Monday, May 03, 2021

Habermas turns down Sheikh Zayed Book Award

In a statement published in "Der Spiegel Online" Jürgen Habermas turns down the Sheikh Zayed Book Award: "The Cultural Personality of the Year" for 2021 (225.000 Euro).

"I declared my willingness to accept this year's Sheikh Zayed Book Award. That was a wrong decision, which I correct hereby. I didn't sufficiently make clear to myself the very close connection of the institution, which awards these prizes in Abu Dhabi, with the existing political system there."


* Dietmar Pieper - "Der 91-Jährige, der beweglich blieb und Nein sagte"

Reinhard Schulze - "Eine Lanze für den Diskurs"

* Stefan Weidner - "Abu Dhabi möchte sich auf die Aufklärung berufen

* Christian Weisflog - "Habermas ist doch kein nützlicher Idiot"

* "Reaktionen auf Habermas' Verzicht auf Sheikh Zayed Book Award"

Among the previous award winners are: Richard van Leeuwen (NL), Philip Kennedy (UK), Jaroslav & Suzanne Stetkevych (USA), Dag Nikolaus Hasse (DE), David Wirmer (DE), Sugita Hideaki (JAP), Pedro Martinez Montavez (ES), and Denys Johnson-Davies (CAN).

Juergen Boos, President of the Frankfurt Book Fair, is member of the scientific commitee.

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Symposium II on "Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie"

The new issue of "Constellations" (vol. 28, no. 1 ) features articles on Jürgen Habermas' "Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie" (Suhrkamp Verlag, 2019):

Jürgen Habermas - "An Author's Retrospective View" [first page(Originally published in "Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie", vol. 69, no. 2 (2021), pp. 231-240.)

Thomas McCarthy - "On the Interest of Practical Reason in Hope"

Rainer Forst - "The Autonomy of Autonomy: On Jürgen Habermas's "Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie"" [open access]

Cristina Lafont - "Remarks of a Young Habermasian on Jürgen Habermas’ "Also a History of Philosophy""

Seyla Benhabib - "Habermas's new "Phenomenology of Spirit": Two Centuries After Hegel

Peter E. Gordon - "Is There an Asymmetry Problem in the Genealogy of Postmetaphysical Reason?"

Maeve Cooke - "Existentially Lived Truth or Communicative Reason? Habermas’ Critique of Kierkegaard"

Eduardo Mendieta - "Enlightened Religion: The Alphabetization of Faith and the Linguistification of Freedom"

Jürgen Habermas - "Reply" [first page]

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Cambridge Companion to Rorty

The Cambridge Companion to Rorty

ed. by David Rondel

(Cambridge University Press, 2021)

349 pages


This Companion provides a systematic introductory overview of Richard Rorty's philosophy. With chapters from an interdisciplinary group of leading scholars, the volume addresses virtually every aspect of Rorty's thought, from his philosophical views on truth and representation and his youthful obsession with wild orchids to his ruminations on the contemporary American Left and his prescient warning about the election of Donald Trump. Other topics covered include his various assessments of classical American pragmatism, feminism, liberalism, religion, literature, and philosophy itself. Sympathetic in some cases, in others sharply critical, the essays will provide readers with a deep and illuminating portrait of Rorty's exciting brand of neo-pragmatism.

Contents [Preview]

Introduction: The Unity of Richard Rorty’s Philosophy - David Rondel [Preview] [Excerpt]

1. Rorty’s Metaphilosophy: A Pluralistic Corridor - Colin Koopman

2. After Metaphysics: Eliminativism and the Protreptic Dilemma - Neil Gascoigne

3. Rorty and Classical Pragmatism - Christopher Voparil

4. A Pragmatism More Ironic Than Pragmatic - Barry Allen

5. Rorty and Semantic Minimalism - Simon Blackburn

6. Returning to the Particular: Morality and the Self after Rorty - Alan Malachowski

7. Rorty’s Political Philosophy - Michael Bacon & Alexis Dianda

8. Tinkering with Truth, Tinkering with Difference: Rorty and (Liberal) Feminism - Susan Dieleman

9. Rorty’s Insouciant Social Thought - James T. Kloppenberg

10. Rorty and National Pride - Georgia Warnke

11. Rorty on Religion - Stephen S. Bush

12. Rorty: Reading Continental Philosophy - Paul Patton

13. Rorty’s Literary Culture: Reading, Redemption, and The Heart’s Invisible Furies - Áine Mahon & Elizabeth O’Brien [Abstract]

