Sunday, October 28, 2012

Rainer Forst reviews Ronald Dworkin

In "Die Zeit" (October 25, 2012), Professor Rainer Forst reviews the German edition of "Justice For Hedgehogs" by Ronald Dworkin:

"Ein moderner Sokrates"

"Dworkins Buch zeigt meisterhaft, dass die Philosophie schlecht beraten ist, wenn sie die Eigenart der menschlichen Welt als eine normativ strukturierte übersieht oder szientistisch hinwegerklärt. Sie muss sich in den praktischen Dialog stellen, diesen aber reflexiv führen. Sie rekonstruiert die praktischen Rechtfertigungskontexte, in denen wir Gründe für Werturteile liefern müssen. Dabei aber stoßen wir auf eine Kontextdifferenz, die sich nicht in einer integrativen Igelsicht auflösen lässt. Die Verantwortung für das eigene Leben als etwas, das wert ist, gelebt zu werden, und die Verantwortung gegenüber dem Leben anderer sind auf vielfache Weise miteinander verbunden, aber sie folgen zwei unterschiedlichen Logiken. Vielleicht ist das der Preis, den Sokrates der Moderne entrichten muss, vielleicht hat aber der andere Igel recht, der meint, dass das schon immer wahr gewesen ist."

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.” His most recent book in English is "The Right to Justification" (Columbia University Press, 2011). See my posts on Rainer Forst and his book.

See also my previous posts on Ronald Dworkin's book:
* Justice For Hedgehogs (Belknap Press, 2011)
* Reviews of "Justice For Hedgehogs"
* Papers on "Justice For Hedgehogs"

Papers on Deepening Democracy

The most recent issue of "Polity" (October 2012) features papers on "Deepening Democracy". The papers are available online.

Among the papers are:

An Introduction [pdf]
Michael Goodhart

Human Rights-Based Approaches to Development: Concepts, Evidence, and Policy [pdf]
Varun Gauri and Siri Gloppen

Continuous Institutional Innovation and the Pragmatic Conception of Democracy [pdf]
Archon Fung

Participation, Representation, and Social Justice: Using Participatory Governance to Transform Representative Democracy [pdf]
Brian Wampler

Friday, October 26, 2012

John Rawls - Beyond the Welfare State

In "Boston Review":

"Beyond the Welfare State: Rawls’s Radical Vision for a Better America"

by Martin O’Neill & Thad Williamson

[.....] to treat Rawls simply as a defender of Democratic Party liberalism and the welfare state — as he is widely regarded — is to misread him. Rawls’s critique of contemporary capitalism — and the condition of democratic practice within American capitalism — runs much deeper. As he made especially clear in his late writings, he did not think that welfare-state capitalism could realize his theory of justice. The architecture of welfare-state capitalism, Rawls felt, enthroned the disproportionate political power of the rich and militated against a shared sense among citizens that they are bound in a common enterprise, which operates in accordance with fair rules and respects the basic interests of all.
Rawls argued that in a just society the political economy must be organized with an explicit aim of either sharing or else widely distributing wealth and capital. The sharing option corresponds to what Rawls termed “liberal socialism”: schemes of market socialism in which the bulk of capital is collectively owned, by one arrangement or another. The widely distributing option corresponds to “property-owning democracy”: a political-economic system aimed at distributing wealth and capital as widely as possible among citizens, while keeping it for the most part privately held.

Martin O'Neill is Lecturer in Moral and Political Philosophy in the Department of Politics at the University of York.

Thad Williamson is Associate Professor of Leadership Studies and Philosophy, Politics, Economics and Law, University of Richmond.

See my previous post on Martin O’Neill & Thad Williamson's book: "Property-Owning Democracy: Rawls and Beyond" (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012) - with links to some of their papers.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Honneth speaks at NYU on October 26

On October 26, 2012, Professor Axel Honneth will give a lecture at the "Deutsches Haus" at the New York University:

"Realizing Freedom - An Ethical Concept of Democracy"

More information here.

Axel Honneth is Professor for the Humanities in the Department of Philosophy at Columbia University, and Professor of Social Philosophy, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main. His most recent book is "Das Recht der Freiheit" (Suhrkamp Verlag, 2011). An English translation is coming out on Columbia University Press/Polity Press.

See two English reviews of Axel Honneth's book: here and here.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Paper on Rawls & Habermas on Deliberation & Justification

Menachem Mautner has posted a new paper at SSRN:

"Religion in Politics: Rawls and Habermas on Deliberation and Justification"

John Rawls’s concept of public reason lumps together a selection of political activities (voting, deliberation, decision-making) and a set of political institutions (legislatures, courts), without sufficiently distinguishing between them or identifying the distinct normative considerations that are relevant to each. Moreover, Rawls’s concept of public reason is very ambiguous. This over-inclusiveness and ambiguity of the concept has spilled over to much of the lively discussion of Rawls’s political liberalism.

I elucidate Rawls’s concept of public reason by recasting it in terms of two major concepts that are relevant to our understanding of the political: deliberation and justification. I argue that Rawls’s public reason should be read as having to do with justification rather than deliberation, and that Jurgen Habermas’s position on public reason is superior to that of Rawls in that it is premised on a clear distinction between deliberation and justification. However, some of Habermas’s critiques of Rawls are unjustified, and there is a contradiction in Habermas’s position.

I also argue that Habermas’s and Rawls’s positions epitomize “the anthropologization of politics” that follows from the substitution of the nation-state paradigm by the multicultural paradigm of the state. The rise of the multicultural paradigm also occasions “the anthropologization of courts”: liberal courts intervening in the cultural practices of non-liberal groups need to support their rulings with justifications internal to those groups, including justifications borrowed from the human rights doctrine.

