Tuesday, June 21, 2016

In Defense of the Democratic Rule of Law in Brazil

Jürgen Habermas, Axel Honneth, Charles Taylor, Nancy Fraser, Rainer Forst, Rahel Jaeggi and many others have signed a 

Manifesto in Defense of the Democratic Rule of Law in Brazil

Many of the philosophers signed the manifesto at a conference in Prague on "Philosophy and Social Science", May 18-22, 2016.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Introduction to Habermas in Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

A new article by Max Cherem in "Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy" (IEP) gives a good introduction to the main themes in Jürgen Habermas's works:

"Jürgen Habermas"

Friday, June 10, 2016

UCD Ulysses Metal awarded to Axel Honneth

Professor Axel Honneth received the UCD Ulysses Medal at a special ceremony on June 7, 2016, at the University College Dublin.

The UCD Ulysses Medal is the highest honour that University College Dublin can bestow. It was inaugurated in 2005, as part of the university’s sesquicentennial celebrations, to highlight the ‘creative brilliance’ of UCD alumnus James Joyce. It is awarded to individuals whose work has made an outstanding global contribution.

Honneth gave a lecture on "Social Freedom, Morality, and Markets"

Previous recipients of the Ulysses Medal include: Hilary Putnam, Jürgen Habermas, Bill Clinton, and Seamus Heaney.

On the occasion of the award of the Ulysses Medal to Professor Axel Honneth a conference on "Freedom Today" took place in Dublin. Speakers included: Frederick Neuhouser, Beate Rössler, Regina Kreide, Kevin Olson, Robin Celikates, and Christopher Zurn.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Papers on "The Legacy of Ronald Dworkin"

The Legacy of Ronald Dworkin

Ed. by Wil Waluchow & Stefan Sciaraffa

(Oxford University Press, 2016)

456 pages


This book assembles leading legal, political, and moral philosophers to examine the legacy of the work of Ronald Dworkin. They provide the most comprehensive critical treatment of Dworkin's accomplishments focusing on his work in all branches of philosophy, including his theory of value, political philosophy, philosophy of international law, and legal philosophy.

The book's organizing principle and theme reflect Dworkin's self-conception as a builder of a unified theory of value, and the broad outlines of his system can be found throughout the book. The first section addresses the most abstract and general aspect of Dworkin's work—the unity of value thesis. The second section explores Dworkin's contributions to political philosophy, and discusses a number of political concepts including authority, civil disobedience, the legitimacy of states and the international legal system, distributive justice, collective responsibility, and Dworkin's master value of dignity and the associated values of equal concern and respect. The third section addresses various aspects of Dworkin's general theory of law. The fourth and final section comprises accounts of the structure and defining values of discrete areas of law

The essays are based on papers presented at a conference on "The Legacy of Ronald Dworkin", May 30 - June 1, 2014 , at the McMaster University, Ontario, Canada.

Contents [preview]

Editors' Introduction

Part I: The Unity of Value

1. A Hedgehog's Unity of Value - Joseph Raz

Part II: Political Values: Legitimacy, Authority, and Collective Responsibility

2. Political Resistance for Hedgehogs - Candice Delmas
3. Ronald Dworkin, State Consent and Progressive Cosmopolitanism - Thomas Christiano
4. To Fill or Not To Fill Individual Responsibility Gaps? - François Tanguay-Renaud
5. Inheritance and Hypothetical Insurance - Daniel Halliday

Part III: General Jurisprudence: Contesting the Unity of Law and Value

6. Putting Law in Its Place - Lawrence G. Sager
7. Dworkin and Unjust Law - David Dyzenhaus
8. The Grounds of Law - Luís Duarte d'Almeida
9. Immodesty in Dworkin's 'Third' Theory - Kenneth Einar Himma
10. Imperialism and Importance in Dworkin's Jurisprudence - Michael Giudice
11. A Theory of Legal Obligation - Christopher Essert

Part IV: Value in Law

12. Originalism and Constructive Interpretation - David O. Brink
13. Was Dworkin an Originalist? - Larry Alexander
14. The Moral Reading of Constitutions - Connie S. Rosati
15. Authority, Intention and Interpretation - Aditi Bagchi
16. Concern and Respect in Procedural Law - Hamish Stewart

See also some of my previous posts on Ronald Dworkin:

* In Memorial Ronald Dworkin - Harvard Law Review (December 2013).

