The fox knows many things, the Greeks said, but the hedgehog knows one big thing. In his most comprehensive work Ronald Dworkin argues that value in all its forms is one big thing: that what truth is, life means, morality requires, and justice demands are different aspects of the same large question. He develops original theories on a great variety of issues very rarely considered in the same book: moral skepticism, literary, artistic, and historical interpretation, free will, ancient moral theory, being good and living well, liberty, equality, and law among many other topics. What we think about any one of these must stand up, eventually, to any argument we find compelling about the rest.
Skepticism in all its forms — philosophical, cynical, or post-modern — threatens that unity. The Galilean revolution once made the theological world of value safe for science. But the new republic gradually became a new empire: the modern philosophers inflated the methods of physics into a totalitarian theory of everything. They invaded and occupied all the honorifics — reality, truth, fact, ground, meaning, knowledge, and being — and dictated the terms on which other bodies of thought might aspire to them, and skepticism has been the inevitable result. We need a new revolution. We must make the world of science safe for value.
Part one: Independence
2. Truth in Morals 3. External Skepticism [draft] 4. Morals and Causes [draft] 5. Internal Skepticism
Part two: Interpretation
6. Moral Responsibility 7. Interpretation in General. 8. Conceptual Interpretation
Part three: Ethics
9. Dignity [excerpt] 10. Free Will and Responsibility
Part four: Morality
11. From Dignity to Morality 12. Aid 13. Harm 14. Obligations [draft]
Part five: Politics
15. Political Rights and Concepts 16. Equality 17. Liberty 18. Democracy 19. Law [draft]
Epilogue. Dignity indivisible.
Boston University Law Review (vol. 90 no. 2, April 2010) brings a number of papers on Dworkin's book, including papers by Thomas Scanlon, Amartya Sen, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Frank I. Michelman, and Jeremy Waldron and a response from Ronald Dworkin. The papers are from a symposium on "Justice for Hedgehogs", September 25-26, 2009, at Boston University School of Law. Videos from the symposium can be found here!
Various drafts have circulated. Excerpts are available here & here.
Abstract: This paper examines the ideology that goes by the name of "constitutionalism." The first part of the paper considers the significance of "written constitutions" The second part of the paper casts a skeptical eye at conceptions of constitutionalisim that emphasize "limited" government. Once "limited government" is contrasted carefully with "restrained government" (restraints upon specific actions by government) and with "controlled government" (e.g. insistence upon democratic control), we see that the association of constitutionalism with general limitations on the scope of government ought to make it a much more controversial ideal than the general anodyne acceptance of the term "constitutionalism" might lead us to expect. Finally, the anti-democratic implications of constitutionalism are explored. The paper argues that, by insisting on limited government, constitutionalism downplays the important role that constitutions have to perform in the modern world in establishing and securing specifically democratic authority.
Abstract: This paper addresses two issues: (1) the use of religious considerations in social and political argument; and (2) the validation of the claims of community against markets and other aspects of globalization. It argues that we should be very wary of the association of (1) with (2), and the use of (1) to reinforce (2). The claims of community in the modern world are often exclusionary (the word commonly associated with community is "gated") and hostile to the rights of the poor, the homeless, the outcast, and so on. The logic of community in the modern world is a logic that reinforces market exclusion and the disparagement of the claims of the poor. If religious considerations are to be used to uphold those claims and to mitigate exclusion, they need to be oriented directly to that task, and to be pursued in ways that by-pass the antithetical claims of community. Religious considerations are at their most powerful in politics - and are most usefully disconcerting - when they challenge the logic of community.
Abstract: The idea that humans are created in the image of God – imago dei – is an idea that John Rawls deployed in “A Brief Inquiry into the Meaning of Sin and Faith,” his undergraduate senior thesis from 1942, published last year in a well-received volume edited by Thomas Nagel. Usually when talk of the image of God is in the air, emphasis is being put on the individual: the individual human person, created in the image of God, commands a certain respect and must not be used, violated, or desecrated – not even for the sake of the greater good of a community to which he or she belongs or with which he or she is associated. But in Rawls’s dissertation it is community that is said to be created in the image of God; the individual human in his or her own right is not dignified directly under these auspices. The community is dignified with the image of God, but because God Himself is a community, on the theology that Rawls is using: God is “perfect community within Himself,” as Rawls puts it, “being three persons in one as the doctrine of the Trinity states.” In this paper, I criticize the young Rawls’s use of this communal image argument. In their introduction to “Brief Inquiry” Tom Nagel and Joshua Cohen say that Rawls’s communal image argument is compatible with (even congenial to) his later insistence in “A Theory of Justice” on taking individuals seriously (and criticizing theories like utilitarianism which fail to take seriously the distinctions between persons). I argue that Cohen and Nagel are wrong about this. I also argue that if one reflects on what I call “the circumstances of (human) community,” one will see that nothing but confusion follows from any analogy (even an idealizing analogy) between human community and whatever community exists in the “social Trinity.”
