Thursday, December 22, 2011

Review of Habermas on Religion

In "The New Republic" (December 29, 2011), Peter Gordon reviews:

* Jürgen Habermas - "An Awareness of What is Missing: Faith and Reason in a Post-Secular Age" (Polity Press, 2010)

* Eduardo Mendieta and Jonathan VanAntwerpen (eds.) - "The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere" (Columbia University Press, 2011)

See the review here.

"The broader point, for Habermas, is that the modern commitment to justice seems to draw nourishment from non-rational sources, and many of these sources are religious (though perhaps not all of them). In reference to Kant, Habermas observes that in our ethical reasoning we provide justification in the language of universalistic concepts that presuppose the freedom of the individual. But when we are actually moved to act on our insight into the solidarity of the human collective, we may need more than “good reasons.” For Kant, this apparent weakness in our ethical reasoning could be supplemented by his philosophy of religion. Similarly, Habermas claims, when profane reason is set free to act on its own, it “loses its grip on the images, preserved by religion, of the moral whole - of the Kingdom of God on earth - as collectively binding ideals.” Simply put, profane reason may not retain the requisite strength of motive or aspiration to fulfill its own mission: “practical reason fails to fulfill its own vocation when it no longer has sufficient strength to awaken, and to keep awake, in the minds of secular subjects, an awareness of the violations of solidarity throughout the world, an awareness of what is missing, of what cries out to heaven.”

Peter E. Gordon is Professor of History at Harvard University.

(Thanks to Reza Javaheri for the link).

Monday, December 19, 2011

Rawlsian Explorations in Religion and Applied Philosophy

Rawlsian Explorations in Religion and Applied Philosophy

by Daniel A. Dombrowski

(Pennsylvania University Press, 2011)

146 pages


To probe the underlying premises of a liberal political order, John Rawls felt obliged to use a philosophical method that abstracted from many of the details of ordinary life, but this very abstraction became a point of criticism, as it left unclear what implications his theory had for actual public policies and life in the real political world. Rawlsian Explorations in Religion and Applied Philosophy attempts to ferret out the implications of Rawls’s theory for how we approach some of our most challenging social problems. As Daniel Dombrowski puts it, “the present book is intended to fill the gap between Rawls’s own empyrean heights and the really practical public policy proposals made by those who are government planners, lobbyists, or legislators.” Among the topics examined are natural rights, the morality of war, the treatment of mentally deficient humans and nonhuman sentient creatures, the controversies over legacy and affirmative action in college admissions, and the place of religious belief in a democratic society. The final chapter is devoted to exploring how Rawls’s own religious beliefs, as revealed in two works posthumously published in 2009, played into his formulation of his theory of justice.


1. Rawls, Natural Rights, and the Process of Reflective Equilibrium
2. A Rawlsian View of War
3. Nussbaum, Mental Disability, and Animal Entitlements
4. A Rawlsian Critique of Legacy and Affirmative Action
5. "All for the Greater Glory of God": Was Saint Ignatius Irrational?
6. Rawlsian Religion


"“Despite the immense secondary literature on the work of John Rawls, there has been relatively little that aims to explore the application of his approach to more concrete issues. This is exactly what Dombrowksi provides, extending and applying justice as fairness in discussions of war, mental disability, animals, affirmative action, and religion. While sympathetic to Rawls’s basic approach, Dombrowksi does not shy away from criticizing some of his brief comments in these areas. He also engages productively with the work of Nicholas Wolterstorff, Michael Walzer, and Martha Nussbaum, among others.” - Jon Mandle, University at Albany, SUNY.

Daniel A. Dombrowski is Professor of Philosophy at Seattle University. He is the author of "Rawls and Religion: The Case for Political Liberalism" (State University of New York Press, 2001).

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"Religion without God" - Dworkin's Einstein Lectures

On December 12-14, Professor Ronald Dworkin (New York University) gave three lectures at the University of Bern, Switzerland:

1. Einstein’s Worship

2. Faith and Physics

3. Religion without God

See the three lecture videos here.

Further information here.

"For most people religion means a belief in a god. But Albert Einstein said that he was both an atheist and a deeply religious man. Millions of ordinary people seem to have the same thought: they say that though they don’t believe in a god they do believe in something “bigger than us.” In these lectures I argue that these claims are not linguistic contradictions, as they are often taken to be, but fundamental insights into what a religion really is.

A religious attitude involves moral and cosmic convictions beyond simply a belief in god: that people have an innate, inescapable responsibility to make something valuable of their lives and that the natural universe is gloriously, mysteriously wonderful. Religious people accept such convictions as matters of faith rather than evidence and as personality-defining creeds that play a pervasive role in their lives.

