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Profile: Robert S. Taylor (University of California, Davis)
  1. Robert S. Taylor (2014). Illiberal Socialism. Social Theory and Practice 40 (3):433-460.
    Is “liberal socialism” an oxymoron? Not quite, but I will demonstrate here that it is a much more unstable and uncommon hybrid than scholars had previously thought and that almost all liberals should reject socialism, even in its most attractive form. More specifically, I will show that three leading varieties of liberalism—neutralist, plural-perfectionist, and deliberative-democratic—are incompatible with even a moderate form of socialism, viz., associational market socialism. My paper will also cast grave doubt on Rawls’s belief that justice as fairness (...)
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  2. Robert S. Taylor (2014). Religious Conservatives and Safe Sex: Reconciliation by Nonpublic Reason. American Political Thought 3 (2):322-340.
    Religious conservatives in the U.S. have frequently opposed public-health measures designed to combat STDs among minors, such as sex education, condom distribution, and HPV vaccination. Using Rawls’s method of conjecture, I will clear up what I take to be a misunderstanding on the part of religious conservatives: even if we grant their premises regarding the nature and source of sexual norms, the wide-ranging authority of parents to enforce these norms against their minor children, and the potential sexual-disinhibition effects of the (...)
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  3. Robert S. Taylor (2013). Market Freedom as Antipower. American Political Science Review 107 (3):593-602.
    Historically, republicans were of different minds about markets: some, such as Rousseau, reviled them, while others, like Adam Smith, praised them. The recent republican resurgence has revived this issue. Classical liberals such as Gerald Gaus contend that neo-republicanism is inherently hostile to markets, while neo-republicans like Richard Dagger and Philip Pettit reject this characterization—though with less enthusiasm than one might expect. I argue here that the right republican attitude toward competitive markets is celebratory rather than acquiescent and that republicanism demands (...)
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  4. Robert S. Taylor (2013). The Priority of Liberty. In David Reidy & Jonathan Mandle (eds.), Companion to Rawls. Wiley-Blackwell. 147-163.
  5. Robert S. Taylor (2012). Hate Speech, the Priority of Liberty, and the Temptations of Nonideal Theory. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 15 (3):353-68.
    Are government restrictions on hate speech consistent with the priority of liberty? This relatively narrow policy question will serve as the starting point for a wider discussion of the use and abuse of nonideal theory in contemporary political philosophy, especially as practiced on the academic left. I begin by showing that hate speech (understood as group libel) can undermine fair equality of opportunity for historically-oppressed groups but that the priority of liberty seems to forbid its restriction. This tension between free (...)
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  6. Robert S. Taylor (2012). The Progress of Absolutism in Kant's Essay What is Enlightenment? In Elisabeth Ellis (ed.), Kant's Political Theory: Interpretations and Applications. Pennsylvania State University Press.
  7. Yvonne Chiu & Robert S. Taylor (2011). The Self-Extinguishing Despot: Millian Democratization, or The Autophagous Autocrat. Journal of Politics 73 (4):1239-50.
    Although there is no more iconic, stalwart, and eloquent defender of liberty and representative democracy than J.S. Mill, he sometimes endorses non-democratic forms of governance. This article explains the reasons behind this seeming aberration and shows that Mill actually has complex and nuanced views of the transition from non-democratic to democratic government, including the comprehensive and parallel material, cultural, institutional, and character reforms that must occur, and the mechanism by which they will be enacted. Namely, an enlightened despot must cultivate (...)
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  8. Robert S. Taylor (2011). Reconstructing Rawls: The Kantian Foundations of Justice as Fairness. Penn State University Press.
    With the publication of A Theory of Justice in 1971, John Rawls not only rejuvenated contemporary political philosophy but also defended a Kantian form of Enlightenment liberalism called “justice as fairness.” Enlightenment liberalism stresses the development and exercise of our capacity for autonomy, while Reformation liberalism emphasizes diversity and the toleration that encourages it. These two strands of liberalism are often mutually supporting, but they conflict in a surprising number of cases, whether over the accommodation of group difference, the design (...)
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  9. Robert S. Taylor (2010). Kant's Political Religion: The Transparency of Perpetual Peace and the Highest Good. Review of Politics 72 (1):1-24.
    Scholars have long debated the relationship between Kant’s doctrine of right and his doctrine of virtue (including his moral religion or ethico-theology), which are the two branches of his moral philosophy. This article will examine the intimate connection in his practical philosophy between perpetual peace and the highest good, between political and ethico-religious communities, and between the types of transparency peculiar to each. It will show how domestic and international right provides a framework for the development of ethical communities, including (...)
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  10. Robert S. Taylor (2009). Children as Projects and Persons: A Liberal Antinomy. Social Theory and Practice 35 (4):555-576.