* Jeremy Waldron's tribute to Ronald Dworkin

* Papers on Ronald Dworkin's "Justice for Hedgehogs"

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Axel Honneth/Jacques Rancière - A Critical Encounter

Recognition or Disagreement
A Critical Encounter on the Politics of Freedom, Equality, and Identity

By Axel Honneth & Jacques Rancière

Edited by Jean-Philippe Deranty & Katia Genel 

(Columbia University Press, 2016)

240 pages


Axel Honneth is best known for his critique of modern society centered on a concept of recognition. Jacques Rancière has advanced an influential theory of modern politics based on disagreement. Underpinning their thought is a concern for the logics of exclusion and domination that structure contemporary societies. In a rare dialogue, these two philosophers explore the affinities and tensions between their perspectives to provoke new ideas for social and political change.

Honneth sees modern society as a field in which the logic of recognition provides individuals with increasing possibilities for freedom and is a constant catalyst for transformation. Rancière sees the social as a policing order and the political as a force that must radically assert equality. Honneth claims Rancière's conception of the political lies outside of actual historical societies and involves a problematic desire for egalitarianism. Rancière argues that Honneth's theory of recognition relies on an overly substantial conception of identity and subjectivity. While impassioned, their exchange seeks to advance critical theory's political project by reconciling the rift between German and French post-Marxist traditions and proposing new frameworks for justice.

Contents [preview]

Part I. Setting the Stage

1. Jacques Rancière and Axel Honneth - Katia Genel
2. Between Honneth and Rancière - Jean-Philippe Deranty

Part II. A Critical Encounter

3. Critical Questions: On the Theory of Recognition - Jacques Rancière
4. Remarks on the Philosophical Approach of Jacques Rancière - Axel Honneth
5. A Critical Discussion

Part III. The Method of Critical Theory: Propositions

6. The Method of Equality [lecture in English, audio] - Jacques Rancière
7. Of the Poverty of Our Liberty [lecture in German, audio] - Axel Honneth

Thursday, May 12, 2016

New Book: Philosophy and Political Engagement

Philosophy and Political Engagement
Reflection in the Public Sphere

Ed. by Allyn Fives & Keith Breen

(Palgrave, 2016)

275 pages


Do philosophers have a responsibility to their society that is distinct from their responsibility to it as citizens? This edited volume explores both what type of contribution philosophy can make and what type of reasoning is appropriate when addressing public matters now. These questions are posed by leading international scholars working in the fields of moral and political philosophy. Each contribution also investigates the central issue of how to combine critical, rational analysis with a commitment to politically relevant public engagement. The contributions to this volume analyse issues raised in practical ethics, including abortion, embryology, and assisted suicide. They consider the role of ethical commitment in the philosophical analysis of contemporary political issues, and engage with matters of public policy such as poverty, the arts, meaningful work, as well as the evidence base for policy. They also examine the normative legitimacy of power, including the use of violence.

This volume of essays is dedicated to Joseph Mahon.

Contents [pdf] [preview]

1. Introduction - Allyn Fives & Keith Breen

Part One. Practical Ethics

2. The Role of Philosophy in Public Matters - Allyn Fives
3. On Philosophy’s Contribution to Public Matters [Abstract] - Joseph Mahon
4. Abortion and the Right to Not Be Pregnant [Abstract] - James Edwin Mahon
5. Acts, Omissions, and Assisted Death [Abstract] - Richard Hull & Annie McKeown O'Donovan 

Part Two. Ethical Commitment and Political Engagement

6. Writing as Social Disclosure: A Hundred Years Ago and Now [Abstract] - Alasdair MacIntyre
7. Ethics, Markets, and Cultural Goods [Abstract] - Russell Keat
8. In Defence of Meaningful Work as a Public Policy Concern [Abstract] - Keith Breen
9. Working from Both Ends: The Dual Role of Philosophy in Research Ethics - Allyn Fives