Menachem Mautner is Professor of Comparative Civil Law and Jurisprudence at the Tel Aviv University.

New Book: Beyond Habermas - Democracy, Knowledge, and the Public Sphere

Beyond Habermas
Democracy, Knowledge, and the Public Sphere

Ed. by Christian J. Emden & David Midgley

(Berghahn Books, 2012)

248 pages


During the 1960s the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas introduced the notion of a “bourgeois public sphere” in order to describe the symbolic arena of political life and conversation that originated with the cultural institutions of the early eighteenth-century; since then the “public sphere” itself has become perhaps one of the most debated concepts at the very heart of modernity. For Habermas, the tension between the administrative power of the state, with its understanding of sovereignty, and the emerging institutions of the bourgeoisie — coffee houses, periodicals, encyclopedias, literary culture, etc. — was seen as being mediated by the public sphere, making it a symbolic site of public reasoning. This volume examines whether the “public sphere” remains a central explanatory model in the social sciences, political theory, and the humanities.


Introduction - Christian J. Emden & David Midgley

Part I: Public Opinion in the Democratic Polity

1. Public Sphere and Political Experience - Richard Wilson
2. Public Opinion and Public Sphere - Gordon Graham
3. The Tyranny of Majority Opinion in the Public Sphere - Gary Wihl

Part II: Knowledge and the Public Sphere

4. Epistemic Publics - Christian J. Emden
5. The Public in Public Health - Anne Hardy
6. Geeks and Recursive Publics - Christopher Kelty 

Part III: Democracy, Philosophy, and Global Publics

7. Mediating the Public Sphere - Georgina Born
8. Critique of Public Reason - Steven G. Crowell
9. On the Global Multiplicity of Public Spheres - James Tully

Christian J. Emden is Associate Professor of German Intellectual History and Political Thought at Rice University. 

David Midgley is Reader in German Literature and Culture at the University of Cambridge.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

G.A. Cohen: Finding Oneself in the Other

Finding Oneself in the Other

by G. A. Cohen

Edited by Michael Otsuka

(Princeton University Press, October 2012)

240 pages



This is the second of three volumes of posthumously collected writings of G. A. Cohen, who was one of the leading, and most progressive, figures in contemporary political philosophy. This volume brings together some of Cohen's most personal philosophical and nonphilosophical essays, many of them previously unpublished. Rich in first-person narration, insight, and humor, these pieces vividly demonstrate why Thomas Nagel described Cohen as a "wonderful raconteur."
The nonphilosophical highlight of the book is Cohen's remarkable account of his first trip to India, which includes unforgettable vignettes of encounters with strangers and reflections on poverty and begging. Other biographical pieces include his valedictory lecture at Oxford, in which he describes his philosophical development and offers his impressions of other philosophers, and "Isaiah's Marx, and Mine," a tribute to his mentor Isaiah Berlin. Other essays address such topics as the truth in "small-c conservatism," who can and can't condemn terrorists, and the essence of bullshit. A recurring theme is finding completion in relation to the world of other human beings. Engaging, perceptive, and empathetic, these writings reveal a more personal side of one of the most influential philosophers of our time.


Editor's Preface [pdf]

1. Isaiah's Marx, and Mine
2. Prague Preamble to "Why Not Socialism?"
3. A Black and White Issue
4. Two Weeks in India
5. Complete Bullshit
6. Casting the First Stone: Who Can, and Who Can't, Condemn the Terrorists?
7. Ways of Silencing Critics
8. Rescuing Conservatism: A Defense of Existing Value [paper]
9. Valedictory Lecture: My Philosophical Development [audio]
10. Notes on Regarding People as Equals
11. One Kind of Spirituality: Come Back, Feuerbach, All Is Forgiven!

See some of my previous posts on G.A. Cohen:
* "On the Currency of Egalitarian Justice" (book with selected essays, 2011)
* Conference in 2009 in honour of G.A. Cohen (including an audio with Cohen reading poems)
* Memorial Conference in Canada 2009.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Review: Nicholas Southwood on Deliberative Contractualism

At "Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews", Kevin Vallier reviews "Contractualism and the Foundations of Morality" (Oxford University Press, 2010) by Nicholas Southwood:

Review of "Contractualism and the Foundations of Morality"

Southwood tells us: "The central thesis of deliberative contractualism is that morality's foundations are to be located in facts about hypothetical, deliberatively rational agreements regarding the terms upon which we are to be permitted, forbidden, and required to conduct ourselves toward others."
Readers who detect Habermasian elements in this claim are right to do so, for Southwood acknowledges "important affinities" with Habermas and other deliberative democrats. Indeed, the book can be read as an attempt to apply the justificatory structure of deliberative democracy to contractualist moral theory.

Kevin Vallier is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Bowling Green State University.

See my previous post on Nicholas Southwood's book here.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Habermas on the Nobel Peace Prize

Jürgen Habermas has published a comment on the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the European Union:

"Oslo’s call to Europe"
(at "PressEurop", originally published in "La Repubblica", October 13, 2012)

"At the hour of the greatest crisis in its history the European Union has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Among its reasons, the Nobel Committee congratulates the Union for having "helped transform Europe from a continent at war to a continent at peace."
Certainly, it would be difficult to imagine other reasons for giving out a Nobel Peace Prize. However, it’s the circumstances of the current crisis that shed light on the significance of giving this Nobel to the European Union, or more precisely the repercussions such a decision may have on the current state of the Union.
I interpret the decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU at the moment when the Union has never been weaker as a petition directed at the European political elites – those same elites who, as we all see, are conducting themselves in the crisis today with neither courage nor vision.
The Nobel Peace Prize makes it clear to the governments that are presently steering the eurozone countries that they must step out from their own shadow and so move the European project forward."