A critique of Rawls's hermeneutics as translation

Philosophy and Social Criticism 23 (1):99-124 (1997)
Abstract
Syracuse University, NY, USA This paper seeks to demonstrate that hermeneutics is a powerful conceptual tool for exploring the current trend towards theorizing justice as a conversation. Specifically we explore the work of John Rawls in order to describe the particular variety of hermeneu tics at work in both 'political liberalism' and 'justice as fairness' and to critique this hermeneutics from the perspective of the ontological hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer. Using the critique of Quinean pragmatism found in Joseph Rouse's epistemology, we draw a par allel between the 'hermeneutics as translation' in Quine and Rawls's public reason. This parallel, we argue, helps us better understand the features and the limitations of political liberalism, especially when Rawls's hermeneutics is contrasted with the possibility of a theory of justice inspired by Gadamer. Key Words: democracy • dialogue • Gadamer • hermeneutics • justice • pluralism • Quine • Rawls.
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