Part Three. The Justification of Power and Resistance

10. Three Mistakes About Democracy - Philip Pettit
11. Karl Marx After a Century and a Half [Abstract] - Allen W. Wood
12. Neither Victims nor Executioners: Camus as Public Intellectual [Abstract] - John Foley
13. Violence and Responsibility [Abstract] - Felix Murchadha

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Jan-Werner Müller on Populism

A new book by Professor Jan-Werner Müller (Princeton University)  has been published in German on Suhrkamp Verlag:

"Was ist Populismus? - Ein Essay

An excerpt is available here: "Schatten der Repräsentation: Der Aufstieg des Populismus". 

An English translation of the book is coming out on University of Pennsylvania Press later this year.

A recent paper by Jan-Werner Müller on populism is available here: "The people must be extracted from within the people" - Reflections on Populism" (pdf)

Excerpts from the paper:
"I wish to suggest that we need a theory of populism as a means to comprehend a political phenomenon that is neither just an ideology, nor a style, nor a particular kind of party or movement.  Populism, I contend, is a profoundly illiberal and, in the end, directly undemocratic understanding of representative democracy. (....)  
Populism is not about a particular social base or a particular set of emotions or particular policies; rather, it is a particular moralistic imagination of politics, a way of perceiving the political world which opposes a morally pure and fully unified – but ultimately fictional – people to small minorities who are put outside the authentic people. In other words, the people are not really what prima facie appear as the people in its empirical entirety; rather, as Claude Lefort put it, first ‘the people must be extracted from within the people’.
Most commonly, but not necessarily, ‘morality’ is specified with languages of work and corruption.  Populists pit the pure, innocent, always hard-working people against a corrupt elite who do not really work (other than to further their narrow self-interest), and, in right-wing populism, also against the very bottom of society (those who also do not really work and live off others). Right-wing populists typically construe an ‘unhealthy coalition’ between the elite that does not really belong and marginal groups that do not really belong either. (....)
While populism does not oppose the principles of representation and the practices of election, what populism necessarily has to deny is any kind of pluralism or social division: in the populist imagination there is only the people on the one hand and, on the other hand, the illegitimate intruders into our politics, from both above and from below, so to speak. And there is only one proper common good to be discerned by the authentic people."

See a video with Jan-Werner Müller's lecture last year in Amsterdam on "What is Populism" and an interview on populism with Jan-Werner Müller in Copenhagen, September 2013.

You can hear his lecture series on "We the People: On Populism and Democracy" held in Vienna in 2013:

* Lecture I: What Is Populism? 

* Lecture II: Intrusions of the People: Ideals of Popular Sovereignty in History

* Lecture III: Real Problems – and How to Respond to Them

Many more papers by Jan-Werner Müller here.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Transcript of Habermas’s acceptance speech at the Kluge Prize Award Ceremory

A transcript of Jürgen Habermas’s acceptance speech at the Kluge Prize Award Ceremory, the Library of Congress in Washington DC, September 29, 2015

Thank you very much for your very kind laudatio.

Mr. Billington, Ladies and Gentlemen, dear colleagues.

(1) Let me briefly explain the ambivalent feeling of gratitude that I experience on accepting this extraordinary academic award.

It is the first American prize that I get and I am the first German awardee. This reminds me of the large number of impressive scholars who were driven out of Nazi Germany and who were afforded the opportunity by this country’s universities to continue their work and to pass it on to very productive students – some of whom have achieved worldwide renown. Among the illustrious circle of German emigres, let me mention at least a handful of eminent philosophers as respresentative for many other disciplines. Theodor W. Adorno, Hannah Arendt, Rudolf Carnap, Hans Jonas, Aaron Gurvitch, Carl Gustav Hempel, Max Horkheimer, Karl Löwith, Herbert Marcuse, Leo Strauss, and Hans Reichenbach.

I had the good fortune to study with some of them and I have learned from all of them. Their achievements far overshadow those for which I am to be honored tonight.