In these lectures I argue that a belief in god is not only not essential to the religious attitude but is actually irrelevant to that attitude. The existence or non-existence of a god does not even bear on the question of people’s intrinsic ethical responsibility or their glorification of the universe. I do not argue either for or against the existence of a god, but only that a god’s existence can make no difference to the truth of religious values. If a god exists, perhaps he can send people to Heaven or Hell. But he cannot create right answers to moral questions or instill the universe with a glory it would not otherwise have.

How, then, can we defend a religious attitude if we cannot rely on a god? In the first lecture I offer a godless argument that moral and ethical values are objectively real: They do not depend on god, but neither are they just subjective or relative to cultures. They are objective and universal. In the second lecture I concentrate on Einstein’s own religion: his bewitchment by the universe. What kind of beauty might the vast universe be thought to hold – what analogy to more familiar sources of beauty is most suggestive? I propose that the beauty basic physicists really hope to find is the beauty of a powerful, profound mathematical proof. Godly religions insist that though god explains everything his own existence need not be explained because he necessarily exists. Religious atheists like Einstein have, I believe, a parallel faith: that when a unifying theory of everything is found it will be not only simple but, in the way of mathematics, inevitable. They dream of a new kind of necessity: cosmic necessity.

In the third lecture, I consider the moral and political consequences of fully recognizing godless religion. Constitutions and international treaties across the world declare a right to religious freedom. We must understand this to protect godless as well as godly religions, and this important extension requires complex adjustments in human rights practice. It requires a difficult but indispensible distinction between personal questions about the nature and value of human life, which people must be allowed to decide for themselves, and questions of justice that a community must answer collectively. I end the three lectures by examining, in that light, a variety of controversial topics: state-supported religion, harmful religious rituals, homosexuality, abortion, and the banning of crucifixes, headscarves, burkas or minarets in public places."

See also Ronald Dworkin's paper "Religion without God" at the "Colloquium in Legal, Political and Social Philosophy", New York University.

Ronald Dworkin is Professor of Philosophy at New York University. His latest book is "Justice for Hedgehogs" (Belknap Press, 2011). See my posts on the book here and here.

Lecture Videos on Normativity

The latest three lecture videos from the the Cluster of Excellence "The Formation of Normative Orders", Goethe-University Frankfurt, November 2011:

Professor Thomas M. Schmidt (Frankfurt):
"Die „Heiligkeit des Rechts". Autonomie und Autorität normativer Geltung"
November 2, 2011

Professor Stefan Gosepath (Frankfurt):
"Die soziale Natur der Normativität"
November 9, 2011

Professor Peter Niesen (Darmstadt):
"Zwei Modelle kosmopolitischer Normativität"
November 23, 2011

See the three lectures here.

See my post on the lectures series here.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

William Rehg reviews "Recognition and Social Ontology"

In "Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews" (December 2011), William Rehg reviews "Recognition and Social Ontology" (Brill, 2011) edited by Heikki Ikäheimo and Arto Laitinen:

Review: "Recognition and Social Ontology"

In assembling the contributions to Recognition and Social Ontology, the editors aim to bring together "two contemporary, intensively debated fields of inquiry: Hegel-inspired theories of recognition (Anerkennung) and analytic social ontology". Considering the difficulty of this goal, the collection does rather well overall. Robert Brandom, whose own work deeply embodies the analytic engagement with Hegel, provides the lead contribution. Brandom's chapter in turn provokes critical reactions in several subsequent chapters. A number of chapters attempt to show how Hegel can inform analytic social philosophy. And chapters that do not explicitly focus on Hegel nonetheless contribute to the analysis of mutual recognition.(....)

The second part of the book widens the scope of discussion. Three of the four chapters examine the relevance of Hegel for contemporary thought. Ludwig Siep opens with a helpful critical overview of recent attempts by Brandom, Pippin, Pinkard, Honneth, Taylor, and Ricoeur to put Hegel's conception of mutual recognition to work on contemporary concerns. Siep has doubts about this trend. The idea of recognition, he argues, lacks the resources to deal with three problems in social philosophy: distributive justice, cultural pluralism, and the relationship between humanity and nature.

See my previous post on the book here (with links to some of the essays).

