Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dialogue Between Habermas and Mendieta

At Stony Brook University, October 7, 2009:

Between Faith and Reason:
An Interdisciplinary Dialogue Between Jürgen Habermas and Eduardo Mendieta

"This is an informal conversation between Prof. Habermas and Prof. Mendieta that will cover Habermas' most recent work on religion. Prof. Habermas will be asked about theoretical motivations for what some have called his "religious turn." He will be asked about in what ways his approach is a contribution to very concrete European challenges, and whether his reflections have import for the US. He will also be asked about his seminar at Stony Brook on political theology. In particular, he will be asked about his understanding of political theology and what differences he sees between the political theology of Schmitt and Metz. After Mendieta's questions, the floor will be open for questions from the audience."

A schedule of Habermas's public lectures at Stony Brook: here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Dutch Conference in Practical Philosophy

First Annual Dutch Conference in Practical Philosophy

October 2-3, 2009
Netherlands School for Research in Practical Philosophy
Doorn, Utrecht, The Netherlands

The extensive programme includes:

Stephen Darwall (Michigan):
"The Second Person Standpoint"

Herlinde Pauer-Studer (Vienna):
"The Interrelation of First-, Second- and Third-Person Perspectives in Moral Discourse"

Bert van den Brink (Utrecht):
"The (Limited) Place of Deliberation in Politics"

Martijn Boot (Rotterdam):
"Conflicts of Justice"

Jan-Willem van der Rijt (Groningen):
"Kantian Dignity and Republican Standing"

Rutger Claassen (Leiden) & Marcus Düwell (Utrecht):
"The Foundations of Capability Theory"

Debra Satz (Stanford):
"Moral Limits of the Markets

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Seyla Benhabib awarded the Ernst Bloch Prize

Seyla Benhabib, Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at Yale University, was awarded the Ernst Bloch Prize in Ludwigshafen, Germany, on September 25.

The prize, one of Germany's most distinguished philosophical honors, is given every three years with a 15,000-Euro honorarium in the name of the German-Jewish social philosopher Ernst Bloch (1885-1977) by Ludwigshafen, the city of his birth. Previous recipients include Leszek Kolakowski and Pierre Bourdieu.

The Bloch Prize selection committee praised Benhabib's work "for taking its inspiration from the contradictions of a globalized world. She analyzes the relationship between citizens' rights and human rights and opens our eyes to the need for an ethics of discourse. She proposes a culture of civil and civic creativity, reminding one of the Blochian utopia of the multiversum."

From Yale Bulletin.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Axel Honneth versus Peter Sloterdijk

A controversy between two of Germany's leading philosophers, Axel Honneth (Frankfurt University) and Peter Sloterdijk (Karlsruhe School of Design), has taken place in the German newspapers.

In "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" (June 13, 2009), professor Sloterdijk characterized the welfare state as "institutionalized kleptomania" in a "semi-socialistic" society - a state which in a manner similar to Robin Hood steals half of the productive citizens's resources through its tax system. Conversely, Sloterdijk called for a "tax strike" and a "class struggle from above":

"Die Revolution der gebenden Hand"

Professor Axel Honneth, who belongs to the third generation of the Frankfurt School, responded on Sloterdijk's article in "Die Zeit" (September 24, 2009). Honneth gives a general critique of Sloterdijk's philosophical work and his Nietzschean approach:

"Fataler Tiefsinn aus Karlsruhe"

(English translation here. A shortened version of Honneth's article has been translated into French and published in "Le Monde" October 24, 2009, entitled "Pauvres classes dominantes".)

The editors of "Die Zeit" invited Sloterdijk to write a reply to Honneth's attack, but in an open letter to the editors Sloterdijk declined to participate in a discussion. The letter was published in "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" (September 27):

Sloterdijk: "Das elfte Gebot: die progressive Einkommenssteuer".

In his letter - which in fact is a response to Honneth's critique - Sloterdijk claims that he has been misunderstood by Honneth. Sloterdijk states that his main point was that it would be more "social psychological productive" if the state would finance its activities through voluntary donations instead of compulsory taxes.