(2) Now, James Billington’s kind suggestion to me briefly to discuss my present work is too tempting to resist. I am sorry to bother you with some rather philosophical ideas.

If we are to arrive – and that is the leading idea – at the correct secular self-understanding of modern Western philosophy, my suggestion is to take our orientation – not only from Aristotle and Plato (that means from our scientific origins) – but also from those specific insights that Western philosophy has gleaned from the Judea-Christian tradition. I am thus interested in the history of faith and knowledge from the point of view what one side - philosophy - appropriated from the other side. 

Christianity is a late arrival among the major religious and metaphysical worldviews, which include Judaism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism and Platonism. The founders of these teachings came about roughly at the same time - basically around 500 before Christ. As a result, Pauline Christianity was exposed from the outset to a twofold pressure of reflection. It not only had to clarify its relation to Judaism and the Hebrew bible, but also its relation to the Platonism of the educated classes of the Roman Empire.

The Church Fathers, who embraced the legacy of monotheism, had to come to terms at the same time with a highly differentiated worldview that was constructed in a completely different way. Nomos and Cosmos took the place of God. This antithesis then also emerged into two competing routes to salvation. Early Christian Platonism had to balance the tension between a mode of communication with God and a contemplative ascent to the Ideas.

In the beginning, philosophical language was tailored – of course – to the ontological respresentation of the encompassing Cosmos, not to the fateful irruption of a transcendent power into history. The contemplative mode of access of the wise men to the Absolute implies a different epistemic attitude from the communicative mode of access of the believer to the divine Logos. The former encounters the absolute One and All as an object of intuition in the attitude of a third person. What the believer encounters in the performative attitude of a participant in communication is not primarily the world. Instead his encounter is the first person meets the Word of a second person.  

Here I am interested in the purely methodological gain of this shift in perspective. In the encounter with Christianity, philosophy learns to take domains of experience seriously that first have to be disclosed performatively through participation in a practice before they can then be made into an object of investigation. In contrast to the contemplative route of the wise men, the communicative path to salvation by participating in a ritual practice opens up the historical universe of a world-wide community of believers.

This difference in attitude and experience inaugurates a long discussion about faith and knowledge that extends from Augustin through Aquinas, Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, and Martin Luther up to Kant, Hegel and American Transcendentalism.

My thesis is briefly the following: In the course of this lenghty process an osmotic transformation of images and narratives of biblical origins into metaphysical concepts took place and thus profoundly changed philosophy itself.

In the present context I can obviously only mention very briefly three exemplary results of this long discussion about faith and knowledge.

First, the philosophical assimilation of the Christian sense of ”sin” led in the Augustinian tradition to a concept of ”the will”, that - in contrast to natural inclinations - does not strive for attractive goods but instead decides between normative alternatives.

Second, the break with the Aristotelian conception of nature in High Scholasticism was also triggered by religious experience of contingencies – quite different from Greek experiences. The resulting nominalist ontology – as you know – of ordered random events first paved the way for the modern natural sciences.

Finally, the conception of an all-powerful voluntarist deity developed from Duns Scotus to Luther, led to the development of the concepts of subjectivity, freedom and individuality that became the foundations of the modern concept of autonomy.

(3) Kant expressed these motifs of thought in a rather sober post-metaphysical style. Nevertheless, he still wanted to answer the old metaphysical questions: What do I know? What should I do? What may I hope for? And finally: What is man?

Originally the great metaphysical systems and world religions had described the place of human beings within the Cosmos or their position in relation to God with a view to the telos of a liberating, a redemptive form of justice. Thus the path to salvation of one or the other form had provided the authoritative perspective from which then the other major questions of humanity could be resolved of a piece, as it were. However the mass of accumulating knowledge about the world – empirical knowledge – could be integrated with that sacred knowledge in the same theoretical language only as long as the different aspects of being, of the good and the beautiful remained intertwined in fundamental conceptions such as Cosmos, God, Nirvana, Yin/Yang, Logos and so on.

As can be seen from Kant’s careful analytical differentiation of the four major questions, this logical connection has dissolved in modern thought. Kant dispensed basic religious and metaphysical concepts – as you know. As a result, the conceptual link which until then had facilitated a logically inconspicuos transition from descriptive to evaluative and normative statements was now misssing.