William Rehg is Professor of Philosohy at Saint Louis University. He is the author of the excellent "Insight and Solidarity: A Study in the Discourse Ethics of Jürgen Habermas" (University of California Press, 1994) and co-editor (with James Bohman) of "Pluralism and the Pragmatic Turn: The Transformation of Critical Theory" (MIT Press, 2001) and "Deliberative Democracy: Essays on Politics and Reasons" (MIT Press, 1997). William Rehg is the translator of Jürgen Habermas's "Between Facts and Norms" (MIT Press, 1996).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Essays on Comtemporary Philosophy of Human Rights

Philosophical Dimensions of Human Rights:
Some Contemporary Views

Ed. by Claudio Corradetti

(Springer Verlag, 2012)


This book presents a unique collection of the most relevant perspectives in contemporary human rights philosophy. Different intellectual traditions are brought together to explore some of the core postmodern issues challenging standard justifications. Widely accessible also to non experts, contributions aim at opening new perspectives on the state of the art of the philosophy of human rights. This makes this book particularly suitable to human rights experts as well as master and doctoral students.
Further, while conceived in a uniform and homogeneous way, the book is internally organized around three central themes: an introduction to theories of rights and their relation to values; a set of contributions presenting some of the most influential contemporary strategies; and finally a number of articles evaluating those empirical challenges springing from the implementation of human rights. This specific set-up of the book provides readers with a stimulating presentation of a growing and interconnecting number of problems that post-natural law theories face today.

Content [Preview]

Introduction - Claudio Corradetti

Part 1: Historical and Philosophical Perspectives on Human Rights

1. Human Rights in History and Contemporary Practice - Jeffrey Flynn
2. Philosophy and Human Rights: Contemporary Perspectives - David Reidy
3. Reconsidering Realism on Rights - William E. Scheuerman

Part 2: The Validit(ies) of Human Rights

4. The Concept of Human Dignity and the Realistic Utopia of Human Rights - Jürgen Habermas [Abstract]
5. The Justification of Human Rights and the Basic Right to Justification - Rainer Forst
6. Social Harm, Political Judgment, and the Pragmatics of Justification - Albena Azmanova
7. “It All Depends”: The Universal and the Contingent in Human Rights - Wojciech Sadurski
8. Tiny Sparks of Contingency. On the Aesthetics of Human Rights - Giovanna Borradori
9. The Idea of a Charter of Fundamental Human Rights - Alessandro Ferrara

Part 3: Democracy and Human Rights

10. Is There a Human Right to Democracy? - Seyla Benhabib
11. Dialectical Snares: Human Rights and Democracy in the World Society - Hauke Brunkhorst
12. The Normality of Constitutional Politics: an Analysis of the Drafting of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights - Richard Bellamy & Justus Schönlau
13. Rights in Progress: The Politics of Rights and the Democracy-Building Processes in Comparative Perspective - Lorella Cedroni
14. Ethnopolitics. The Challenge for Human and Minority Rights Protection - Joseph Marko
15. Human Rights in the Information Society - Giovanni Sartor

Claudio Corradetti is Senior Researcher at The European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano (EURAC). He is the author of "Relativism and Human Rights. A Theory of Pluralistic Universalism" (Springer Verlag, 2009)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

New Book: "The Right to Justification" by Rainer Forst

The Right to Justification
Elements of a Constructivist Theory of Justice

by Rainer Forst

(Columbia University Press, 2011)

368 pages


Contemporary philosophical pluralism recognizes the inevitability and legitimacy of multiple ethical perspectives and values, making it difficult to isolate the higher-order principles on which to base a theory of justice. Rising up to meet this challenge, Rainer Forst, a leading member of the Frankfurt School’s newest generation of philosophers, conceives of an “autonomous” construction of justice founded on what he calls the basic moral right to justification.
Forst begins by identifying this right from the perspective of moral philosophy. Then, through an innovative, detailed critical analysis, he ties together the central components of social and political justice - freedom, democracy, equality, and toleration - and joins them to the right to justification. The resulting theory treats “justificatory power” as the central question of justice, and by adopting this approach, Forst argues, we can discursively work out, or “construct,” principles of justice, especially with respect to transnational justice and human rights issues.
As he builds his theory, Forst engages with the work of Anglo-American philosophers such as John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, and Amartya Sen, and critical theorists such as Jürgen Habermas, Nancy Fraser, and Axel Honneth.