Update II:
Further contributions to the debate:
- Jürgen Kaube (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, September 25)
- Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht (Die Zeit, October 1)
- Christoph Menke (Die Zeit, October 15) (excerpts here)
- Karl Heinz Bohrer (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, October 21)
- Harry Nutt (Frankfurter Rundschau, October 22)
- Peter Sloterdijk (interview in Der Spiegel, October 26)
- Martin Seel (Die Zeit, October 29)
- Peter Sloterdijk (Cicero, November 2009) (excerpts here)
- Franz Sommerfeld (Frankfurter Rundschau, November 4)
- Paul Kirchhof (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, November 7)
- Christian Schlüter (Frankfurter Rundschau, November 10)
- Ulrich Greiner (Die Zeit, November 12)
- Harald Jähner (Berliner Zeitung, November 18)
- Albrecht von Lucke (Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik 12/2009).

Interview with Jürgen Kaube on the Sloterdijk/Honneth debate in Radio Bremen (September 29, 2009) here.

Interview with Axel Honneth in Radio Bremen (October 26, 2009) here.

Update III:
- Axel Honneth (Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, December 17, 2009)
- Rüdiger Safranski (Deutschlandsfunk, December 20, 2009)
- Michael Hartmann (Frankfurter Rundschau, December 29, 2009)
- Peter Sloterdijk (Süddeutsche Zeitung, January 6, 2010)
- Lutz Wingert (Die Zeit, January 7, 2010)
- Jens Jessen (Die Zeit, January 21, 2010)
- Oskar Negt (3sat, January 28, 2010)
- Albrecht von Lucke (Deutschlandsradio, February 15, 2010)
- Norbert Bolz (Deutschlandsradio, February 16, 2010)

Update IV:
- Peter Sloterdijk (Book on Suhrkamp Verlag, 2010)
- Peter Sloterdijk (Die Zeit, December 2, 2010)
- Elke Brüns (Frankfurter Rundschau, December 11, 2010)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New book: "Justice" by Michael Sandel

Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?

Michael J. Sandel

(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009)
320 pages

What are our obligations to others as people in a free society? Should government tax the rich to help the poor? Is the free market fair? Is it sometimes wrong to tell the truth? Is killing sometimes morally required? Is it possible, or desirable, to legislate morality? Do individual rights and the common good conflict?

Michael J. Sandel’s “Justice” course is one of the most popular and influential at Harvard (see here and here). Up to a thousand students pack the campus theater to hear Sandel relate the big questions of political philosophy to the most vexing issues of the day, and this fall, public television will air a series based on the course. Justice offers readers the same exhilarating journey that captivates Harvard students. This book is a searching, lyrical exploration of the meaning of justice, one that invites readers of all political persuasions to consider familiar controversies in fresh and illuminating ways. Affirmative action, same-sex marriage, physician-assisted suicide, abortion, national service, patriotism and dissent, the moral limits of markets—Sandel dramatizes the challenge of thinking through these conflicts, and shows how a surer grasp of philosophy can help us make sense of politics, morality, and our own convictions as well.

Michael Sandel is Professor of Government at Harvard University.

See also Sandel's one-hour lecture on Justice - A Journey in Moral Reasoning at Aspen Institute in 2008.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Robert Talisse on "Democracy and Moral Conflict"

Democracy and Moral Conflict

Robert B. Talisse

(Cambridge University Press, 2009), 201 pages


Why democracy? Most often this question is met with an appeal to some decidedly moral value, such as equality, liberty, dignity, or even peace. But in contemporary democratic societies, there is deep disagreement and conflict about the precise nature and relative worth of these values. And when democracy votes, some of those who lose will see the prevailing outcome as not merely disappointing, but morally intolerable. How should citizens react when confronted with a democratic result that they regard as intolerable? Should they revolt, or instead pursue democratic means of social change? In this book, Robert Talisse argues that each of us has reasons to uphold democracy - even when it makes serious moral errors - and that these reasons are rooted in our most fundamental epistemic commitments. His original and compelling study will be of interest to a wide range of readers in political philosophy and political theory.

