This article defends a pragmatic conception of objectivity for the moral domain. I begin contextualizing pragmatic approaches to objectivity and discuss at some length one of the most interesting proposals in this area, Cheryl Misak’s conception of pragmatic objectivity. My general argument is that in order to defend a pragmatic approach to objectivity the pragmatic stance should be interpreted in more radical terms than most contemporary proposals do. I propose notably to disentangle the connection between objectivity and truth, claiming that (...) moral inquiry is in most of the cases responsive to a discursive norm that is closer to warranted assertibility than to truth. Using an argument that relies partly on Huw Price's account of forms of normative assertion, I will show that a practice-based account of warranted assertibility does the epistemic work required to defend objectivity while not being exposed to the criticisms that are usually addressed against this notion. The first section sets the general argument within its pragmatic context. The second section outlines Misak's conception of pragmatic objectivity, and highlights the sense in which she makes moral objectivity depend upon truth. The third and the fourth sections provide two critical arguments against Misak's thesis. Finally, with the critical work done, in the last section I present my constructive account of pragmatic objectivity for the moral domain. (shrink)
This paper aims at renovating the prospects for social philosophy through a confrontation between pragmatism and critical theory. In particular, it contends that the resources of pragmatism for advancing a project of emancipatory social philosophy have so far been neglected. After contrasting the two major traditions in social philosophy—the analytical and the critical—I proceed to outline the main traits of a pragmatist social philosophy. By inscribing pragmatism within the tradition of social philosophy, my aim is to promote a new understanding (...) of pragmatism as one of the central Euro-American traditions in social and political philosophy, deserving to be on an equal footing with critical theory and political liberalism. And, furthermore, one whose critical and radical force may be of great help in the wake of the dismissal of the metaphysical certainties upon which the critical program of social philosophy had once set its hopes of social emancipation. (shrink)
This article defends a pragmatic conception of objectivity for the moral domain. I begin by contextualizing pragmatic approaches to objectivity and discuss at some length one of the most interesting proposals in this area, Cheryl Misak's conception of pragmatic objectivity. My general argument is that in order to defend a pragmatic approach to objectivity, the pragmatic stance should be interpreted in more radical terms than most contemporary proposals do. I suggest in particular that we should disentangle objectivity from truth, and (...) I claim that moral inquiry is in most cases responsive to a normative standard that is closer to warranted assertibility than to truth. Using an argument that relies partly on Huw Price's account of forms of normative assertion, I will show that a practice-based account of warranted assertibility does the epistemic work required to defend objectivity while avoiding exposure to the criticisms that are usually addressed against this notion. (shrink)
There is . . . something both intellectually and socially unresponsive in the appeal to self-evidence upon controverted issues. Over the last two decades philosophers have focused increasingly on the role of society and practices in shaping practical normativity.3 Contemporary moral and political philosophy remains fundamentally committed to individualistic and causal approaches to normativity, but a contrary trend has taken root—at least since Wittgenstein’s insights regarding the role of context, practices, and uses—with increasing appeals made to the “social” and to (...) “practice” in reaction to the over-individualistic and idealistic trends characterizing mainstream philosophy, especially in the .. (shrink)
This paper tackles with the issue of the place of comprehensive beliefs within the public space. It tries to strike a middle path between the liberal ban on comprehensive beliefs and the anti-liberal claim that comprehensive beliefs should be given full pride of place in public deliberations. The article relies on arguments that are inspired by the pragmatist tradition. It starts locating the main cause of failures at articulating comprehensive beliefs and public reason in a central feature of liberal epistemology, (...) namely the way it conceives public reason via a preliminary distinction between public and non public beliefs. After criticizing this distinction, the article introduces a distinction between the normative practice of justification and the normative practice of adjudication as a more perspicuous way to establish the place that comprehensive beliefs should play within political forums. It then concludes showing that this approach provides a satisfying answer to the issue of the public role of comprehensive beliefs in a liberal democratic regime that is respectful of citizens’ thick identities while at the same time complying with the requirements of respect set by the liberal tradition. Keywords: public reason and religion - pragmatism - liberalism - communitarianism - normative practices. (shrink)
This paper explores the epistemological impact of the idea of post-secularism on the concept of public reason. It does so by examining a strand of the Rawls-Habermas debate on the role of religious beliefs within public reason. The paper identifies a difficulty in the liberal solution that depends upon the unwillingness to challenge the proviso-like conception of public reason and contends that this difficulty is overcome neither by Habermas’ “institutional” version of proviso nor by Cristina Lafont’s version of “mutual accountability” (...) proviso. Once acknowledged this blind spot in the theory of public reason, the paper proceeds to show that a pragmatist-based conception of public reason can overcome this shortcoming as it grants to religious beliefs a role that does not compromise the liberal ethics of citizenship while at the same time does not frustrate the communitarian and religious call for a less restrictive conception of the public sphere. The conclusion this paper brings home is that a proviso-free public reason is necessary for tackling the theoretical challenge of defending liberalism in a post-secular society. (shrink)
Introduction -- Inquiry as the logic of practical reasoning -- From reasoning to judgment -- Expressive inquiry -- The public sphere -- Pragmatism, pluralism, and the fact of relativism -- A pragmatic theory of objectivity -- Why justification matters? -- Pragmatism as an epistemology of practice.
The question of rationality and of its role in human agency has been at the core of pragmatist concerns since the beginning of this movement. While Peirce framed the horizon of a new understanding of human reason through the idea of inquiry as aiming at belief-fixation and James stressed the individualistic drives that move individuals to action, it is in Dewey’s writing that we find the deepest understanding of the naturalistic and normative traits of rationality considered as the qualifying attribute (...) of human agency. Recent developments in moral and political philosophy as well as in general pragmatist scholarship have shown a renewal of interest in the role of human reason in agency, both with respect to control of conduct (decisions about how to act) and with respect to normative attitudes (considerations of what is good and right). In this article I will examine some features of Dewey’s epistemology which are particularly promising for the elaboration of a theory of practical rationality based on pragmatist sources. In particular, I will focus on Dewey’s notion of “judgment of practice” in order to frame a distinctively Deweyan approach to practical rationality. In order to point out the specificity of Dewey’s epistemological framework, I will refer to it as an “epistemology of practice”i. The aim of this article is to clarify the epistemological meaning of the concepts of articulation and transformation, that Dewey places at the heart of his theory of inquiry. Part of my argument consists in showing that through these notions Dewey aimed at broadening the conception of rationality, bringing it beyond the reach of the standard notions of analysis and synthesis and of induction, deduction, and abduction. Once the specificity of Dewey’s conception of rationality will have been demonstrated, I will proceed to show some of its implications in the explanation of the rationality of human agency with reference to practical reasoning and value assessment. I will then conclude the article by drawing some implications of Dewey’s theory of judgment for a broader epistemology based upon the acknowledgment of the primacy of practice. (shrink)