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date: 29 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The development of a science of morality, or what he called rational moral art (l’art moral rationnel), is one of Durkheim’s most ambitious endeavors. The very idea of rational art will strike many as an oxymoron. Yet it is precisely at the intersection, and within the tension, of these two terms—art and the rational—that we find Durkheim’s most mature efforts at establishing a science of morality. On the one hand, this science is rational insofar as it is attentive to the actual, lived social practices and institutions of humans in various cultures at various times. On the other hand, this science is a form of art insofar as it employs practical judgment and creativity as it seeks to move from the detailed studies of the social scientist to the reformist critique of social institutions and practices. In short, Durkheim recommended that sociologists join sociohistorical skill to the moral imagination.

Keywords: science of morality, moral facts, ethics, rational moral art, social criticism, moral imagination, Emile Durkheim

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