"Robert Talisse has provided us with a timely, original, and unapologetic defense of constitutional democracy. It is, he says, the only form of government suited to persons who are already committed in their everyday lives to giving reasons for their beliefs. Artfully blending careful philosophical analysis with contemporary illustrations and accessible prose, "Democracy and Moral Conflict" makes an authentically democratic and powerfully reasoned case for democracy." John C. P. Goldberg, Professor of Law, Harvard University.


Introduction [Excerpt]
1. The Problem of Deep Politics
2. Against the Politics of Omission
3. Folk Epistemology
4. Justifying Democracy
5. Epistemic Perfectionism

Preview of pages 1 to 31: here

Robert Talisse is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Political Science at Vanderbilt University.

Other books by Robert Talisse are: "A Pragmatist Philosophy of Democracy" (Routledge, 2007) and "Democracy After Liberalism" (Routledge, 2005). A symposium on Talisse's "A Pragmatist Philosophy of Democracy" was published in Transactions of Charles S. Peirce Society vol. 45 no. 1 (Winter, 2009).

See Robert Talisse's post "The Simple Truth" on the blog of CUP.

Listen to an interview with Robert Talisse on pragmatism at "Philosophy Bites".

Monday, September 21, 2009

Critical essays on G. A. Cohen

Justice, Equality and Constructivism:
Essays on G. A. Cohen's "Rescuing Justice and Equality"

Brian Feltham (Editor)

(Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), 136 pages


This collection critically engages with a number of recurrent themes from the work of G.A. Cohen, and most especially with arguments and positions advanced in his "Rescuing Justice and Equality".

A critical discussion of the work of the contemporary political theorist G.A. Cohen, an egalitarian and a critic of John Rawls.

Offers a critical perspective on his significant work on equality and constructivism, including his "Rescuing Justice and Equality".

Challenges Cohen’s view of the centrality of equality to justice, of the scope for free choice of occupation and economic incentives, as well as his view that fundamental principles of justice are insensitive to facts.


1. Introduction: Brian Feltham
2. Justice is not Equality: Richard J. Arneson
3. Inequality, Injustice and Levelling Down: Thomas Christiano and Will Braynen
4. Inequality, Incentives and the Interpersonal Test: Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen
5. Freedom of Occupational Choice: Michael Otsuka
6. Cohen to the Rescue!: Thomas Pogge
7. Justice, Incentives and Constructivism: Andrew Williams

All essays have been published in Ratio vol. 21 no. 4 (December 2008).

Friday, September 18, 2009

In Frankfurt: Exhibition and lectures on the Frankfurt School

Exhibition at the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt:

"The Frankfurt School and Frankfurt - A Return to Germany"

On Theodor W. Adorno's and Max Horkheimer's return in 1949 from their exile in America.

Also a new book with the same title Die Frankfurter Schule und Frankfurt, edited by Monika Boll & Raphael Gross (Wallstein Verlag, 2009, 301 pages), including:

Seyla Benhabib:
Hannah Arendt und die Frankfurter Schule

Anson Rabinbach:
Israel, die Diaspora und das Bilderverbot im Spiegel der Kritischen Theorie

Micha Brumlik:
Wissenschaft und Identitätsfindung

Stefan Lochner:
Die »Gruppenstudie« des Instituts für Sozialforschung

And seven lectures:

October 14
Jutta Zwilling
"Die Krönung unserer eigenen Wiedergutmachungspflicht"
Die Stadt Frankfurt am Main und das Institut für Sozialforschung

October 21
Micha Brumlik
Wissenschaft und Identitätsfindung
Erich Fromms Dissertation über das "Gesetz"

November 11
Detlev Claussen
Adornos Heimkehr.
Der Essay als Form, ein Transportmittel verfolgter Gedanken

November 18
Rachel Heuberger
Leo Löwenthal und Erich Fromm
Die "jüdischen Juden" der Frankfurter Schule

November 25
Axel Honneth
Vom schwierigen Geschäft der Traditionswahrung
Zur Zukunft des Instituts für Sozialforschung

December 2
Rolf Wiggershaus
Die Kompagnons Max Horkheimer und Friedrich Pollock, das Institut für Sozialforschung und das Netzwerk der Frankfurter Schule

