On Universalism: Communitarians, Rorty, and (“Objectivist”) “Liberal Metaphysicians”

Southern Journal of Philosophy 38 (1):39-75 (2000)
Abstract
It is often claimed that liberalism is falsely and perniciously universalist. I take this charge seriously, exploring three positions: the communitarians’, Rorty’s, and that of “comprehensive” liberalism. After explaining why universalism is thought impossible, I examine the communitarian view that value is determined within communities and argue that it results in a form of relativism that is unacceptable. I next discuss Richard Rorty’s liberal acceptance of “conventionalism” and explain how, despite his rejection of universalism, Rorty remains a liberal. I then present a defense of universalism, based in part on arguments that parallel Thomas Nagel’s arguments in defense of a “view from nowhere” and Jean Hampton’s objectivist arguments against Rawls’s moves to a “merely political” theory. That defense requires that we can distance ourselves from our ends to make moral judgments shorn of all partialities.
Keywords universalism  relativism  liberalism  Rorty  communitarianism  liberalisn
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