Content [Preview]


Part 1: Foundations: Practical Reason,Morality, and Justice

1. Practical Reason and Justifying Reasons
2. Moral Autonomy and the Autonomy of Morality
3. Ethics and Morality
4. The Justification of Justice: Rawls's Political Liberalism and Habermas's Discourse Theory in Dialogue

Part 2: Political and Social Justice

5. Political Liberty: Integrating Five Conceptions of Autonomy
6. A Critical Theory of Multicultural Tolerance
7. The Rule of Reasons: Three Models of Deliberative Democracy
8. Social Justice, Justification, and Justice

Part 3: Human Rights and Transnational Justice

9. The Basic Right to Justification
10. Constructions of Transnational Justice
11. Justice, Morality, and Power in the Global Context
12. Toward a Critical Theory of Transnational Justice
Translation of "Das Recht auf Rechtfertigung. Elemente einer konstruktivistischen Theorie der Gerechtigkeit" (Suhrkamp Verlag, 2007). Translated by Jeffrey Flynn, Fordham University.


"Rainer Forst is at the forefront of the exciting encounter between critical social theory and Anglo-American normative philosophy. His work is a worthy successor to the Rawls-Habermas dialogue, which ended all too quickly. This work documents his systematic attempt to build a theory of human rights and democratic justice, beginning with the principle of the right to justification. He writes with grace and wit; this book will be widely read." - Seyla Benhabib, Yale University

"In his ambitious masterpiece, Toleration in Conflict, Rainer Forst laid the groundwork for an innovative concept, the right to justification. Here he has developed this prolific idea in a systematic manner, establishing a compelling and original political theory. Forst, a brilliant scholar, deserves his reputation as one of the leading political philosophers of his generation." - Jürgen Habermas

Rainer Forst is Professor of Political Theory and Philosophy at Goethe University in Frankfurt, and director of the research cluster on the “Formation of Normative Orders.”

See my previous post on Rainer Forst's publications here.

See also two recent papers by Rainer Forst:
* "The Justification of Human Rights and the Basic Right to Justification: A Reflexive Approach" [pdf] (2011)
* "Transnational Justice, Democracy, and Human Rights" [pdf] (2011).

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Adorno Handbook

Adorno Handbuch
Leben - Werk - Wirkung

Ed. by Richard Klein, Johann Kreuzer & Stefan Müller-Doohm

(J. B. Metzler, December 2011)

568 Seiten


"This handbook offers an overview of the state of debate on Theodor W. Adorno’s work and impact and provides content-related as well as methodical tools for dealing with this prominent figure of 20th-century German-language humanities and social sciences. The objective of this undertaking, on the one hand, is to document and take stock, but also to pass criticism and reinterpret; rather than disseminating a codified doctrine it is aimed at depicting and analyzing the problems and different methods of reasoning exemplified by Adorno himself. At the core of this handbook lies the specifically interdisciplinary character of Adorno’s manner of doing philosophy the potential of which is not limited to philosophy-related research but becomes virulent in the critical interlacing of the arts, music, philosophy, and the academic sciences. This leaves no room for doctrinal limitations, on the contrary – the handbook’s more than 40 contributors demonstrate the different approaches and temperaments in discussing Adorno´s work".

Contents [Preview]

I. Leben

Versuch eines Portraits (Stefan Müller-Doohm)
Im Exil (Sven Kramer)
Traumprotokolle (Stefan Müller-Doohm)

II. Voraussetzungen, Wahlverwandtschaften

Der erste Mentor: Siegfried Kracauer (Stefan Müller-Doohm/Wolfgang Schopf)
Tod und Utopie: Ernst Bloch, Georg Lukács (Hans-Ernst Schiller)
»Widerstand gegen die Gewalt des Bestehenden«: Max Horkheimer (Gunzelin Schmid Noerr)

III. Musik

Der Fortschritt des Materials (Gunnar Hindrichs)
Die Frage nach der musikalischen Zeit (Richard Klein)
Die philosophische Kritik der musikalischen Werke (Guido Kreis)
Modellfall der Philosophie der Musik: Beethoven (Hans-Joachim Hinrichsen)
Soziale vs. musikalische Kritik: Der Fall Wagner (Richard Klein)
Wahlverwandtschaft: Gustav Mahler (Peter Uehling)
Schönberg und die Folgen (Ludwig Holtmeier/Cosima Linke)
Neoklassizismus als andere Moderne: Strawinsky und Ravel (Gustav Falke)
Interpretation, Reproduktion (Reinhard Kapp)
Filmmusik (Felix Diergarten)
Musikpädagogik nach 1945 (Jürgen Vogt)
Musik und Sprache (Susanne Kogler)

