How is the ethically unacceptable persistence of the unnecessary suffering of extraordinarily poor street children in extraordinarily rich European Union capital cities to be durably remedied? Perhaps centrally, this philosophical essay argues, by re-articulating current inadequate understandings in the European Union of social injustice not as an absence of solidarity but as the failure to imagine and to act on “mutualities.” First presented in 2011 as invited lectures for the Institute of European Studies of the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, this extended reflection explores four central elements of the empirical situations of such extreme child poverty amid great affluence in the contexts of a progressively developed case study of destitute street children in Paris. The essay focuses successively on such utterly destitute children’s poor health, poor housing, poor food, and poor education. In each case outstanding contemporary philosophical reflections on violations of social justice – those of J. Rawls, A. Sen, R. Dworkin, and J. Habermas – are found to be deeply suggestive but finally insufficient for understanding such legally and morally intolerable situations. Yet each may be interpreted as contributing substantively to a progressive re-articulation of at least four critical elements of what a renewed idea of social justice in the European Union tomorrow must involve – “mutualizations” of fairness, understanding, respect, and articulacy.
Peter McCormick is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a Permanent Member of the Institut International de Philosophie (Paris). Formerly Professor of Philosophy at the University of Ottawa, he is Fürst Franz Josef and Fürstin Gina Emeritus Professor of Moral Philosophy of the Internationale Akademie für Philosophie im Fürstentum Liechtenstein. In 2010 the Jagiellonian University Press published his previous set of 2009 Cracow lectures, Aspects Yellowing Darkly: Ethics, Intuition, and the European High Modernist Poetry of Suffering and Passage