December 9
Peter Erwin Jansen
Etablierung im Exil
Herbert Marcuse und Leo Löwenthal in Amerika

Monday, September 14, 2009

Scanlon's Locke Lectures 2009 (audio)

Earlier this year, professor Thomas M. Scanlon (Harvard University) held the Locke Lectures 2009 at Oxford University, entitled

Being Realistic about Reasons

You can hear his five lectures here:

Lecture 1: Introduction (mp3)
Lecture 2: Normativity and Metaphysics (mp3)
Lecture 3: Motivation and the Appeal of Expressivism (mp3)
Lecture 4: Epistemological Problems (mp3)
Lecture 5: Normative Structure (mp3)


"The idea that there are irreducibly normative truths about reasons for action, which we can discover by thinking carefully about reasons in the usual way, has been thought to be subject to three kinds of objections: metaphysical, epistemological, and motivational or, as I would prefer to say, practical. Metaphysical objections claim that a belief in irreducibly normative truths would commit us to facts or entities that would be metaphysically odd—incompatible, it is sometimes said, with a scientific view of the world. Epistemological objections maintain that if there were such truths we would have not way of knowing what they are: we could “get in touch with” them only through some strange kind of intuition. Practical objections maintain that if conclusions about what we have reason to do were simply beliefs in a kind of fact, they could not have the practical significance that reasons are commonly supposed to have. This is often put by saying that beliefs alone cannot motivate an agent to act, but it is better put as the claim that beliefs cannot explain action, or make acting rational or irrational in the way that accepting conclusions about reasons is normally thought to do.

I will argue that all of these objections are mistaken. The idea that there are truths about are reasons for action does face serious problems. But these are normative problems—problems internal to the normative domain, whose solutions, if there are such, must themselves be normative."

Thomas Scanlon's latest book is "Moral Dimensions" (Harvard University Press, 2008).

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Conference: "A World Without Politics?"

Conference at Katholike Universiteit, Leuven, Belgium, September 17-19, 2009:

A World Without Politics?

It is the purpose of this conference to analyze the alleged depoliticization of the global order and to reflect on the ways in which this process affects the prospects of some form of global democracy.

Speakers: [Abstracts]

Joshua Cohen and Charles Sabel
“Global Public Reason: In Defense of the Banausic Conception of Politics”

Yannis Papadopoulos
"The Transnational Challenge to Democracy"

Matthias Lievens

“Carl Schmitt and the Specter of a Deterritorialized Politics”

Chantal Mouffe
“Which Democracy for an Agonistic Multipolar World?”

Etienne Balibar
“Strangers or Enemies? On the Impolitical Dimensions of Global Governance”

Jan Wouters
“From Government to Governance? Reflections from an International and European Legal Perspective”

Margaret Moore
“Global Democracy and Collective Forms of Self-Determination”

Stefan Rummens

“From Governance to Government? Representative Institutions and Democratic Legitimacy in the Global Society”

Andreas Kalyvas

“World Empire and Global Anomie in Carl Schmitt's Political Theory of International Law”.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Review of Sandel & Sen on Justice

In the New Yorker magazine City Journal (September 11), Adam Kirsch reviews books by Michael Sandels and Amartya Sen:

Justice and Its Critics. Two new books take fresh looks at John Rawls’s magnum opus.

Michael Sandel
Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009, 320 pp.)

Amartya Sen
The Idea of Justice (Harvard University Press, 2009, 496 pp.)

"Since John Rawls published that seminal book in 1971, its ideas and language have exercised an extraordinary hold on the imagination of political thinkers. Just look at "Justice" by Michael J. Sandel and "The Idea of Justice" by Amartya Sen—two books, coincidentally appearing at the same moment, by leading political philosophers, both of them professors at Harvard (as Rawls was). Justice is the more accessible work, based on Sandel’s popular introductory course in Harvard’s Core Curriculum, while The Idea of Justice is more ambitious, treating a range of theoretical and practical problems in political economy. Yet both books are, at heart, responses to and revisions of Rawls, and their titles deliberately allude to Rawls’s magnum opus. Just as the nineteenth-century critics of Hegel were still known as Young Hegelians, so these critics of Rawls are essentially post-Rawlsians."

