Relational Morality: Which Relations, Which Morals?

  • Ruth L. Smith
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 165)


I began chewing on questions about constructions of the individual and society in liberal moral philosophies and theologies while a graduate student in religious studies at Boston University. My questions developed in relation to my involvement in feminism, in the study of Marx, and previous work in linguistics. During this process, Bob Cohen was a collegial and generous teacher and the second reader for my dissertation on the constructions of the individual and society in Reinhold Niebuhr and Karl Marx. Our many discussions were marked by Bob’s insistence on careful attention to the text at hand, by his willingness to consider any argument with the same exacting and exploratory style, and by his rejection of all easy answers. For the past ten years I have continued to think about liberal moral constructions and feminist responses to them, often working by immanent critique. In this article I extend this process by exploring the plural notions of society and morality in liberal thinking that become evident when we consider their gender and class relations.1


Middle Class Social Contract Moral Agency Relational Morality Exploratory Style 
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    Ruth L. Smith, The Individual and Society in Reinhold Niebuhr and Karl Marx (Ann Arbor: University Microfilms, 1982). Portions of this article are drawn from ‘Relationality and the Ordering of Differences’, Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 9 (Spring/Fall 1993) 199–214. Both articles bring together arguments I have treated separately elsewhere about the juxtaposition of the moral constructions of gender, class, and society. See particularly, ‘Order and Disorder: the Naturalization of Poverty’, Cultural Critique (Winter 1989–90), 209–229 and ‘The Evasion of Otherness’, Union Seminary Quarterly Review 43 (1989)145–161.Google Scholar
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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

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  • Ruth L. Smith

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