14. Wild Orchids - Robert Westbrook

See also my blog post on "On Philosophy and Philosophers. Unpublished Papers, 1960–2000" by Richard Rorty.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Symposium on "Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie"

The new issue of "Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie" features articles on Jürgen Habermas' "Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie" (Suhrkamp Verlag, 2019):

Robin Celikates - "Einleitung" [link] [preview]

Jürgen Habermas - "Rückblick eines Autors" [preview]

This essay is a reflection on what I hoped to achieve with a project that was in the making for more than ten years. The account probably illustrates the aims that I believe I should have pursued in the project looking back upon it today rather than what I actually achieved within it; in any case, what one has actually written is only revealed after the fact from the critical responses of attentive and sensitive readers.

Axel Honneth - "Säkulare Vernunft? Eine kleine Rückfrage an ein großes Buch" [preview]

In my contribution I ask whether the version of secular reason Jürgen Habermas characterises as “post-metaphysical” can really provide us children of modernity with a comprehensive self- and world-understanding. I begin by asking what it means to claim that secular reason is “post-metaphysical” (1). There are various possible ways of understanding this characterisation, some stronger than others; but there needs to be clarity on this issue to address my second question: What would secular reason really have to achieve in order to make good on its claim that it can still provide us with a comprehensive understanding of our relation both to ourselves and to the world? I will split this question along two dimensions: from a theoretical standpoint we should explore how reality has to be understood in order to allow us to attain a consistent understanding of self and world; from a practical standpoint, we need to ask which attitudes we would actually have to adopt towards reality in order to find in it the kind of orientation that Habermas believes his version of secular reason holds in store (2). In a third step, I follow up on these practical considerations by asking whether, at the level of everyday praxis, an orienting conception of self and world in this day and age does not in fact demand more than Habermas seems to have in mind (3). Finally, and returning, albeit indirectly, to the meaning of “post-metaphysical”, I cast some doubt on the Habermasian thesis that secular reason can survive only in the form of a tradition that reaches back either to Kant or to Hume; I want to question whether this division is exhaustive and briefly bring a third alternative into play (4).

Peter E. Gordon - "Gibt es ein Asymmetrie-Problem in der Genealogie der nachmetaphysischen Vernunft?" [preview]

This essay places some conceptual pressure on the model of a “learning process” in Jürgen Habermas’s Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie, and it asks whether this model introduces a subtle asymmetry into the relationship between religion and secular philosophy. Such an asymmetry would seem to obtain insofar as religious tradition is granted a privileged or unique status as the source of normative insights that are then available for rational scrutiny and translation into secular life. The essay also draws a comparison between Lessing and Habermas: Lessing, like Habermas, saw revelation as a source of instruction for humanity, and affirmed that religion could thereby play a role in the Erziehung des Menschengeschlechts. But Lessing was careful to say that no valuable normative contents are found in religion that could not also be derived by secular reason alone. Habermas’s genealogy of post-metaphysical thinking does not seem to confirm Lessing’s idea; instead, it appears to confirm an asymmetry in the relation between religion and secular philosophy.

Regina Kreide & Tilo Wesche - "Warum moralisch sein?" [preview]

In his latest book, Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie, Jürgen Habermas attempts nothing less than a reconceptualisation of the history of human reason. Why, according to the central question that runs through the book like a red thread, can we, in the face of all social adversities and psychological obstacles, still be morally motivated to stand up for overcoming injustice in the world? This almost classic question about what I can hope for undoubtedly bears Kantian traits. And yet Habermas clearly goes beyond Kant. We argue that this becomes visible, first, in his post-metaphysical conception of motivation, which links individual and collective moral learning processes. The enormous explosive power of this conception comes into its own, secondly, especially against the background of some additional assumptions (trust, grief, open future). Nevertheless, thirdly, the question arises to what extent the Habermasian narrative of progress does not have a blind spot because it is in some sense not dialectical enough. The negative side of reason, which Adorno and Benjamin emphasised, are not included in the progress narrative, or only indirectly, which makes the conception of moral motivation seem weaker than it ought to be.

Jürgen Habermas - "Replik" [preview]

With these comments I try to explain why I am not quite convinced by the objections of four colleagues who touch on relevant issues of great weight. Axel Honneth claims that I failed to take into account the systematic weight of the Aristotelian tradition which I pursue only up until Thomas Aquinas (1). Peter Gordon points to an asymmetry in the presentation of the discourse between faith and knowledge that allegedly calls into question the independence of what philosophy developed, by its own standards, from an appropriation of semantic contents of religious traditions (2). Regina Kreide and Tilo Wesche explain the central intention that in fact guided me in this book, but criticise the one-sidedness of an undialectical account of learning processes, in whose shadow the victims tend to be neglected (3).