Adam Kirsch is a senior editor at The New Republic.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Habermas donates archive to Frankfurt University

Press release from Frankfurt University, September 11:

Jürgen Habermas has donated his private archive to Frankfurt University. It includes his professional correspondence and drafts and manuscripts for his more than 50 books.

Professor Werner Müller-Esterl, President of the Frankfurt University, says: "Ich bin froh und stolz, dass mit der in Aussicht gestellten Übernahme dieses Archivs die große Tradition der Frankfurter Schule auch auf diesem Weg in Stadt und Universität weiter wirken wird.“ The university archives already includes the papers of Horkheimer, Adorno, and Marcuse.

Alexander Kluge receives Adorno Award

Today - on Theodor W. Adorno's birthday, September 11 - the German film director and author Alexander Kluge receives The Adorno Award 2009. The award ceremony takes place in Frankfurter Paulskirche, Frankfurt am Main.

The laudatio will be delivered by Friedrich A. Kittler.

The award is conferred every three years for "outstanding achievements in philosophy, theatre, music, and film". Former laureates includes Norbert Elias (1977), Jürgen Habermas (1980), Zygmunt Bauman (1998), Jacques Derrida (2001), and Albrecht Wellmer (2006).

Alexander Kluge's acceptance speech for the Adorno Award 2009:
Die Aktualität Adornos
(From "Der Freitag", September 11, 2009)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Critical essays on Derek Parfit

Essays on Derek Parfit's "On What Matters"

eds. by Jussi Suikkanen & John Cottingham

(Wiley-Blackwell, 2009),
168 pages


In "Essays on Derek Parfit's On What Matters", seven leading moral philosophers offer critical evaluations of the central ideas presented in a greatly anticipated new work by world-renowned moral philosopher Derek Parfit.
Addresses Parfit's central thesis - that the main ethical theories can agree on what matters - as well as his defense of moral realism.


1. Introduction: Jussi Suikkanen
2. Naturalism without Tears: James Lenman
3. Can There Be a Kantian Consequentialism?: Seiriol Morgan
4. The Kantian Argument for Consequentialism: Michael Otsuka
5. Climb Every Mountain?: Michael Ridge
6. Might Kantian Contractualism be the Supreme Principle of Morality?: Gideon Rosen
7. Desires, Values, Reasons, and the Dualism of Practical Reason: Michael Smith
8. Should Kantians Be Consequentialists?: Jacob Ross

The essays have previously been published in Ratio vol. 22 no. 1 (March 2009).

The unpublished manuscript for Derek Parfit's "On What Matters" is available here (Draft January 23, 2009, 895 pages!). It includes comments by Susan Wolf, Allen Wood, Barbara Herman and T. M Scanlon, and a response from Parfit.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Essays: Remembering Richard Rorty

Special volume of New Literary History (vol. 39 no. 1) on the American philosopher Richard Rorty (1931-2007):

Remembering Richard Rorty

All contributions are available online (pdf):

Ralph Cohen - Introduction

Meredith Williams - Contingency, Solidarity - Irony

Jürgen Habermas - ". . . And to define America, her athletic democracy"

Richard J. Bernstein - Richard Rorty's Deep Humanism

Jeffrey Stout - Rorty at Princeton

E. D. Hirsch - Rorty and the Priority of Democracy to Philosophy

Richard Rorty - Texts and Lumps

Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht & Rita Felski - The Inspirational Power of a Shy Philosopher

Andrzej Szahaj - Richard Rorty: Memories

Frank Ankersmit - Rorty and History

Richard Rorty - Philosophy as a Kind of Writing

Annette Baier - Can Philosophers Be Patriots?

David Rigsbee - Rorty

David Rigsbee - Wised Up

David Rigsbee - Rorty from a Poet's View

Günter Leypoldt - Uses of Metaphor: Richard Rorty's Literary Criticism and the Poetics of World-Making

Nicholas M. Gaskill - Experience and Signs: Towards a Pragmatist Literary Criticism

A Selected List of Richard Rorty's Publications

A short film on Richard Rorty: here.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Festschrift in honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe

Property, Freedom, Society
Essays in Honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe

Ed. by Jörg Guido Hülsmann & Stephan Kinsella

(Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2009)


The festschrift honors Hans-Hermann Hoppe's 60th birthday. It contains personal testimonies and essays in professor Hoppe's preferred research areas, such as political philosophy, democracy, and economics. The contributors are colleagues, collaborators, and former students from all over the world.


