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Charles Blattberg

"Of course, that to be attacked in common requires that some (reasonably interesting) principle of unity among those attacked is presupposed can reasonably be doubted. Since Rawls settled for a rather pragmatic, overlapping consensus most liberals do doubt it." But Rawls' vision is, while not universal, no less monist. It's precisely the "reasonable" in his "reasonable pluralism" that is supposed to ensure this. Moreover, competitors (who must share a consensus over the rules of their contest) are also participating in a monist endeavour, since the rulebook consists of an (ostensibly) systematically unified set of rules. To monist liberals, then, illiberal parties and commitments are not a welcome source of vitality; rather, they are exceptions that (supposedly) prove the rule. (For more, see https://www.academia.edu/2067323/Taking_Politics_Seriously_-_but_Not_Too_Seriously)

Eric Schliesser

I think we agree about your last sentence.

Charles Blattberg

What about the claim that Rawls is a monist?

Eric Schliesser

I am not sure I agree with the terminology, but I think your underlying point is well taken. You may like what I say about him my piece "The Separation of Economics from Virtue: A Historical-Conceptual Introduction." Economics and the Virtues: building a new moral foundation, edited by J. A. Baker, and M. D. White. Oxford (2015): 141-164.

Charles Blattberg

Interesting paper! I do indeed agree with what you say in it about Rawls (though it seems to me that later, the "political" liberal Rawls abandons one of the features of the technocratic conception of politics, since he no longer sees legislative exchanges as constituting an "objective inquiry" so much as a contest between competing parties, or teams, in a game. Interestingly, this shares much with Knight's view of economic activity as the playing of a game.)

But why, if you believe "Rawls’s approach can be understood as offering a decision procedure that generates unanimity," aren't you comfortable with referring to him as a monist? After all, isn't "unreasonable pluralism" really just "pluralism"?

Eric Schliesser

For two reasons: first, I think monism tends to be associated with metaphysical views. Second, I think Rawls is complicated because his first order normative views are (in complex way) distinct from his views about what unifies and the nature of public rules. So, while I agree with your general diagnosis, I worry that it would also fail to capture something distinct.

Charles Blattberg

Because you agree with Rawls that it's possible for political thinkers to be disassociated from metaphysics?

What do you think of Waldron's claim that "it is impossible to avoid commitment in political theory. If we try too hard to be non-sectarian, we will end up saying nothing"?

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.


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