Monday, April 19, 2021

Neues Buch: "Normative Ordnungen"

Normative Ordnungen

Hrsg. von Rainer Forst & Klaus Günther

(Berlin: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2021)

683 Seiten


Wer verstehen will, wie gesellschaftliche Ordnungen sich herausbilden, verändern, stabilisieren oder zerbrechen, muss ihr normatives Innenleben erschließen. Der Frankfurter Forschungsverbund "Normative Ordnungen" hat eine viel beachtete Methode entwickelt, die die konstitutiven Rechtfertigungen nationaler wie transnationaler Ordnungen untersucht: ihre narrative Struktur, ihre moralische, religiöse, konventionelle, politische, rechtliche Natur – oder eine Kombination davon, so spannungsreich sie auch sein mag. Auf welchen Wegen, in welchen Verfahren und Konflikten entstehen solche Rechtfertigungen? Wann schwindet ihre Kraft? Der Band präsentiert in interdisziplinärer Zusammenarbeit eine Antwort auf diese Fragen.


Rainer Forst & Klaus Günther - Normative Ordnungen. Ein Frankfurter Forschungsprogramm [Leseprobe]

I: Die Ambivalenz normativer Ordnungen: Was gilt?

Jürgen Habermas - Noch einmal: Zum Verhältnis von Moralität und Sittlichkeit [Vortragsskript] [Video]

Axel Honneth - Recht und Sittlichkeit. Aspekte eines komplexen Wechselverhältnisses

Rainer Forst - Normativität und Wirklichkeit. Zu einer  kritisch-realistischen Theorie der Politik [Normativity and Reality (draft)]

Marcus Willaschek - Soziale Geltung und normative Richtigkeit. Eine  sozial-pragmatische Konzeption von Normativität

Christoph Menke - Zweite Natur. Zu einer kritischen Theorie der Normativität

Martin Saar - Immanente Normativität

Christopher Daase & Nicole Deitelhoff - Wenn die Geltung schwindet. Die Krise der liberalen  Weltordnung und die Herrschaftsproblematik internationaler Politik

II: Die Universalität normativer Ordnungen: Was gilt wo?

Nikita Dhawan - Die Aufklärung vor den Europäer-innen retten

Bernhard Jussen - Kohärenzinseln. Arbeiten an geschichtswissenschaftlichen  Versuchsaufbauten nach dem Ende des Eurozentrismus

Stefan Gosepath - Die Notwendigkeit globaler Philosophie

Matthias Lutz-Bachmann - Werte und Normen

Stefan Kadelbach - Die relative Universalität der Menschenrechte

Armin von Bogdandy, Matthias Goldmann & Ingo Venzke - Gemeinwohl im Völkerrecht. Eine Theorie internationaler öffentlicher Gewalt

Jens Steffek - Vom Friedensprojekt zur Elitenverschwörung. Die Umdeutung internationalen Regierens in Zeiten des Populismus

III: Die Performativität normativer Ordnungen: Wer erzählt was und wie?

Hartmut Leppin - Normative Ordnung, Exemplarität und Performanz. Das Beispiel Rabbulas von Edessa

Annette Imhausen - (Natur-)Wissenschaften und normative Ordnungen. Beispiele  aus den frühesten Wissenschaften und ihrer Geschichte [Sciences and Normative Orders]

Susanne Schröter - Dschihadismus. Politische Kontexte, theologische  Rechtfertigungen und Utopien normativer Ordnungen

Mamadou Diawara - "Die Piraten versuchen, ihren Kopf zu retten". Chronik einer Transplantation, die nicht greift

Angela Keppler & Martin Seel - Filmische Untersuchungen. Über die Deutung  ihres seismographischen Gehalts

Vinzenz Hediger - Sichtbares Unrecht. Zur normativen Kraft des Dokumentarischen

Rainer Klump & Pascal Wolf - Das "Trickle Down"-Narrativ als Rechtfertigung  wirtschaftlichen Wachstums

IV: Die Dynamik und Fragilität normativer Ordnungen: Wer ordnet was?