IV. Literatur und Sprache

Goethe: Dialektik des Klassizismus (Thomas Zabka)
Hölderlin: Parataxis (Johann Kreuzer)
Adorno als Leser Heines (Peter Uwe Hohendahl)
Lyrik und Gesellschaft (Sven Kramer)
Kafka-Lektüre (Sonja Dierks)
Beckett als philosophische Erfahrung (Wolfram Ette)
Thomas Mann (Hans Rudolf Vaget)

V. Gesellschaft

Methode (Jürgen Ritsert)
Kritische Theorie und empirische Sozialforschung (Wolfgang Bonß)
Zeitdiagnose (Dirk Braunstein/Stefan Müller-Doohm)
Ambivalenzen der Kulturindustrie (Angela Keppler)
Radio Theory (Larson Powell)
Thesen zum Antisemitismus (Micha Brumlik)
»Ende des Individuums« (Markus Schroer)
Die Wunde Freud (Christian Schneider)
Theologie und Messianismus (Micha Brumlik)

VI. Philosophie

»Großartige Zweideutigkeit«: Kant (Josef Früchtl)
Negative Dialektik: Kritik an Hegel (Tilo Wesche)
Intermittenz und ästhetische Konstruktion: Kierkegaard (Lore Hühn/Philipp Schwab)
Materialismus: Kritische Theorie nach Marx (Ulrich Ruschig)
Antidialektik und Nichtidentität: Nietzsche (Adrián Navigante)
Metakritik der Erkenntnistheorie: Husserl (Petra Gehring)
Dialektik oder Ontologie: Heidegger (Tilo Wesche)
Das Gespräch mit Benjamin (Johann Kreuzer)
Dialektik der Aufklärung (Andreas Hetzel)
Negative Moralphilosophie (Gerhard Schweppenhäuser)
Metaphysik und Metaphysikkritik (Georg W. Bertram)
Ästhetische Theorie (Ruth Sonderegger)
Essay und System (Ruth Sonderegger)

VII. Wirkung

Deutschland I: Der exemplarische Intellektuelle der Bundesrepublik (Christian Schneider)
Deutschland II: Philosophische plus politische Resonanz (Richard Klein)
Deutschland III: Die Spur der Ästhetik der Musik (Richard Klein)
Großbritannien (Christian Skirke)
Italien (Marina Calloni)
Spanien (José A. Zamora)
USA (Larson Powell)
Brasilien (Rodrigo Duarte)

VIII. Anhang

Zeittafel, Vorlesungen und Seminare, Bibliographie.

Richard Klein is editor of the journal "Musik & Ästhetik".
Johann Kreuzer is Professor for History of Philosophy and Head of the Adorno Research Centre, Carl von Ossietzky University, Oldenburg.
Stefan Müller-Doohm is Professor Emeritus for Sociology, Carl von Ossietzky University, Oldenburg.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Rainer Forst awarded 2012 Leibniz Prize

Professor Rainer Forst (Frankfurt) will be receiving one of the ten 2012 Gottfried-Wilhelm-Leibniz prizes.

The Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize is the highest German research prize. It consists of a research grant of 2.5 million euro. The prize is awarded by the German Research Foundation. It will be conferred upon the prize winners in a ceremony to be held on February 27 in Berlin.
See the announcement here, and the press release from the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt, here.

"Rainer Forst gilt national und international als der wichtigste deutsche politische Philosoph der Generation „unter 50“. Der Frankfurter Wissenschaftler führt die deutsche – und hier nicht zuletzt Frankfurter – politische Philosophie von Jürgen Habermas und Axel Honneth fort, bringt diese in kritischer Auseinandersetzung mit amerikanischen Vertretern wie John Rawls zusammen und setzt dabei Akzente zu einer ganz eigenen Philosophie. Diese dreht sich vor allem um die Grundbegriffe „Gerechtigkeit“, „Toleranz“ und „Rechtfertigung“. Auf höchst originelle Weise durchdachte und formulierte Forst die Erkenntnis, dass der Mensch schon immer in verschiedene „Rechtfertigungspraktiken“ eingebettet ist. Sie bedingen, dass letztlich alle Handlungen nach eigenen Logiken der Moral, des Rechts und anderer Diskurse legitimiert werden müssen. Unsere praktische Vernunft ist so nichts anderes als das Vermögen, diese Logiken zu erkennen und anzuerkennen – so das weitreichende Fazit des politischen Philosophen Forst.
Die ausgeprägte internationale Ausrichtung mit besonderem Interesse an den USA zeigte sich bei Rainer Forst schon früh. Nach dem Studium in Frankfurt, New York/Binghamton und Harvard war er Assistent und Gastprofessor in Berlin, Frankfurt und New York, bevor er nach Stationen in Frankfurt und Gießen 2004 Professor an der Frankfurter Universität wurde; ihr ist Forst trotz mehrerer Angebote renommierter ausländischer Universitäten treu geblieben."