At the same time, the question ”What can we hope?” lost the superordinate status. Kant placed it on an equal footing with the other questions. Epistemology provides a satisfying answer to the first question concerning proper knowledge of the world. Moral philosophy is responsible for the second question of what justice demands. And the empirical discipline of anthropology is then able to answer the question of the nature of men.

By contrast the philosophy of religion has to explain why philosophy is no longer in a position to declare one and only one exemplary route to salvation to be binding. All men can hope for is that, by leading a moral life, one at least proves worthy of the happiness that one seeks but cannot claim to deserve.

This thin rational faith is a conclusion that Kant derives from Luther’s definitive decoupling of faith and knowledge. But within the framework of this secularized philosophical thinking, Kant still secures a place for religion in the modern world – not unlike Chuck Taylor who, in his major work on the secular age, defends religious faith – under different premises of course – as one of several reasonable options. You can say that Kant could no longer combine the understanding of oneself seemlessly with an encompassing view of the world as a whole. Nevertheless he did not renounce the commitment of philosophy to clarify our understanding of self and the world. But he paid a price for that by shielding the a priori knowledge of philosophy against objections raised in the light of what we know and come to know ever better about the world.

(4) This brings me now to the final episode in my story. The isolation of the ”buffered self” of transcendental philosophy from empirical knowledge has not withstood the powerful movements of detranscendentalization of the mind. With the rise of humanities and the social sciences at the turn of the 19th century, a new continent of history, culture and society was opened up for philosophical reflections. Hamann, Humboldt, Hegel, Schleiermacher discovered that the achievements of our minds are as much reflected in the cultural forms of (what Hegel has called) ”the objective mind” as the minds of subjects are shaped in turn by those intersubjectively shared symbolic and historical realities of culture and society. 

In the wake of the pragmatist, the historicist and the linguistic turns, the trancendental subject has been stripped of the armor of a priori knowledge. The eyes of the detranscendentalized reason have gradually opened for what it also can learn about itself from the world. Now that all of its assertions have become fallible, philosophical self-reflection also has to take into consideration advances of both sciences and humanities.

(5) What does this mean for the commitment that philosophy shared with religion and shares with religion until now? In what ways can it still contribute to clarifying a joint understanding of us, ourselves and how the world hangs together?

Nowadays a kind of post-metaphysical thinking inspired by Hegel, Marx and pragmatism is confronted with a scientific philosophy for which only strictly scientific propositions are - ultimately at least - capable of truth and falsity. It wishes to answer Kant’s question ”What are men?” exclusively in terms of natural science. However, cognition and self-cognition are not the same thing. A scientifically enlightened self-understanding means that we recognize and re-identify ourselves under improved – empirically improved – descriptions. Advances in empirical knowledge about us as objects should not be confused with the kind of decentering of our understanding of ourselves and the world that is triggered by new scientific knowledge. Scientific statements lend themselves to a critical examination of errors about the world that can lead to an enlightened decentering of an understanding of ourselves in the world, but not to its substitution by natural science.

Scientism denies a presupposition that it at the same time makes at the performative level. I mean that reference to ourselves as socialized subjects who - insofar as we relate to something in the world - always find ourselves already situated within the horizon of a lifeworld. Of course, philosophy can explain this self-reference as well only insofar as it grasps the general structures of the lifeworld in the light of what the human sciences teach us. 

Unlike myths and religions, post-metaphysical thinking no longer has the power to generate worldviews. It navigates between religious traditions and secular views, between natural and human sciences, law, literature and art, in an attempt to eliminate illusions from our self-understanding, and in the process also to explore its own limits. 

Nowadays, philosphy is a – if I may say – parasitic undertaking that lives off learning processes in other spheres. But precisely in the secondary role of a form of reflection that refers to other already existing cultural achievements, philosophy can render what is known and half-known in a society transparent in its interconnections and thus, expose it to critical scrutiny. This is what originally was meant by a critical theory of society.

Thank you very much.

