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An Aristotelian Solution to the Problem of Internal Minorities

Swinehart, Cynthia (2014) An Aristotelian Solution to the Problem of Internal Minorities. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In this thesis I consider what type of authority religious and cultural minority groups should be allowed to exercise over their members and how the use of this authority can be justified. This has become an important question in political philosophy over the past forty years, as these groups have demanded greater autonomy from the state, while treating their members in ways that are incompatible with liberal commitments to equal protection and individual autonomy. This issue is sometimes referred to as the problem of internal minorities.
Virtually all of the approaches to the problem of internal minorities rely, either directly or indirectly, on the liberal principle of legitimacy. According to this principle, the exercise of political authority is legitimate only if the individuals affected by the use of this authority have consented to it. I argue that the liberal principle of legitimacy should not be used to resolve questions related to the treatment of internal minorities because it presupposes a conception of autonomy that cannot be satisfied by the members of religious and cultural minority groups. Autonomy requires the capacity for sunesis, which involves making accurate judgments about the actions, motivations and advice of other people, especially about what is needed to live well. Because many religious and cultural minority groups are socially and linguistically isolated, impose strict punishments for disobeying the practices of the community and discourage their members from questioning the authority of their leaders, it could be difficult for them to develop this capacity.
In light of these problems, I argue that Aristotle’s conception of eunomia should be used to determine whether the norms and practices of these groups are legitimate. A well-ordered community promotes political excellence and justice as a virtue of character; makes legal decisions based on facts, rather than prejudice or anger; gives honors to the virtuous; and prevents its citizens from being very rich or very poor. Eunomia fosters the moral development of community members, strengthens relationships between them and helps the community achieve homonoia, a condition in which individuals agree about what is in their common interest and do what they have resolved in common.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Swinehart, Cynthiacgs4@pitt.eduCGS4
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairThompson,
Committee MemberSetiya, Kierankis23@pitt.eduKIS23
Committee MemberMitchell, Sandrasmitchel@pitt.eduSMITCHEL
Committee MemberAllen, Jamesjvallen@pitt.eduJVALLEN
Date: 30 May 2014
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 7 April 2014
Approval Date: 30 May 2014
Submission Date: 19 May 2014
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 122
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Philosophy
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: philosophy
Date Deposited: 30 May 2014 12:54
Last Modified: 30 May 2019 05:15


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