The Sense of Appropriateness

Application Discourses in Morality and Law

By Klaus Gunther
Translated by John Farrell

Subjects: Continental Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Social and Political Thought
Paperback : 9780791415528, 353 pages, September 1993
Hardcover : 9780791415511, 353 pages, September 1993

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Table of contents

Translators Introduction

Author's Preface

Author's Introduction

Part One: The Problem of Application in Discourse Ethics

1. Justification and Application on the Presupposition of a Semantic Principle of Universalizability

2. Justification and Application on the Presupposition of the Moral Principle (U)

3. Two Versions of the Universalization Principle

4. Application as Discourse

5. Can Justification Discourses be Replaced by Application Discourses?

6. The Application of the Moral Principle

Part Two: The Problem of the Application of Norms n the Development of Moral Consciousness

1. The "Free Application" of Indeterminate Norms as a Result of Societal Rationalization Processes (Durkheim)

Excursus: The Emergence and Following of Rules in Social Processes

1. The Emergence of Situation-independent Meanings in Social Situations (Mead)

2. Rule-following as a "Custom" (Wittgenstein)

2. Mead's Draft of a Universalist Ethics as a Method for the Constructive Formation of Appropriate Hypotheses

3. The Differentiation Between Justification and Application at the Postconventional Level of Moral Consciousness (Piaget and Kohlberg)

3.1 The Development of the Relation Between Equity and Equality in Piaget

3.2 A Provisional Developmental Scenario

3.3 The Development of the Relation Between Equity and Equality in Kohlberg

4. Is There a Contextualist Alternative to "Stage 6"?—The Discovery that "it depends"

5. Is Postconventional Moral Consciousness Rigoristic?

6. Summary: Three Levels in the Development of Types of Application

Excursus: "Phronesis" as an Example of Context-bound Application

1. The Aristotelian Theory

2. Appropriate Understanding: Hermeneutics

Part Three: Appropriateness Argumentation in Morality

1. The Problem of a Conflict of Norms: Prima Facie and Definitive Norms

2. Appropriateness Argumentation as an Experimental Procedure and as a Moral Learning Process

3. Elements of a Logic of Appropriateness Argumentation

3.1 Complete Description of a Situation

3.2 Norm Coherence

Part Four: Appropriateness Argumentation in Law

1. Discourse Ethics' Reasons for the Distinction Between Law and Morality

2. Systems Theory's Concept of Law

2.1 Double Contingency

2.2 Law as an Autopoietic System: Differentiation into Code and Programming

3. The Indeterminacy of Legal Rules

3.1 Hermeneutical Models

3.2 "Integrity": In Search of the Best Justification (Dworkin)





Günther's book demonstrates that most objections to moral and legal principles are directed not against the validity of principles but against the manner of their application. If one distinguishes between the justification of a principle and its appropriate application, then the claim that the application of the principle in each individual case follows automatically from its universal justification proves to be a misunderstanding. Günther develops this distinction with the help of Habermas's discourse theory of morality. He then employs it to extend Kohlberg's theory of moral development and to defend this against Gilligan's critique. In the third and fourth parts of the book, Günther shows—in debate with Hare, Dworkin, and others—how argumentation on the appropriate application of norms and principles in morality and law is possible.

Klaus Günther is Professor of Law at the University of Frankfurt.


"Does the justification of moral principle or rule of law justify its application to particular cases? This is the issue in Klaus Günther's The Sense of Appropriateness. It is handled with great skill and critical insight. This is an admirable performance which makes a serious advance in the Frankfurt approach to the study of rational practical discourse." — D. N. MacCormick, Center for Criminology and the Social and Philosophical Study of Law, The University of Edinburgh