The books contains 35 essays, including:

Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. - A Life of Ideas
Sean Gabb - Hans-Hermann Hoppe and the Political Equivalent of Nuclear Fusion
Remigijus Šimašius - The Power of Argument in a Crazy World
Paul Gottfried - Hans-Hermann Hoppe and the Libertarian Right
Jesús Huerta de Soto - Classical Liberalism versus Anarcho-Capitalism
Stephan Kinsella - What Libertarianism Is
Carlo Lottieri - Classical Natural Law and Libertarian Theory
Christian Michel - Why We Have Rights
Frank van Dun - Freedom and Property: Where They Conflict
Doug French - The Trouble With Democracy: Maslow Meets Hoppe
David Gordon - An Epistemic Justification of Democracy?
Robert Higgs - Democracy and Faits Accomplis

The book is available here (free pdf download).

Hans-Hermann Hoppe is a Distinguished Fellow with the Ludwig von Mises Institute and Professor Emeritus of Economics at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He is an Austrian school economist and libertarian/anarcho-capitalist philosopher. He was born in Germany in 1949 and studied history, sociology, and philosophy at the universities of Saarbrücken and Frankfurt (at Jürgen Habermas and Karl-Otto Apel). His doctoral dissertation - "Handeln und Erkennen: Zur Kritik des Empirismus am Beispiel der Philosophie David Humes" - dealt with the praxeological foundations of epistemology. See his website here.

A recent paper on Hoppe's argumentation ethics is Marian Eabrasu's "A Reply to the Current Critiques Formulated Against Hoppe's Argumentation Ethics", Libertarian Papers vol. 1, 20 (2009).

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Four lectures by Michael Sandel on a new citizenship

Available at BBC's website,

Michael Sandel - The Reith Lectures 2009: A New Citizenship

Four lectures:

1. Markets and Morals
Are there some things that money can’t, or shouldn’t, buy?

2. Morality in Politics
The question of whether there is a role for moral argument in politics.

3. Genetics and Morality
Genetic engineering requires us to rethink the proper stance of human beings towards nature.

4. A New Politics of the Common Good
What would a moral and civic renewal of contemporary democratic politics look like?

Michael Sandel is Professor of Government at Harvard University.

Dworkin on the Judge Sotomayor hearings

In New York Review of Books (September 24, 2009), professor Ronald Dworkin (NYU) comments on the Judge Sonia Sotomayor hearings in the Senate:

Justice Sotomayor: The Unjust Hearings

"Her hearings could (.....) have been a particularly valuable opportunity to explain the complexity of constitutional issues to the public and thus improve public understanding of this crucially important aspect of our government. But she destroyed any possibility of that benefit in her opening statement when she proclaimed, and repeated at every opportunity throughout the hearings, that her constitutional philosophy is very simple: fidelity to the law. That empty statement perpetuated the silly and democratically harmful fiction that a judge can interpret the key abstract clauses of the United States Constitution without making controversial judgments of political morality in the light of his or her own political principles. Fidelity to law, as such, cannot be a constitutional philosophy because a judge needs a constitutional philosophy to decide what the law is."

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Samuel Brittan on Sen's "The Idea of Justice"

In "Financial Times" Samuel Brittan comments on Amartya Sen's new book "The Idea of Justice":

We do not prosper by income or happiness alone

"Mr Sen supports the piecemeal removal of specific injustices in the absence of an ideal society. So, although he does not quite put it like that, he supports those applied economists and jurists who try to apply Rawls on a piecemeal basis. The two writers have in common an insistence that basic freedoms of choice and opportunity are important, and not just income or “happiness”. I would happily recommend Mr Sen’s new book, read selectively with those chiefly interested in politics and economics moving swiftly from the introduction to the final chapters. Those wanting to catch up on modern political philosophy should then turn back."