[Source: A text published at the website of the John W. Kluge Center; with my corrections.]

A video of Jürgen Habermas’s acceptance speech is available here.

Monday, April 25, 2016

New Book on the Epistemology of Collectives

The Epistemic Life of Groups
Essays in the Epistemology of Collectives

Ed. Michael S. Brady & Miranda Fricker

(Oxford University Press, 2016)

272 pages


Social epistemology has been flourishing in recent years, expanding and making connections with political philosophy, virtue epistemology, philosophy of science, and feminist philosophy. The philosophy of the social world too is flourishing, with burgeoning work in the metaphysics of the social world, collective responsibility, group action, and group belief. The new philosophical vista now more clearly presenting itself is collective epistemology - the epistemology of groups and institutions.
Groups engage in epistemic activity all the time - whether it be the active collective inquiry of scientific research groups or crime detection units, or the evidential deliberations of tribunals and juries, or the informational efforts of the voting population in general - and yet in philosophy there is still relatively little epistemology of groups to help explore these epistemic practices and their various dimensions of social and philosophical significance. The aim of this book is to address this lack, by presenting original essays in the field of collective epistemology


Introduction [Preview] - Michael S. Brady & Miranda Fricker

1. Mutuality and Assertion [Abstract] - Sanford Goldberg
2. Fault and No-fault Responsibility for Implicit Prejudice [doc] - Miranda Fricker
3. On Knowing What We're Doing Together [Abstract] - Hans Bernhard Schmid

4. The Social Epistemology of Morality [pdf] - Elizabeth Anderson
5. Group Emotion and Group Understanding [Abstract] - Michael Brady
6. Changing our Mind [Abstract] - Glen Pettigrove

Political Philosophy
7. The Epistemic Circumstances of Democracy [pdf] - Fabienne Peter
8. The Transfer of Duties [pdf] - Stephanie Collins & Holly Lawford-Smith
9. Four Types of Moral Wriggle Room [Abstract]- Kai Spiekermann 

Philosophy of Science
10. Collective Belief and the String Theory Community [Draft] - Margaret Gilbert & Jim Weatherall
11. Collaborative Research, Scientific Communities, and the Social Diffusion of Trustworthiness - Torsten Wilholt 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

David Graeber & Axel Honneth on "Critique of Bureaucracy"

A discussion between Professor David Graeber (LSE) and Professor Axel Honneth (Frankfurt/NYC):

"Dynamics of the Administered World. 
On the Diagnostic and Normative Relevance of a Contemporary Critique of Bureaucracy"

The discussion took place at the University of Frankfurt on April 6, 2016. Moderation: Rebecca Caroline Schmidt. 

David Graeber's most recent book is "The Utopia of Rules" (Melville House, 2015).

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Honneth receives Ulysses Medal in Dublin

Professor Axel Honneth is to be awarded the Ulysses Medal at University College Dublin on June 7, 2016. The award will be followed by a public lecture by Axel Honneth and a reception.

A conference on "Freedom Today" will be held in Dublin on June 7-8.  Speakers include: Axel Honneth, Frederick Neuhouser, Beate Rössler, Regina Kreide, Kevin Olson, Robin Celikates, and Christopher Zurn. The conference is organized by Maeve Cooke and Danielle Petherbridge.

More information here.

Previous recipients of the Ulysses Medal include: Hilary Putnam, Bill Clinton, Noam Chomsky and Jürgen Habermas.

Monday, April 11, 2016

In Memoriam Hilary Putnam 1926-2016

Some links to obituaries and appreciations of Hilary Putnam (1926-2016):

* Martha C. Nussbaum (The Huffington Post)

* Alan Gilbert (3:AM Magazine)

* Bruce Weber (The New York Times)

* Maria Baghramian (The Irish Times)

* Jane O'Grady (The Guardian)

* The Economist

* Lindsay Waters (Harvard University Press)

* Christiane Chauviré (Raison-Publique)

* Edward Kanterian (Neue Zürcher Zeitung)

* Jürgen Kaube (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) 

* Eva Weber-Guskar (Süddeutsche Zeitung)

* Ofer Aderet (Haaretz)