Reflective equilibrium or evolving tradition?

Inquiry 39 (3 & 4):399 – 419 (1996)
This paper presents criticisms of the method for moral and political philosophy known as ?reflective equilibrium? (RE), or in its fuller form ?wide reflective equilibrium? (WRE). This negative purpose has an ulterior positive aim: to set off, by favourable contrast, an alternative approach based on analogical argument as an instrument of an evolving (liberal) tradition. WRE derives from John Rawls but has been broadly endorsed. Though a meta?theory, it involves a certain way of construing liberalism. This essay's target is in key part that construal. It seeks an approach to moral?political philosophy, and to liberalism in particular, that is at once rationally grounded and contextually oriented, and provides for explanation as well as justification. WRE fails on all counts, plus others. Section I presents WRE and suggests the alternative. Section II presents the critique of WRE, partly drawing on established criticisms and partly presenting new ones. Section III opposes the application suggested for WRE by (surprisingly) a critic of Rawls, M. Sandel. The preferability of the analogical alternative is demonstrated throughout
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DOI 10.1080/00201749608602428
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John Rawls (1974). The Independence of Moral Theory. Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 48:5 - 22.

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