See also in Frankfurter Rundschau November 9, 2011:
- Georg Leppert's article "Jubel über Leibniz-Preis"
- an interview with Rainer Forst "Frankfurt ist sehr sichtbar".

Rainer Forst is Professor of Political Theory and Philosophy at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main.

His books include:
- "Kontexte der Gerechtigkeit" (Suhrkamp Verlag, 1994)
[English: "Contexts of Justice" (California University Press, 2002)],
- "Toleranz im Konflikt" (Suhrkamp Verlag, 2003)
[English: "Tolerance in Conflict" (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming)]
- "Das Recht auf Rechtfertigung. Elemente einer konstruktivistischen Theorie der Gerechtigkeit" (Suhrkamp Verlag, 2007)
[English: "The Right to Justification" (Columbia University Press, 2011)]
- "Kritik der Rechtfertigungsverhältnisse. Perspektiven einer kritischen Theorie der Politik" (Suhrkamp Verlag 2011)
[English: "Critique of the Structure of Justification" (Polity Press, forthcoming)].

Recent papers by Rainer Forst:
- "Transnational Justice and Democracy" (2011)
- "The Grounds of Critique" (2011)
- "Two Stories on Tolerance" (2010)
- "Dulden heißt beleibigen" (2007)

Lecture by Rainer Forst on "The Power of Tolerance" [video, Berlin 2008].

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Interview with Joshua Cohen on Political Philosophy

In the magazine "The European" (December 8, 2011), Martin Eiermann interviews Joshua Cohen:

"I Am Interested in Cool Ideas That Are Good"

"John Rawls was enormously influential as a political philosopher. Yet he never made direct contributions to journals, unlike Habermas, who is very actively participating in political discourses. So how can we explain Rawls’ considerable influence? Because there are intermediaries between high intellectual discourse and public discussion. That is what we try to be: an intermediary. We need to free ideas from the confines of their disciplinary cloisters. If they develop traction, much can happen. It’s a classic example of the division of labor: We do our work, which addresses a more limited audience than a tabloid paper, and hope that someone else picks up on it. We’re bridging a gap – at least that’s the project."

Joshua Cohen is Marta Sutton Weeks Professor of Ethics in Society, Stanford University. He is editor of Boston Review. His books include "Philosophy, Politics, Democracy: Selected Papers" (Harvard University Press, 2009), “Rousseau: A Free Community of Equals” (Oxford University Press, 2010), and "The Arc of the Moral Universe and Other Essays" (Harvard University Press, 2011).

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Thom Brooks on "Global Justice and Politics"

Thom Brooks (Newcastle) has posted a new paper on SSRN:

"Global Justice and Politics" [pdf]

"The history of political philosophy has been largely focused on the problem of justice within borders. Contemporary political philosophers have only begun more recently to draw greater attention to problems of global justice rather than to domestic justice alone: they are concerned about identifying a just international distributive justice. The most important issue has been how best to address severe poverty. Are there duties to provide support for those in severe poverty and, if so, who has these duties? What support may be justified? These are the most pressing and challenging questions confronting political philosophers today.
This chapter examines three different approaches to how global justice and politics might address the problem of severe poverty. The first approach argues that we have positive duties to assist those in need. They argue that we have a duty to assist where there are others in need irrespective of whether or not we contributed to their situation. A second approach claims that we have negative duties to those in need that arise because we have contributed to their severe poverty. Finally, a third approach argues that our responsibilities to those in need are not a matter of choosing between our positive or negative duties, but that these duties should be understood within a wider context of our remedial responsibilities. Our focus should be on identifying who has a responsibility to remedy suffering elsewhere and this requires a wider perspective to cover all cases. Each approach is considered in turn in a sympathetic analysis where the focus is on presenting each in its best light and allowing readers to judge for themselves which is most worth defending."

The paper will be published in Fred D'Agostino and Jerry Gaus (eds.) - "Routledge Companion to Social and Political Philosophy" (Routledge, April 2012). Further information here.