Jeremy Waldron is University Professor at New York University School of Law.
Abstract: "I will limit myself here to four observations. (1) This confident work, which is strikingly mature for a twenty-one-year-old, merits interest in the first instance as a surprising biographical testimony concerning the work and personality of the most important political theorist of the twentieth century. (2) The philosophical substance of the senior thesis consists in a religious ethics which already exhibits all of the essential features of an egalitarian and universalistic ethics of duty tailored to the absolute worth of the individual. (3) At the same time the posthumous insight into the biographical sources of the author's work offers an outstanding example of the philosophical translation of religious motives. It is as if one were examining the religious roots of a deontological morality based on reason alone under a magnifying glass. (4) The student's senior thesis also foreshadows his later recognition that the secularisation of state power must not be confused with the secularisation of civil society. Rawls owes his unique standing in the sicial contract tradition to the systematic attention he devotes to religious and metaphysical pluralism."
Excerpts "Here we already encounter the characteristic linkage of an uncompromising individualism of a responsible conduct of life with the unreserved egalitarian inclusion of all individuals in the social network of reciprocal relations of recognition."
"An egalitarian universalism is implicit in the powerful image of the Last Judgement when God will perform the paradoxical task of pronouncing a differentiated, at once just but merciful (and ultimately redemptive) judgement on the actions and omissions of each person in the light of his or her individual life history. The young Rawl's sensitivity to violations of egalitarianism is reflected in the elevated position that pride assumes in his catalogue of vices."
"Rawls [....] rejects social self-aggrandisement, the meritocratic "pride" in one's own achievement. This pride poses a treat to the reciprocal recognition of the equal dignity of each individual when someone insists on having praiseworthy achievements attributed to himself as qualifications for being regarded as a superior person. Even when success can be attributed to one's own accomplishments, they in turn required talents and abilities. Regardless of whether a creator God or the lottery of nature decides how such resources are distributed, the beneficiaries may not impute the fact that they can draw upon such a potential to themselves as their own merit.[....] The fact that certain individuals and not others can be classified as a functional "elite" based on success and achievement does not justify any difference in the kind of respect and treatment we owe to equal dignity of each person. The Christian belief in the existence of a unique God before whom all human beings are equal implies, in addition to the egalitarian notion of the absolute worth of each person, the all-inclusiveness of the covenant between God and his people. The young Rawls defends this universalism against what he denounces as the contemporary phenomena of an ethnocentric closing off from others. In the exclusion or oppression of incriminated races and classes, foreign religions, peoples and cultures (195ff), he recognises a generalized "egotism" raised to the collective level: "The development of the closed group has been a distinctive factor in Western civilization. Closed groups are now tearing that civilization to pieces" (p. 197). Just a few years after he wrote his senior thesis, egalitarian universalism would find a historically new expression in international law in the shape of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In contrasts to the Christian community of believers, a legal community can no longer rely upon the ethics of brotherly love but must be founded instead on the legal implementation of rationally justified moral principles which are acceptable to secular and religious citizens alike.
"The history of John Rawls's work exhibits a philosophical reshaping of religious ideas comparable to that undertaken by Kant. The principal features of the religious ethics of community could be sublimated into secular deontology because the triadic pattern of relations we find in monotheistic communities remains intact in the "kingdom of ends" - that is, in the universal community of moral persons who submit to self-legislated moral laws in the light of practical reason. In this case, members do not stand in a direct relation to each other either. Instead all interpersonal relations are mediated by the relation of each to the authority of an impartial "third", namely that of the moral law. The relation of the individual to the single transcendent and unifying God is now replaced by the moral point of view from which all autonomous actors deliberate equally on how they shall behave in the cases of conflict."
"Transcendence no longer breaks into the world from beyond but operates in the world as an idealizing and norm-generating force which transcends all natural processes in the world from within. [....] the triadic structure of the community of morally responsible persons remains unaffected by the transition from religious to rational morality. In "The Theory of Justice" the transcendence sublimated into the moral point of view is embodied in the "original position". This is Rawls's term for the situation of deliberation concerning the correct conception of justice. This situation is determined by equal restrictions on information and equal roles and endowments of the parties involved and is thereby structured in such a way "that the principles that would be chosen, whatever they turn out to be, are acceptable from a moral point of view."
Rawls: An Introduction is a uniquely comprehensive introduction to the work of the American philosopher John Rawls (1921-2002), who transformed contemporary political philosophy. In the 1950s and 1960s, political philosophy seemed to have reached a dead end characterized by a loose predominance of utilitarian theses. Rawls’s conception of liberalism placed civil liberties and social justice at its core, and his extraordinary influence has only been confirmed by the extent of the criticism he has provoked.