Klaus Günther - Von normativen zu smarten Ordnungen? [Vortrag]

Christoph Burchard - Von der "Strafrechts"ordnung der Prädiktionsgesellschaft zur Strafrechts"Ordnung" des liberalen Rechtsstaats

Alexander Peukert - Die Herausbildung der normativen Ordnung "geistiges Eigentum". Diskurstheoretische und andere Erklärungsansätze [Arbeitspapier]

Ute Sacksofsky - Wenn Rechtfertigungen brüchig werden. Verfassungsgerichte in der Diskriminierungsbekämpfung am Beispiel der Geschlechterordnung vor dem Bundesverfassungsgericht

Sighard Neckel - Der Zerfall von Ordnungen [Vortrag

Darrel Moellendorf - Hoffnung und Gründe [Hope and Reason]

Friday, March 26, 2021

Vier Kommentare zu Habermas’ "Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie"

Trostlose Vernunft?

Vier Kommentare zu Jürgen Habermas’ Konstellation von Philosophie und Geschichte, Glauben und Wissen

von Burkhard Liebsch & Bernhard H. F. Taureck

(Felix Meiner Verlag, 2021)

247 Seiten


Philosophie spendet keinen Trost und garantiert keine Versöhnung, lehrt Habermas in seinem jüngsten Werk "Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie". Bedarf derart ernüchtertes Wissen eines funktional komplementären Glaubens, wie es in Habermas’ Rückgriffen auf die Philosophiegeschichte den Anschein hat?

Habermas bekennt sich wie Hegel zur "prinzipiellen Trostlosigkeit" philosophischen Denkens, verzichtet aber auch auf Glücks-, Sinn- oder Erlösungsversprechen. Er legt einen weiten Weg der Ernüchterung zurück. Burkhard Liebsch und Bernhard H. F. Taureck gehen in vier historisch und sozialphilosophisch ausgerichteten, reichhaltigen Kommentaren den Stationen dieser Ernüchterung nach und verdeutlichen, welche Potenziale Habermas' eigentümliche Konfiguration von Glauben und Wissen, Philosophie und Geschichte opfert.

Inhalt [PDF]

Vorwort  [PDF]

1. Geschichtliche Perspektiven "heil"-loser Vernunft. Jürgen Habermas’ implizite Geschichtsphilosophie – und was sie vermissen lässt - Burkhard Liebsch

2. Philosophie und religiöser Glaube. Versuch weiterführender Überlegungen in Auseinandersetzung mit Jürgen Habermas - Bernhard H. F. Taureck

3. Rückhaltlos verweltlicht? Philosophie vor ihrer Auflösung oder Verwirklichung - Burkhard Liebsch

4. Beantwortung der Frage: Welche verborgene Rolle spielt Habermas’ demokratisches Projekt in seinem "Opus magnum" von 2019? - Bernhard H. F. Taureck

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Pragmatism and Epistemic Democracy

The new issue of "Raisons Politiques" (2021/1) features articles on "Pragmatism and Epistemic Democracy", edited by Annabelle Lever and Dominik Gerber:

* Introduction - Annabelle Lever, Dominik Gerber

* Pragmatism, Truth, and Democracy - Cheryl Misak & Robert B. Talisse

There is growing interest in deliberative democracy, especially the pragmatist version that argues that democratic freedoms and procedures are more likely to get us to the right view of what is true, just, or right. In this time in our history, a focus on truth is more important than ever. We (Robert Talisse and Cheryl Misak) have put forward a position on which we can justify democratic freedoms and procedures on the basis of epistemic reasons. Our very practices of belief and reasoning require that we regard each other as social equals and that the voices of all are taken seriously in our quest for truth. Lever and Chin, in a way that is broadly sympathetic to our general project, have expressed a worry that we are “wrong to suppose that epistemic considerations are better placed than moral considerations when justifying coercive power over others”. In response, we will first distinguish two sites where an epistemic justification of democracy might operate. On our view, the epistemic argument shows why we should be democrats, and the question of how democrats can justify the exercise of coercion is a different matter. We argue that the appropriate reasons we as a society give to justify coercive power over others will indeed be moral. Our point has always been that beliefs about what it is morally right to do must be responsive to reasons, if they are beliefs that are aimed at getting things right. Then the argument for democracy comes in: the best method for getting things right is, broadly speaking, a democratic one. But the reasons that will be in play will be reasons about equality, autonomy, utility, and so on.

* Democracy and Truth - Annabelle Lever

According to Misak and Talisse, we can get from the fact that we all take what we believe to be true, whatever our different and incompatible beliefs, to reasons to support democratic, as opposed to undemocratic, government. Hence, they claim that democracy is necessary, but not sufficient, for epistemically justified belief. This article clarifies and sceptically assesses these claims.

