal distribution, positive self-esteem will emerge as a by-product of distributive equality.

55There are several problems with this view. First, it has to be shown, that self-esteem emerges as a by-product. The complexity of self-esteem and the diversity of sources of self-esteem cast doubts on the assumption that positive self-esteem will somehow be secured by distributive equality. Just recall that self-esteem is based on good-making personal features and on recognition, not on equality in one space or another.

56As said in the conceptual analysis of self-worth and self-esteem, adequate self-esteem seems to be an intermediate, somewhere in between feeling a complete failure and self-importance. Thus, an adequate level of self-esteem has to be reached—not just an equal level. We all know self-important people who are swollen with self-esteem and obsessed with their own importance. It might be a pain to have these people around. But is it unjust? Rather not. But if egalitarians want consider self-esteem, they have to opt for an equal level of self-esteem and are forced to answer affirmatively. The fact that egalitarianism is not able to take into account the necessity of providing an adequate level of self-esteem is another argument against egalitarian justice.

57There is a more specific worry concerning contemporary egalitarianism. It requires a short digression into the current debate for and against egalitarianism. In contemporary egalitarianism there is unanimous agreement about the basic respect of equality: no one should be better off or worse off because of something for which she cannot be held responsible. That is to say morally arbitrary advantages and disadvantages have to be erased. Because it strives to eliminate moral arbitrariness, contemporary egalitarianism is commonly called luck egalitarianism. A quote from an influential egalitarian, Richard Arneson, may serve as evidence for the diagnosis of luck egalitarianism:

  • 14 Arneson Richard, “Rawls, Responsibility, and Distributive Justice”, in Justice, Political Liberali (...)

The concern of distributive justice is to compensate individuals for misfortune. Some people are blessed with good luck, some are cursed with bad luck, and it is the responsibility of society—all of us regarded collectively—to alter the distribution of goods and evils that arises from the jumble of lotteries that constitutes human life as we know it. […] Distributive justice stipulates that the lucky should transfer some or all of their gains due to luck to the unlucky.14

  • 15 Anderson Elizabeth, “What is the Point of Equality?”, in Ethics, n° 109, 1999, p. 287-337.

58In a vigorous essay, Elizabeth Anderson presents three famous challenges against luck egalitarianism. Two of them apply to our issue of self-esteem, too: the Blame Yourself-Objection and the Stigmatisation-Objection:15

The Blame Yourself-Objection

  • 16 Rakowski Erik, Equal Justice, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1991, p. 79.

People who leap from airplanes, scale cliffs, or whirl around race-tracks knowingly take their lives in their own hands and cannot expect others to foot their hospital bills or aid their dependents if fortune is uncharitable.16

  • 17 Kersting Wolfgang, Theorien der sozialen Gerechtigkeit, Stuttgart, Metzler, 2000, p.252; Kersting (...)

59The blame yourself-objection poses the first challenge to luck egalitarianism and its apparent neglect of self-esteem. Since luck egalitarianism equalises nothing but luck, it does not provide any protection for those who are responsibly bad off. The responsibly bad off do not only comprise, as the quote might suggest, hopelessly irresponsible madcaps, but anyone who’s decision turns out to be devastating, however reasonable it might have appeared in advance. The adventurous sportswoman struck by an accident or the entrepreneur who ruined her firm by a failed investment, both are let down by luck egalitarians. With the cold advice to blame themselves luck egalitarians shrug their request for support off. This is definitively a violation of the unconditional guarantee of humanitarian standards to which every human being is entitled qua being human.17

60But it is also undermining self-esteem. When someone messed it up, this is already a blow for self-esteem. When abandoning those responsible for their misery, luck egalitarian justice adds a further blow for self-esteem. When pointing at personal failure as reason to refuse any help, it issues an official certificate of failure.

The Stigmatization Objection

  • 18 Anderson Elizabeth, “What Is the Point of Equality?”, op. cit., p. 306-307.

61The stigmatization objection is the second challenge for luck egalitarian justice. Luck egalitarians do not abandon everyone. They show concern for the involuntary worse off. Their concern includes those who fared less well in the natural lottery: the ill, he handicapped, the ugly, the unpopular, and the less bright. Having been less fortunate than others is reason for their compensation. But as soon as bad luck of natural endowments is compensated, a problem arises: the compensation of natural endowments is humiliating and stigmatising.18

  • 19 Apparantly misconceived by Richard Arneson who takes the stigmatization-objection as a demand to a (...)

62Natural endowments like talent, handsomeness, affability, and so on are by no means superficial evaluative features, on the contrary, they are constitutive for one’s personal identity. Hence any compensation justified by the inferiority of natural endowments is humiliating and stigmatising for those receiving it and a blow for self-esteem.19 The fact that transfer payments are issued by authorities makes things even worse. It amounts to an official certificate of inferiority.