Thom Brooks is Reader in Political and Legal Philosophy at Newcastle University. He is the author of "Hegel’s Political Philosophy" (Edinburgh University Press, 2007). See his web blog here.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Companion to Nozick's "Anarchy, State, and Utopia"

The Cambridge Companion to Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia

edited by Ralf M. Bader & John Meadowcroft

(Cambridge University Press, December 2011)

332 pages


Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974) is recognised as a classic of modern political philosophy. Along with John Rawls's A Theory of Justice (1971), it is widely credited with breathing new life into the discipline in the second half of the twentieth century. This Companion presents a balanced and comprehensive assessment of Nozick's contribution to political philosophy. In engaging and accessible chapters, the contributors analyse Nozick's ideas from a variety of perspectives and explore neglected areas of the work such as his discussion of anarchism and his theory of utopia. Their detailed and illuminating picture of Anarchy, State, and Utopia, its impact and its enduring influence will be invaluable to students and scholars in both political philosophy and political theory.


Introduction - Ralf M. Bader & John Meadowcroft

Part I. Morality

1. Side Constraints, Lockean Individual Rights, and the Moral Basis of Libertarianism - Richard Arneson
2. Are Deontological Constraints Irrational? Michael Otsuka
3. What We Learn from the Experience Machine - Fred Feldman [draft]

Part II. Anarchy

4. Nozickian Arguments for the More-than-Minimal State - Eric Mack
5. Explanation, Justification, and Emergent Properties - Gerald Gaus

Part III. State

6. The Right to Distribute - David Schmidtz
7. Nozick's Libertarian Theory of Justice - Peter Vallentyne
8. Does Nozick have a Theory of Property Rights? Barbara Fried
9. Nozick's Critique of Rawls - John Meadowcroft

Part IV. Utopia

10. The Framework for Utopia - Ralf M. Bader [link here]
11. E Pluribus Plurum – How to Fail to Get to Utopia in Spite of Really Trying - Chandran Kukathas [abstract].

Further information on the book here.

Ralf M. Bader is Assistant Professor at the Department of Philosophy, New York University

John Meadowcroft is Lecturer in Public Policy at King's College London. He is the author of "James M. Buchanan" (Continuum, 2011).

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Benhabib on Democratic Sovereignty and International Law

In her Straus Public Lecture on November 28, 2011, Professor Seyla Benhabib analyzed the clash between democratic sovereignty and international law.

See her lecture:
"Democratic Sovereignty and International Law: The Contemporary Debate" (video)
[1 hour & 28 minutes]

Seyla Benhabib is Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at Yale University. For the academic year 2011-2012, she is a fellow at the Straus Institute for the Advanced Study of Law & Justice, New York University.

(Thanks to Reza Javaheri for the pointer!)

Friday, December 02, 2011

Four Papers on Deliberation, Tolerance, Citizenship, and Self-Grounding

Papers from the 6th ECPR General Conference (European Consortium for Political Research) at the University of Iceland, August 25-27, 2011:

Marcos Engelken (Basque Country):
"A Collective Learning Perspective on Public Deliberation" [pdf]

Research on mini-publics, as well as in experimental settings, has produced ambiguous results for deliberative democracy. It has helped to demonstrate the “epistemic dimension” (Habermas) of public debate, that is, its inherent potentiality to change discursively citizens’ preferences and to promote collective learning processes. Furthermore, according to these results genuine public deliberation promotes the consideration of common interests, the revision of prejudices and respect towards political opponents. On the other hand, recent research has also highlighted the extremely selective conditions under which genuine deliberation can take place, thus spreading skepticism about the prospects of turning democratic deliberation into a real deliberative democracy. Besides, it has also revealed the inherent tension that exists between some of the core values constitutive of deliberative democracy – for instance, between the principle of publicity and the disposition of political actors to modify their initial opinions; between citizens’ empowerment and citizens’ disposition to revise their pre-deliberative preferences; or between deliberation and representation. This implies that no mini-public, irrespective of its institutional design, manages to satisfy simultaneously all the normative requirements of deliberative democracy. Systemic conceptions of, and rhetorical approaches to, deliberative democracy have been prompted by these considerations. A third way to conceptualize deliberative democracy is provided by the work of cognitive sociologists such as Klaus Eder, Max Miller, Piet Strydom or Bernhard Peters. Their work advances a sociologically realist, and complex, conception of public (macro) deliberation. This paper assesses the potentialities, but also possible pitfalls, of this sociological approach.