* The Pragmatist Demos and the Boundary Problem - Matthew Festenstein

The pragmatist argument that a democratic ethos and institutions are in some sense a form of inquiry remains one of the most powerful but elusive themes in its social and political thought. As a term and concept, democracy predates the modern state but the project of justifying democracy is paradigmatically a project of justifying it within and for the modern state. Drawing on Misak and Talisse’s important development of the inquiry argument, this article draws out how the pragmatist epistemic argument breaks with this traditional conception of democratic justification, and how its commitment to the removal of internal obstacles to epistemic inclusion provides general reasons to question political boundaries.

* Democracy and Epistemic Egalitarianism - Dominik Gerber

Because of its non-instrumentalism, Cheryl Misak’s and Robert Talisse’s Peircean theory of democratic justification constitutes a unique and important variety of epistemic democracy. At its core is the claim that democracy is a constituent component of the Peircean epistemic ideal of inquiry. This article offers a relational egalitarian reading of this ideal and argues that Peircean epistemic egalitarianism fails to provide unambiguous support for our commitment to uphold politically egalitarian institutions. It cautions against using conceptual affinities between democratic equality, the self-reflexivity it enables among citizens, and worthwhile epistemic relationships as a basis for justifying democracy.

* The Paradoxes of Democratic Voting and the Peircean Justification of Democracy - Valeria Ottonelli

The Peircean defence of democracy purports to ground the appeal of democratic government on universal epistemic interests that we simply have qua individual epistemic agents. The problem with this view is that it seems to obliterate the distinctive way in which democratic deliberation and decision making socialise our knowledge and beliefs, making democracy a very special epistemic game, quite different from the games that we play as individual knowers in non-political, non-democratic contexts. The shortcomings of the Peircean defence of democracy fully emerge when confronted with the paradoxes of democratic voting, which can only be overcome if we model the democratic processes of deliberation and belief formation as deeply collectivised and socialised. Thus, the neglect of the distinctive way in which democratic deliberation and decision making socialise knowledge grounds the Peircean defence of democracy on an inaccurate account of democracy’s epistemology, and leaves it helpless before the paradoxes of majoritian voting.

* Epistemic Democracy Without Truth: The Deweyan Approach [Paper] - Michael Fuerstein

In this essay I situate John Dewey’s pragmatist approach to democratic epistemology in relation to contemporary “epistemic democracy”. Like epistemic democrats, Dewey characterizes democracy as a form of social inquiry. But whereas epistemic democrats suggest that democracy aims to “track the truth”, Dewey rejects the notion of “tracking” or “corresponding” to truth in political and other domains. For Dewey, the measure of successful decision-making is not some fixed independent standard of truth or correctness but, instead, our own reflective satisfaction with the practical results. I argue that this approach better reconciles epistemic democracy with traditional models of popular authority (“the will of the people”) and bolsters the defenses of the epistemic democrat against elitist alternatives.

See also:

"Pragmatist Epistemology and Democratic Theory" by Cheryl Misak & Robert Talisse (Journal of Political Philosophy, 22, 3 (2014), pp. 366-376.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

"The Historical Rawls" - new essays

A forthcoming issue of "Modern Intellectual History" features essays on John Rawls:

* The Historical Rawls: Introduction, by Sophie Smith, Teresa M. Bejan & Annette Zimmermann

John Rawls (1921–2002) and his work are now squarely a subject for history. In the more than fifteen years since his death, a rich body of scholarship has emerged which attempts, in different ways, to understand the nature, development, and impact of Rawls's thought from a variety of historical perspectives. With 2021 marking fifty years since A Theory of Justice (1971) was first published, this special forum examines what we here call the “historical Rawls.”

* Historicizing Rawls, by Sophie Smith

The opening, in 2004, of John Rawls's personal archive prompted a new wave of Rawls scholarship. This work has deepened our understanding of the development and impact of Rawls's ideas and of the broader contours of twentieth-century analytical political philosophy. This article places these recent archival histories, for the first time, in the context of the longer history of attempts to historicize Rawls, beginning with the publication of A Theory of Justice fifty years ago. Doing so does three things. First, it shows that early readers were more interested in how to think historically about Rawls than is sometimes assumed. Second, it reveals that partisan accounts of Rawls's place in history, popularized by those close to him, have sometimes made their way into the archival studies. Third and finally, it offers an opportunity to rethink how the twentieth-century history of political philosophy and political theory is often told.