Self-Esteem and Social Justice: An Outlook

63One of the consequences of the preceding remarks for theories of justice is that self-esteem and self-worth in general requires more attention. Contemporary theory of justice has to take into consideration self-worth as a good of intrinsic and instrumental importance. Needless to say, that the complexity of the matter requires further investigation. I would like to mention three issues in particular:

64First, it is of interest whether all issues of self-esteem and self-worth in general are a matter of social justice. Think again about the ceasing love of one’s beloved partner, which is certainly damaging self-esteem. Nevertheless it appears to be no matter of social justice to compensate for unhappy love or lovesickness. Perhaps it is a suitable matter of some kind of local justice: one might rightfully expect the support of friends. As far as social justice is concerned, a just society might have to support an environment enabling the thriving of love and friendship. Love and friendship should, for example, not be distorted or hampered by considerations of class or, as perhaps one of the main dangers today, by a tyrannical economic sphere.

65Second, it is of interest whether self-esteem is a relational or an absolute concept. If self-esteem would be a relational concept this would mean that self-esteem is relying on the favourable comparison of one’s evaluative features with those of others. Now, if self-esteem would indeed be exclusively relational, this would pose a problem for all those who have no area of excellence and who, therefore, lose out in all areas. Wide spread competitiveness seems to provide evidence that self-esteem is at least in part relational.

66If self-esteem would be an absolute concept, it would be sufficient to be quite good at something or to have a good-making feature. A typical example is provided by professional standards. For the advance of self-esteem, it is enough to satisfy professional standards, for example to be a good judge. One has not to be the very best. On the other hand, there is no doubt that outshining others often enhances self-esteem. This is reason to assume that self-esteem is a mixed concept, which is both, relational and absolute. One gains self-esteem from being better than others but also from living up to absolute standards.

Notes

1 I am heavily indebted to the inspiring paper of Seglow Jonathan, “Self-Worth and Egalitarian Justice”, presented at the Manchester Political Theory Workshop, 2006.

2 Wittgenstein Ludwig, Bemerkungen über die Philosophie der Psychologie, vol. 2, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 1984, § 148.

3 Rawls John, A Theory of Justice, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1971, p. 440.

4 Feinberg Joel, “The Nature and Value of Rights”, in Journal of Value Inquiry, n° 4, p. 243-257.

5 Cf. Dillon Robin S., “Self-Respect. Moral, Emotional, Political”, in Ethics, n° 107, 1997, p. 226-249; Honneth Axel, Kampf um Anerkennung. Zur moralischen Grammatik sozialer Konflikte, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 1992; Margalit Avishai, The Decent Society, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1996.

6 Which is a bit curious, since Rawls vigorously refuses to consider merit as distributive principle.

7 Rawls John, A Theory of Justice, op. cit., p. 440.

8 Laitinen Arto, “Interpersonal Recognition: A Response to Value or a Precondition of Personhood?”, in Inquiry, n° 45, 4, 2007, p. 463-478.

9 I take the argument and some of the examples from Yanal Robert, “Self-Esteem”, in Nous, 1987, p. 363-379.

10 Simmons Robert, “Blacks and High Self-Esteem: A Puzzle”, in Social Psychology, n° 41, 1, 1978, p. 54-57; Taylor Marylee et Walsh, Edward, “Explanations of Black Self-Esteem: Some Empirical Tests”, in Social Psychology Quarterly, n° 42, 3, 1979, p. 242-253.

11 Laitinen Arto, “Interpersonal Recognition: A Response to Value or a Precondition of Personhood?”, op. cit., p. 463-478.

12 For an in depth analysis of the relation of value, collective acknowledgement, and social practice see Raz Joseph, “Universality and difference”, in Values, Respect, and Attachment, Raz Joseph (ed.), Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2001, p. 41-76.

13 Dillon Robin S., “Self-Respect: Moral, Emotional, Political”, in Ethics, n° 107, 1997, p. 226-249.

14 Arneson Richard, “Rawls, Responsibility, and Distributive Justice”, in Justice, Political Liberalism, and Utilitarianism: Themes from Harsanyi and Rawls, Fleurbay Marc, Salles Maurice et Weymark John A. (ed..), Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming.

15 Anderson Elizabeth, “What is the Point of Equality?”, in Ethics, n° 109, 1999, p. 287-337.

16 Rakowski Erik, Equal Justice, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1991, p. 79.

17 Kersting Wolfgang, Theorien der sozialen Gerechtigkeit, Stuttgart, Metzler, 2000, p.252; Kersting Wolfgang, “Praktische Solidarität statt Verteilungsgerechtigkeit: Eine Kritik egalitaristischer Sozialstaatsbegründung”, in Politische Philosophie des Sozialstaats, Kersting Wolfgang, Weilerswist, Velbrueck, 2000, p. 210.

18 Anderson Elizabeth, “What Is the Point of Equality?”, op. cit., p. 306-307.

19 Apparantly misconceived by Richard Arneson who takes the stigmatization-objection as a demand to abstain from the correction of injustice caused by nature, Arneson Richard, “Luck Egalitarianism and Prioritarianism”, in Ethics, n° 110, p. 339-349.

Auteur

Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

© Presses universitaires de Paris Nanterre, 2009

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540