    A liberal antinomy of parenting exists: strong liberal intuitions militate in favor of both denying special resources to parenting projects (on grounds of project-neutrality) and granting them (on grounds of respect for personhood). I show that we can reconcile these two claims by rejecting a premise common to both--viz. that liberalism is necessarily committed to extensive procreative liberties--and limiting procreation and subsequent parenting to adults who meet certain psychological and especially financial criteria. I also defend this argument, which provides a (...)
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  11. Robert S. Taylor (2009). Rawlsian Affirmative Action. Ethics 119 (3):476-506.
    My paper addresses a topic--the implications of Rawls's justice as fairness for affirmative action--that has received remarkably little attention from Rawls's major interpreters. The only extended treatments of it that are in print are over a quarter-century old, and they bear scarcely any relationship to Rawls's own nonideal theorizing. Following Christine Korsgaard's lead, I work through the implications of Rawls's nonideal theory and show what it entails for affirmative action: viz. that under nonideal conditions, aggressive forms of formal equality of (...)
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  12. Robert S. Taylor (2007). Self-Ownership and Transplantable Human Organs. Public Affairs Quarterly 21 (1):89-107.
    Philosophers have given sustained attention to the controversial possibility of (legal) markets in transplantable human organs. Most of this discussion has focused on whether such markets would enhance or diminish autonomy, understood in either the personal sense or the Kantian moral sense. What this discussion has lacked is any consideration of the relationship between self-ownership and such markets. This paper examines the implications of the most prominent and defensible conception of self-ownership--control self-ownership (CSO)--for both market and nonmarket organ-allocation mechanisms. The (...)
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  13. Robert S. Taylor (2006). Democratic Transitions and the Progress of Absolutism in Kant's Political Thought. Journal of Politics 68 (3):556-570.
    Against several recent interpretations, I argue in this paper that Immanuel Kant's support for enlightened absolutism was a permanent feature of his political thought that fit comfortably within his larger philosophy, though he saw such rule as part of a transition to democratic self-government initiated by the absolute monarch himself. I support these contentions with (1) a detailed exegesis of Kant’s essay "What is Enlightenment?" (2) an argument that Kantian republicanism requires not merely a separation of powers but also a (...)
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  14. Robert S. Taylor (2005). Kantian Personal Autonomy. Political Theory 33 (5):602-628.
    Jeremy Waldron has recently raised the question of whether there is anything approximating the creative self-authorship of personal autonomy in the writings of Immanuel Kant. After considering the possibility that Kantian prudential reasoning might serve as a conception of personal autonomy, I argue that the elements of a more suitable conception can be found in Kant’s Tugendlehre or Doctrine of Virtue--specifically, in the imperfect duties of self-perfection and the practical love of others. This discovery is important for at least three (...)
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  15. Robert S. Taylor (2005). Self-Ownership and the Limits of Libertarianism. Social Theory and Practice 31 (4):465-482.
    In the longstanding debate between liberals and libertarians over the morality of redistributive labor taxation, liberals such as John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin have consistently taken the position that such taxation is perfectly compatible with individual liberty, whereas libertarians such as Robert Nozick and Murray Rothbard have adopted the (very) contrary position that such taxation is tantamount to slavery. In this paper, I argue that the debate over redistributive labor taxation can be usefully reconstituted as a debate over the incidents (...)
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  16. Robert S. Taylor (2004). A Kantian Defense of Self-Ownership. Journal of Political Philosophy 12 (1):65-78.
    Many scholars, including G. A. Cohen, Daniel Attas, and George Brenkert, have denied that a Kantian defense of self-ownership is possible. Kant's ostensible hostility to self-ownership can be resolved, however, upon reexamination of the Groundwork and the Metaphysics of Morals. Moreover, two novel Kantian defenses of self-ownership (narrowly construed) can be devised. The first shows that maxims of exploitation and paternalism that violate self-ownership cannot be universalized, as this leads to contradictions in conception. The second shows that physical coercion against (...)
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  17. Robert S. Taylor (2004). Self-Realization and the Priority of Fair Equality of Opportunity. Journal of Moral Philosophy 1 (3):333-347.
    The lexical priority of fair equality of opportunity in John Rawls’s justice as fairness, which has been sharply criticized by Larry Alexander and Richard Arneson among others, is left almost entirely undefended in Rawls’s works. I argue here that this priority rule can be successfully defended against its critics despite Rawls’s own doubts about it. Using the few textual clues he provides, I speculatively reconstruct his defense of this rule, showing that it can be grounded on our interest in self-realization (...)
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  18. Robert S. Taylor (2003). Rawls’s Defense of the Priority of Liberty: A Kantian Reconstruction. Philosophy and Public Affairs 31 (3):246–271.
    Rawls offers three arguments for the priority of liberty in Theory, two of which share a common error: the belief that once we have shown the instrumental value of the basic liberties for some essential purpose (e.g., securing self-respect), we have automatically shown the reason for their lexical priority. The third argument, however, does not share this error and can be reconstructed along Kantian lines: beginning with the Kantian conception of autonomy endorsed by Rawls in section 40 of Theory, we (...)
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