* John Rawls and Oxford Philosophy, by Nikhil Krishnan

Scholarship historicizing John Rawls has put paid to the view that his work was without precedent. This article sets out to find out why, then, A Theory of Justice stirred such philosophical excitement, even among British philosophers in a position to recognize its antecedents. I advance the view that his work is helpfully understood as fulfilling the promise of the “naturalist” revival in ethics begun at Oxford by Philippa Foot and Elizabeth Anscombe. After briefly surveying the development of analytic philosophy, I argue that Rawls's contribution was to reconceive ethics so that it was an investigation neither of an independent ethical reality nor of the logic of moral language. Rather, it was concerned with a class of facts about ourselves. Rawls's practice of ethics adopts as its central focus the ongoing human practice of justification. I place Rawls's turn from religious faith to justification between persons alongside similar shifts in Plato's Euthyphro and in the biographies of Kant and Sidgwick. I try to show the distinctiveness of Rawls's focus by contrasting his search for human self-understanding with the project of R. M. Hare, his most prominent non-naturalist critic, who charged Rawls with offering an inadequate account of the authority of ethics.

Conscription and the Color Line: Rawls, Race and Vietnam, by Brandon M. Terry

This article revisits one of John Rawls's rare forays into activist politics, his proposal presented to the Harvard faculty, calling for a denunciation of the “2-S” system of student deferments from conscription. In little-studied archival papers, Rawls argued that the draft both exposed “background” structural racial injustice and constituted a burdening of black Americans that violated the norms of fair cooperation. Rather than obscuring racial injustice and focusing exclusively on economic inequality, as Charles Mills has claimed, Rawls rejected the ascendant conservative views that naturalized black poverty or else attributed it to cultural pathologies in black families. Thus Rawls found nothing illicit in taking the position of a disadvantaged racial group as a relevant comparison when applying his ideal theory to nonideal circumstances. However, I contend in this article that Rawls's account of political philosophy as an attempt to find a consensus may be similarly ideological, leading him to displace the reality of conflict through begging descriptions, expressivist formulations, and historical romanticism.

* The Theodicy of Growth: John Rawls, Political Economy, and Reasonable Faith, by Stefan Eich [Paper, PDF]

Rediscovery of John Rawls's early interest in theology has recently prompted readings of his philosophical project as a secularized response to earlier theological questions. Intellectual historians have meanwhile begun to historicize Rawls's use of contemporary philosophical resources and his engagement with economic theory. In this article I argue that what held together Rawls's evolving interest in postwar political economy and his commitment to philosophy as reconciliation was his understanding of the need for secular theodicy. In placing Rawls in the intellectual context of a postwar political economy of growth as well as in relation to the history of political thought, including his reading of that history, I defend two claims. First, I argue that Rawls's philosophical ambition is best understood as providing a secular reconciliatory theodicy. Second, I suggest that Rawls's theodicy was initially rendered plausible by the economic background conditions of economic growth that were fractured and fragmented just as Rawls's book was published in 1971. This divergence between text and context helps to account for Rawls's peculiar reception and his own subsequent attempt to insist on the applicability of his theory under radically altered circumstances.

* “A Quite Similar Enterprise … Interpreted Quite Differently”? James Buchanan, John Rawls and the Politics of the Social Contract, by Ben Jackson & Zofia Stemplowska

A striking aspect of the initial reception of John Rawls is that he was embraced by leading market-liberal theorists such as Friedrich Hayek and James Buchanan. This article investigates the reasons for the free-market right's sympathetic interest in the early Rawls by providing a historical account of the dialogue between Rawls and his key neoliberal interlocutor, James Buchanan. We set out the common intellectual context, notably the influence of Frank Knight, that framed the initial work of both Buchanan and Rawls and brought them together as seeming allies during the early 1960s. We then analyze a significant theoretical divergence between the two in the 1970s related to their contrasting responses to the politics of those years and to differences over the importance of ideal theory in political thought. The exchanges between Buchanan and Rawls demonstrate that Rawlsian liberalism and neoliberalism initially emerged as entwined critiques of mid-twentieth-century political economy but could not sustain that alliance when faced by the new claims for civil and social rights that became a marked feature of politics after the 1960s.

Islam, Rawls, and the Disciplinary Limits of Late Twentieth-Century Liberal Philosophy, by Murad Idris

This article tells the archival story of how Rawls invented a hypothetical Muslim state that he called “Kazanistan.” It examines drafts of The Law of Peoples from 1992 to 1998, Rawls's notes, his personal correspondence, and the sources preserved in his archives. I track Rawls's gradual interest in Islam, which resulted in his invention of Kazanistan during the final revisions, in March 1998. Contrary to the aesthetics of rigor and simplicity in ideal theory's methods, Rawls's actual method in his incursion into “comparative philosophy” and Islam was circuitous and contingent. And contrary to ideal theory's self-presentation as emerging from an ahistorical conceptual realm, the idealized abstraction of Islam emerges from Rawls's own history, or from an ideologically limited set of texts, conversations, and political debates about Islam. The genealogy of Kazanistan illustrates how liberal philosophy extracts data from other disciplines to construct other peoples, without regard for the surrounding disciplinary politics.