The book is divided into three parts which correspond to Rawls’s three major books - "The Theory of Justice" (1971), "Political Liberalism" (1993), and "The Law of Peoples" (1999).
1. Introduction 2. The Theory 3. The First Principle of Justice 4. The Second Principle of Justice 5. The Original Position 6. Reflexive Equilibrium 7. Main Criticisms of Rawls 8. From "A Theory of Justice" to "Political Liberalism" 9. Introducting "Political Liberalism" 10. The State of the Problem 11. Overlapping Consensus and Public Reason 12. "The Law of Peoples"
"John Rawls was the leading political philosopher of the past century. In this illuminating book, Sebastiano Maffettone gives us a complete, coherent, and compelling picture of Rawls′s leading ideas: his liberal–egalitarian theory of justice, his ideas about legitimacy in a pluralistic democracy, and his account of the moral basis of global politics. Maffettone understands that the focus of Rawls′s work shifted, but he sees the deeper continuities in Rawls′s emphasis on the priority of the right and his distinction between the justice of a society and its capacity to elicit the willing support of its members. The book casts a powerful light on Rawls′s work, both clarifying his ideas and explaining their plausibility." Joshua Cohen, Stanford University.
"This is for its size the best introduction to all of Rawls′s major works available. It is also a significant work of scholarship in its own right, with an especially strong emphasis on the continuity of Rawls′s thought. Maffettone′s acumen, expertise and dedication to his subject are in evidence on every page." Leif Wenar, King′s College London.
Under the auspices of the International Research Network on Religion and Democracy (IRNRD). The programme includes: Maeve Cooke (Dublin) Violating Neutrality? Religious Validity Claims and Democratic Legitimacy Christopher Eberle (US Naval Academy) Religion, Respect and War
Peter Jonkers (Tilburg) Religion and Rawls: A Catholic Perspective on Rawls’ Ideas of Public Reason and Truth Patrick Loobuyck (Antwerp) Religious Arguments in the Public Sphere: Comparing Habermas with Rawls Andrew Lister (Quenn's, Canada) Public Reason and Religious Freedom
Andrew March (Yale) Reasonable Pluralism without the Burdens of Judgment? Explaining Disbelief in Islamic Ethics David Rasmussen (Boston College) Accommodating Pluralism: Maffettone on the Later Rawls Mark Rosen (Chicago-Kent College) Why (and to What Extent) Political Liberalism Should Accommodate Perfectionist Religious Groups
Robert Talisse (Vanderbilt) Justificatory Liberalism and Eberle’s Agapic Pacifist
Johannes Van Der Ven (Nijmegen) In Due Time: Rawls on Religion in the Public Arena Paul Weithman (Notre Dame) Religion, Citizenship and Obligation Theo de Wit (Tilburg) The Two Faces of Liberalism: Gray vs Rawls on Religious Toleration See the complete programme here [pdf]
The world is becoming deeply interconnected, whereby actions in one part of the world can have profound repercussions elsewhere. In a world of overlapping communities of fate, there has been a renewed enthusiasm for thinking about what it is that human beings have in common, and to explore the ethical basis of this. This has led to a renewed interest in examining the normative principles that might underpin efforts to resolve global collective action problems and to ameliorate serious global risks. This project can be referred to as the project of cosmopolitanism.
In response to this renewed cosmopolitan enthusiasm, this volume has brought together 25 seminal essays in the development of cosmopolitan thought by some of the world's most distinguished cosmopolitan thinkers and critics. It is divided into six sections: classical cosmopolitanism, global justice, culture and cosmopolitanism, political cosmopolitanism, cosmopolitan global governance and critical examinations. This volume thus provides a thorough and extensive introduction to contemporary cosmopolitan thought and acts as a definitive source for those interested in cosmopolitan thinking and its critics.
Contractualism has a venerable history and considerable appeal. Yet as an account of the foundations or ultimate grounds of morality it has been thought by many philosophers to be subject to fatal objections. In this book Nicholas Southwood argues otherwise. Beginning by detailing and diagnosing the shortcomings of the existing "Hobbesian" and "Kantian" models of contractualism, he then proposes a novel "deliberative" model, based on an interpersonal, deliberative conception of practical reason. He argues that the deliberative model of contractualism represents an attractive alternative to its more familiar rivals and that it has the resources to offer a more compelling account of morality's foundations, one that does justice to the twin demands of moral accuracy and explanatory adequacy.
1: Introduction [pdf] 2: The Limits of Hobbesian Contractualism 3: The Limits of Kantian Contractualism 4: The Structure of Deliberative Contractualism 5: The Normativity of Deliberative Contractualism 6: Getting Morality Right 7: Grounding Morality
Nicholas Southwood is a junior research fellow at Jesus College, Oxford University, and an assistant professor in the Philosophy Program in the Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University.