An interpretation of John Rawls justice as fairness as a deliberative critical argumentative strategy for evaluating existing institutions is offered and its plausibility is discussed. I argue that justice as fairness aims at synthesizing the moral values claimed by existing social institutions into a coherent model of a well-ordered society in order to demand that these institutions stand up to the values that they promise. Understood in such a way, justice as fairness provides a set of idealizing mirrors through which (...) power dynamics in society can be viewed but does not function as a model for an ideal society. Key Words: distributive justice immanent criticism justice as fairness political liberalism public reason John Rawls reflective equilibrium. (shrink)
Much of the interest of critical realists in the hermeneutic character of social inquiry has been shaped by debates with critics. Critical realists insist that the meaningful character of societies does not exclude the possibility of treating them as objects that have causal powers and that these objects are more than the sum-total of their meanings. In what follows, I want to go beyond this debate. Working within critical realist ontology, the question I want to ask is what kind of (...) hermeneutics is required for the study of the causal powers of meaningful objects. If hypotheses about the causal powers of such objects can be confirmed only in dialogues, then what kind of dialogues and with whom are necessary for the understanding of causal powers? The question of the interpretation of causal objects is not merely a methodological one. Social structures are ontologically different from natural ones, and the nature of our understanding of meaningful objects is in part dependent on the way we come to apprehend them in thought. I argue that the approach to the understanding of the causal power of meaningful objects that has emerged in the debate between critical realists and their critics tends to view the study of causal powers as a dialogue between experts in the service of a more democratic society. Against this view, I suggest an understanding of the study of causal powers as a dialogue between critical social science and the public, a dialogue that takes place in the public sphere. (shrink)
In April 1933, Albert Einstein was offered an ‘Extraordinary’ Chair of Physics at the University of Madrid. Einstein first accepted, then sought to withdraw without causing damage to the anti-Fascist Republican government. However, this proved an opportunity for the Spanish press to harness Einstein’s notoriety to their own programmes. This article discusses the genesis and resolution of this episode, which says much about Einstein and science and politics in modern Spain.
Philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries who worked within the tradition of modern natural law became interested in political economy in part as they attempted to reconcile two conflicting images of economic activity. On the one hand, from the legal point of view economic activity was understood as a morally neutral and benign activity that could be regulated by simple and clear rules of justice. On the other hand, it was seen as a realm of political struggle, manipulation, deceit (...) and the exercise of hidden forms of domination. This article examines the legal and moral contexts of Adam Smith's excursion into political economy by interpreting the roles played by these two images of the market in the theory of value articulated in book I of The Wealth of Nations. (shrink)
The idea of a 'property-owning democracy' became central to John Rawls's re-evaluation of his theory of justice. This article traces the origins of Rawls's concept of `property-owning democracy' first to the writings of the economist James Meade and then to those of early twentieth-century British conservatives, focusing on the question of how the meaning of democracy was defined and re-defined throughout this history. I argue that Rawls inherited a discursive matrix from the British conservatives in which the notion of 'property-owning (...) democracy' refers to the limits that should be set on democratic practices to make democracy compatible with the needs and interests of property-owners. In addition to tracing the genealogy of the idea of a 'property-owning democracy', the article points toward more recent attempts, partially inspired by Rawls's 'political turn', to re-examine the distribution of property-ownership from the perspective of what is required for viable democratic deliberations. The article ends with an addendum lamenting the fact that when George W. Bush's administration adopted the British ideas and policies associated with 'property-owning democracy' it chose to omit 'democracy' altogether and to describe its initiative as 'ownership society'. (shrink)
Williams, Ron As I consider the list of previous AHOY recipients since the inaugural award in 1983, I can only say that this is an immeasurable honour. It means much to me because, for almost ten years now, Humanism has been there for my family. In 2005-2006, when separation of church and state school issues first crept into our lives, the Humanist Society of Queensland was to appear as the only beacon of secularist activism upon the deep northern horizon. So (...) in 2006 Andrea and I joined the HSQ. (shrink)
Ronald Moore's new book Natural Beauty: A Theory of Aesthetics Beyond the Arts seeks to offer up an account of beauty in nature rather than the beauty of nature. Moore claims his is a syncretic theory. That is, it combines the best parts of competing theories into a single comprehensive account of, in this case, our judgments of natural beauty. The syncretic impulse is a common one in philosophy. Seeing many theories, each with some strong points yet none successful overall, (...) a natural solution is to simply glom them all together. But does this work? Are we entitled to pick and choose in this manner, taking what we like but leaving behind the preconceptions to which each theory was moored? And is the resulting supertheory consistent and coherent? I will use Moore's book as a test case for some of these theoretical questions. I identify some 'syncretic sites' in Moore's theory to see whether his method passes muster. (shrink)
Allison, Lyn; Cannold, Leslie It is great to see such a good turnout for this important occasion and I congratulate the Humanist Society again on this award. It really makes a difference to people's lives: when they get the award, when they know about it, when there is publicity for the person concerned. It is an all-round good thing to do and I congratulate you for it.
McClamrock argues for a thesis he calls radical externalism' in the behavioral and cognitive sciences. In my paper, I contend that McClamrock's thesis, though true, is not radical. This is because he urges externalism with respect to cognitive task-individuation and task-explanation, both of which are standard practice in the relevant disciplines. Semantic externalism may remain contentious, I argue; but the sense in which philosophers continue to argue about it has little bearing on the actual conduct of cognitive science. I conclude (...) with a diagnosis as to why externalism seems more contentious than it ought to. (shrink)