Rawls's Teaching and the “Tradition” of Political Philosophy, by Teresa M. Bejan

This article explores Rawls's evolving orientation to “the tradition of political philosophy” over the course of his academic career, culminating in Justice as Fairness: A Restatement (2001). Drawing on archival material, it argues that Rawls's fascination with tradition arose out of his own pedagogical engagement with the debate around the “death of political philosophy” in the 1950s. Throughout, I highlight the significance of Rawls's teaching—beginning with his earliest lectures on social and political philosophy at Cornell, to his shifting views on “the tradition” in his published works, culminating in the increasingly contextually minded and irenic approach on display in Political Liberalism (1993) and Justice as Fairness. This neglected aspect of the “historical Rawls” offers insight into how Rawls himself might have read “John Rawls” as a figure in the history of political thought—and reveals that he spent a lot more time contemplating that question than one might think.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

William Rehg on Habermas' new book

William Rehg reviews Habermas' book "Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie" (Suhrkamp, 2019) in "Constellations" (early view):

"Auch eine Geschichte der Philosophie" (Book review)


"Habermas offers a genealogy of postmetaphysical thought  as it emerged through the discourse over faith and reason. (....) In centering the analysis on faith and reason, Habermas assumes we cannot understand contemporary forms of postmetaphysical thought as issuing from a learning process if we do not understand their development within, and eventually away from, religious traditions - with which Western philosophy was deeply intertwined for more than a millennium. Indeed, to understand the prospects for a holistic philosophy today, we must attend to the ways in which religious traditions have shaped - and might still speak to - reflection on the kind of questions posed by Kant. [What can I know? What ought I to do? What may I hope for? What is a human being?]

In the Christian West, that influence is clearest in the emergence of universal, equalitarian ideals in ethical-political theory and practice. The existential ambition driving Habermas’s genealogy, then, aims to show how that Christian legacy offers resources for holistic, but secular philosophical reflection on the meaning of today’s world for our lives “as contemporaries and individuals”. 

Over the course of the genealogy, however, the question of hope takes on a distinctive significance, for without a secular answer to that question moral progress lacks an important motivational resource. For Habermas, that resource lies in the possibility of a global, intercultural dialogue on principles of international justice. In beginning with the Axial Age, he aims to ground that possibility by showing how incipient ideas of universal equality are not merelyWestern, but are found in all the major religions and belief-systems that simultaneously arose across China and India through the Middle East to Greece. [.....]

Deconstructing normativity as a socially functional illusion, Hume approached morality and faith as objects of psychological observation. By contrast, Kant reconstructed basic moral concepts from a participant perspective and drew on religious doctrine to address a deeper problem of moral motivation: on what basis can we expect people of good will always to give priority to the binding force of moral obligations? In response, he translated Christian ideas - the immortality of the soul, the Kingdom of God on earth - into secular grounds for encouraging people to act morally for a better world. (.....) Indeed, Kant represents a decisive figure in the story, for in him Habermas sees the most enduring secular translations of the rational potentials found in religion - not his pragmatic arguments for immortality and God, but rather his transposition of imago Dei and the Kingdom of God into ideas of equality, moral autonomy, universal human rights, and a cosmopolitan world order. [.....]

Habermas closes his genealogy in chapter 10 with four “Young Hegelians,” broadly defined – Feuerbach, Marx, Kierkegaard, and Peirce - who strove to work out the implications of a non-idealist, communicative concept of reason in history. Each of these thinkers focused on some aspect of reconciling human agency and emancipation with the linguistic, social, and life-historical contexts on which human self-understanding and action depend—whether that aspect was culture (Feuerbach), opaque socioeconomic forces (Marx), the individual’s unique historicity (Kierkegaard), or the linguistic pragmatic conditions of cooperation in inquiry, moral deliberation, and politics (Peirce). Those analyses, Habermas asserts, anticipate all the problems of 20th-century postmetaphysical thought in the Kant-Hegel tradition, as well as challenges for social integration posed by global cooperation, digital communications, and genetic engineering."