Sune Lægaard (Roskilde) & Maria Paola Ferretti (Darmstadt):
"A Multirelational Account of Tolerance and Respect" [pdf]

Political theorists such as Anna Elisabetta Galeotti, Rainer Forst and Peter Jones have advanced toleration and respect both as theoretical concepts for understanding the place of minorities and as normative ideals for how minorities’ requests for accommodation should be met. The paper addresses a number of complications that arise in applying concepts and ideals of toleration and respect to concrete cases involving several different subjects of toleration and respect. It offers a framework for understanding the status of minorities that locates toleration and respect at the intersection of a vertical (toleration and respect from government towards its subjects) and horizontal relationship (among citizens). The paper notes how toleration and respect may mean different things in the vertical and horizontal dimensions. It further argues that the two dimensions often intersect in ways affecting both the understanding of minorities' position and how minorities' requests should be handled in light of normative ideals of toleration and respect. These theoretical and normative points are illustrated by reference to cases concerning the construction of Mosques in Europe.

Pablo C. Jiménez Lobeira (Australian National):
"Exploring an Analogical Citizenship for Europe"

The cultural, economic and political crisis affecting the European Union (EU) today is manifested in the political community’s lack of enthusiasm and cohesion. An effort to reverse this situation – foster ‘EU identity’ – was the creation of EU citizenship. Citizenship implies a people and a polity. But EU citizens already belong to national polities. Should EU citizenship override national citizenship or coexist with it? Postnationalists like Habermas have suggested EU citizenship can overcome nationalisms, grounding political belonging on the body of laws that members of the post-national polity generate in the public sphere. Cosmopolitan communitarianists like Bellamy, by contrast, think that EU citizens should form a mixed commonwealth, with political belonging based on national citizenship. I will argue in favour of the second option, and submit an analogical reading of the ensuing ideas of citizenship, identity and polity. Cosmopolitan communitarianist EU citizenship promises to better foster the great richness of European national cultural, religious, historical, political, legal and linguistic diversity in a ‘mixed’ polity. Its main challenge is how to keep the diverse, mixed polity together.

James Gledhill (LSE):
"The Democratic Rechtsstaat and the Problem of Self-grounding" [pdf]

According to the realist critique of political moralism, contemporary political theory has neglected the idea of the state, and the coercive power of the state exercised through positive law, in favour of ideal theories of justice and democracy developed independently of political practice. The work of John Rawls and Jürgen Habermas is often seen as paradigmatic of such political moralism. In this paper I take the realist critiques of Raymond Geuss and Bernard Williams as an opportunity for reassessing the methodological approaches of Rawls and Habermas. I begin by distinguishing William’s idea of vindicatory genealogy from Geuss’s, I argue untenable, attempt to separate the method of genealogy as critique from the project of normative justification and I claim that Rawls and Habermas can be seen as employing the methods of reflective equilibrium and rational reconstruction for just such vindicatory purposes. I proceed to offer a genealogy of the idea of the democratic Rechtstaat, to situate Rawls and Habermas within this tradition and to argue that this tradition overcomes the unsatisfactory methodological dualism of realism versus moralism. The problem of offering a self-grounding justification of the modern democratic Rechtsstaat reflects the fundamental problem for philosophy in modernity of creating its normativity out of itself, of finding immanent normative foundations within existing social practices rather than appealing to transcendent ideal principles. I conclude that Rawls fails ultimately to meet this challenge but that Habermas’s project shows how a project of normative philosophical justification can be maintained that is consistent with realist strictures.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

A debate between Jürgen Habermas and Fritz Scharpf

In "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" (November 30, 2011), Maximilian Steinbeis reports from a discussion between Jürgen Habermas and Fritz Scharpf in Berlin:

"Man kann Rührei nicht wieder trennen"

"Während der Sozialphilosoph Jürgen Habermas dafür focht, jetzt sei die Stunde der europäischen Verfassungsgebung, nahm Fritz Scharpf (Köln), der emeritierte Direktor des Kölner Max-Planck-Instituts für Gesellschafts-forschung, den Gegenstandpunkt ein. Die Euro-Krise, so Scharpf, tauge nicht als Vehikel zur Demokratisierung Europas. Im Gegenteil, dieser Weg führe in ein autoritäres, expertokratisches Super-Europa, wenn nicht gar in einen europäischen Bürgerkrieg.
Die Integration Europas, so Scharpf, habe bisher darin bestanden, politische Handlungsfähigkeit um der ökonomischen Freiheit willen zu beschränken. Die Vision eines demokratischen Europas, um die politische Handlungsfähigkeit zu stärken, liege überhaupt nicht in der Logik dieser Integration - und täte sie es, dann würde das Europa nur auseinandersprengen."

See my posts on Habermas's new book "Zur Verfassung Europas" (Suhrkamp Verlag, 2011) and his article on "Europe's post-democratic era" (The Guardian, November 10, 2011).