G. A. Cohen: The socialist’s guide to camping

This week, New Statesman has an excerpt from the forthcoming book "Why Not Socialism?" by Oxford philosopher G. A. Cohen, who died last month (see here):

The socialist’s guide to camping

The book is coming out on Princeton University Press in October.


I: The Camping Trip
II: The Principles Realized on the Camping Trip
III: Is the Ideal Desirable?
IV: Is the Ideal Feasible? Are the Obstacles to It Human Selfishness, or Poor Social Technology?
V: Coda

Cohen's own summary: "In Part I, I describe a context, called “the camping trip,” in which most people would, I think, strongly favor a socialist form of life over feasible alternatives. Part II specifies two principles, one of equality and one of community, that are realized on the camping trip, and whose realiza­tion explains, so I believe, why the camp­ing trip mode of organization is attrac­tive. In Part III, I ask whether those principles also make (society-wide) social­ism desirable. But I also ask, in Part IV, whether socialism is feasible, by dis­cussing difficulties that face the project of promoting socialism’s principles not in the mere small, within the confined time and space of a camping trip, but through­out society as a whole, in a permanent way. Part V is a short coda."

The book is based on an essay published in Edward Broadbent (ed.) - Democratic Equality (University of Toronto Press, 2001).

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Selected essays by Joshua Cohen

Philosophy, Politics, Democracy
Selected Essays

by Joshua Cohen

(Harvard University Press, 2009)
394 pages


Over the past twenty years, Joshua Cohen has explored the most controversial issues facing the American public: campaign finance and political equality, privacy rights and robust public debate, hate speech and pornography, and the capacity of democracies to address important practical problems. In this highly anticipated volume, Cohen draws on his work in these diverse topics to develop an argument about what he calls, following John Rawls, “democracy’s public reason”. He rejects the conventional idea that democratic politics is simply a contest for power, and that philosophical argument is disconnected from life. Political philosophy, he insists, is part of politics, and its job is to contribute to the public reasoning about what we ought to do.

At the heart of Cohen’s normative vision for our political life is an ideal of democracy in which citizens and their representatives deliberate about the requirements of justice and the common good. It is an idealistic picture, but also firmly grounded in the debates and struggles in which Cohen has been engaged over nearly three decades. Philosophy, Politics, Democracy explores these debates and considers their implications for the practice of democratic politics.


Introduction [excerpt]

1. Deliberation and Democratic Legitimacy [paper]
2. Moral Pluralism and Political Consensus
3. Associations and Democracy (with Joel Rogers) [article]
4. Freedom of Expression
5. Procedure and Substance in Deliberative Democracy
6. Directly Deliberative Polyarchy (with Charles Sabel) [paper]
7. Democracy and Liberty
8. Money, Politics, Political Equality
9. Privacy, Pluralism, and Democracy
10. Reflections on Deliberative Democracy
11. Truth and Public Reason

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Habermas Conference in Chile

September 8-9, 2009, an international conference will be held in Santiago, Chile, on Jürgen Habermas:

Habermas, 80 años. Crítica, Razón y Comunicación.

See the program here.

100th anniversary of Isaiah Berlin's birth

Harvard University will be hosting a conference to mark the 100th anniversary of Isaiah Berlin's birth on September 25-26, 2009.


1. Politics Between Utopia and Reality

Michael Walzer: Should We Reclaim Political Utopianism
Malachi Hacohen: Cosmopolitanism, the European Nation State and Jewish Life - Berlin and Popper

2. Literature and the History of Ideas

Svetlana Boym: Berlin and Akhmatova - Political and Artistic Freedom
Alan Ryan: The History of Ideas as Psychodrama

3. Liberty and Liberalism

Janos Kis: Berlin's Two Concepts of Positive Liberty
Martha Nussbaum: Political Liberalism and Comprehensive Liberalism

4. Pluralism: Historical Origins and Philosophical Foundations

Pratap Mehta: What is Pluralism and How Does it Matter?
Bernard Yack: Individualism and Pluralism in Berlin's Counter-Enlightenment

Special Session
Amartya Sen: Personal Reminiscences of Isaiah Berlin