See my links to reviews of Habermas' book here.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

John Rawls at 100

John Rawls was born on February 21, 1921, and he published his "A Theory of Justice" in 1971. In celebration of these 100th and 50th anniversaries:

* DE: Stefan Gosepath, Otfried Höffe & Susan Neiman (SWR1, audio, 44 minutes)

* UK: Teresa Bejan, Jonathan Floyd & Rupert Read (BBC, audio, 48 minutes)

* DE: Otfried Höffe (Deutschlandsfunk, audio, 30 minutes) 

* DE: Otfried Höffe (Frankfurter Rundschau)

* DE: Otfried Höffe (Philosophie Magazin)

* DE: Rainer Forst (Die Zeit)

* DE: Dirk Lüddecke (Süddeutsche Zeitung)

* DE: Stefan Gosepath (Der Tagesspiegel)

* DE: Armin Pfahl-Traughber (HPD)

* DE: Mathias Risse (

* UK: Lawrence Solum (Legal Theory Blog)

* UK: Jon Mandle & Sarah Roberts-Cady (OUP Blog)

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Interview with Habermas in "Libération"

A new interview with Jürgen Habermas in the French newspaper "Libération" (February 1, 2021):

"La pandémie met à l’épreuve notre degré de civisme"


Comment percevez-vous la montée en puissance d’un complotisme radical?

Ce nouveau type de mouvements protestataires, réunissant des adeptes de l’autoritarisme et des conspirationnistes de tous poils, des hooligans et des gens de la droite radicale prêts à recourir à la violence, est à mes yeux le phénomène véritablement inquiétant. Ce n’est pas la politique sanitaire étatique qui a généré ce potentiel de violence même si celui-ci connaît une pleine visi bilité depuis la pandémie. Dès l’année 2017, la mouvance QAnon se faisait déjà entendre, et bruyamment. De façon tout à fait grotesque, ses partisans s’érigent en défenseurs des droits et de la liberté. A première vue, le mélange d’éléments autoritaires et d’éléments libertariens-égocentriques ne cadre en rien avec le schéma classique de l’antagonisme gauche-droite. Le fait que ces personnes à l’évidence avides de provocations et se mettant volontiers en scène aient largement participé le 6 janvier dernier, lors de l’assaut le Capitole, à Washington, doit nous faire réfléchir – bien que le trumpisme, aux Etats-Unis, ait naturellement de tout autres racines. Je crains que ce type de protestations, et pour lequel à ma connaissance aucune explication convaincante n’a été jusqu’à présent apportée, ne soit pas un phénomène éphémère mais le signe qu’aux actuelles apories sociales répond un nouveau profil psychologique – qui n’a pas encore été saisi avec justesse. Ce n’est pas la psychologie sociale du conspirationnisme qui est le problème fondamental, mais la question suivante: quelles sont les causes qui génèrent un tel mélange de phénomènes faisant à ce point contraste?

Comment qualifiez-vous ce danger qui menace le régime américain?

Les premières enquêtes d’opinion montrent que le noyau dur des fanatiques de Trump est allé trop loin en occupant le Capitole, y compris aux yeux de très nombreux sympathisants de l’ancien président, dont le sens civique a été heurté. D’un autre côté, le fait que 73 millions de personnes aient voté Trump constitue un signal d’alarme fort, qui doit attirer l’attention sur des tendances structurelles extrêmement malheureuses, vieilles de plusieurs décennies, et que Joe Biden ne pourra corriger du jour au lendemain, quelle que soit sa bonne volonté. [.....]

Le système politique américain a connu dès les années 90 un processus de polarisation consistant à aiguiser l’inimitié entre groupes, et cela de façon parfaitement intentionnelle, à l’initiative des républicains et sous la direction du député Newt Gingrich. Quant au système médiatique américain, qui est entièrement privatisé, il est incapable – et pas seulement depuis que la sphère publique est fragmentée par les réseaux sociaux – de faire naître à l’échelle du pays entier des débats dignes de ce nom. Le paysage politique de ce pays aux disparités sociales révoltantes et dont l’infrastructure publique tombe en ruine ne s’agence plus en fonction d’une perception et d’une évaluation rationnelles des intérêts en présence, et c’est pourquoi les confrontations politiques y sont dominées par les affects. 

[.....] Une culture politique libérale doit se régénérer par elle-même. Ce n’est pas la polarisation croissante des débats publics qui me semble être le problème fondamental, mais le fait que l’on n’examine pas à fond les alternatives politiques, qu’on ne les formule pas assez clairement et qu’on ne les étaye pas suffisamment.