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Profile: Thomas M. Besch (University of Sydney)
  1. Thomas M. Besch, Reflections on the Foundations of Human Rights.
    Is there an approach to human rights that justifies rights-allocating moral-political principles as principles that are equally acceptable by everyone to whom they apply, while grounding them in categorical, reasonably non-rejectable foundations? The paper examines Rainer Forst’s constructivist attempt to provide such an approach. I argue that his view, far from providing an alternative to “ethical” approaches, depends for its own reasonableness on a reasonably contestable conception of the good, namely, the good of constitutive discursive standing. This suggests a way (...)
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  2. Thomas M. Besch (2014). On Discursive Respect. Social Theory and Practice 40 (2):207-231.
    Moral and political forms of constructivism accord to people strong, “constitutive” forms of discursive standing and so build on, or express, a commitment to discursive respect. The paper explores dimensions of discursive respect, i.e., depth, scope, and purchase; it addresses tenuous interdependencies between them; on this basis, it identifies limitations of the idea of discursive respect and of constructivism. The task of locating discursive respect in the normative space defined by its three dimensions is partly, and importantly, an ethical task (...)
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  3. Thomas M. Besch (2013). On a Reflexive Case for Human Rights. Journal of East-West Thought 3 (4):51-64.
    Can there be a "reflexive" or presuppositional, reasonably non-rejectable grounding of a Forst-type right to justification, or of a meaningful form of constitutive discursive standing? The paper argues that this is not so, and this for reasons that reflect more general limitations of presuppositional arguments for relevantly contested conclusions. To this end, the paper critically engages Forst's "reflexive" argument for human rights. It also considers O'Neill's presuppositional attempt to defend a form of cosmopolitanism, as well as the attempt to anchor (...)
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  4. Thomas M. Besch (2013). On Political Legitimacy, Reasonableness, and Perfectionism. Public Reason 5 (1):58-74.
    The paper advances a non-orthodox reading of political liberalism’s view of political legitimacy, the view of public political justification that comes with it, and the idea of the reasonable at the heart of these views. Political liberalism entails that full discursive standing should be accorded only to people who are reasonable in a substantive sense. As the paper argues, this renders political liberalism dogmatic and exclusivist at the level of arguments for or against normative theories of justice. Against that background, (...)
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  5. Thomas M. Besch (2012). Political Liberalism, the Internal Conception, and the Problem of Public Dogma. Philosophy and Public Issues 2 (1):153-177.
    According to the “internal” conception (Quong), political liberalism aims to be publicly justifiable only to people who are reasonable in a special sense specified and advocated by political liberalism itself. One advantage of the internal conception allegedly is that it enables liberalism to avoid perfectionism. The paper takes issue with this view. It argues that once the internal conception is duly pitched at its fundamental, metatheoretical level and placed in its proper discursive context, it emerges that it comes at the (...)
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  6. Thomas M. Besch (2011). Factualism, Normativism and the Bounds of Normativity. Dialogue 50 (02):347-365.
    The paper argues that applications of the principle that “ought” implies “can” (OIC) depend on normative considerations even if the link between “ought” and “can” is logical in nature. Thus, we should reject a common, “factualist” conception of OIC and endorse weak “normativism”. Even if we use OIC as the rule ““cannot” therefore “not ought””, applying OIC is not a mere matter of facts and logic, as factualists claim, but often draws on “proto-ideals” of moral agency.
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  7. Thomas M. Besch (2011). Kantian Constructivism, the Issue of Scope, and Perfectionism: O'Neill on Ethical Standing. European Journal of Philosophy 19 (1):1-20.
    Kantian constructivists accord a constitutive, justificatory role to the issue of scope: they typically claim that first-order practical thought depends for its authority on being suitably acceptable within the right scope, or by all relevant others, and some Kantian constructivists, notably Onora O'Neill, hold that our views of the nature and criteria of practical reasoning also depend for their authority on being suitably acceptable within the right scope. The paper considers whether O'Neill-type Kantian constructivism can coherently accord this key role (...)
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  8. Thomas M. Besch (2010). Diversity and the Limits of Liberal Toleration. In Duncan Ivison (ed.), The Ashgate Research Companion to Multiculturalism. Ashgate.
    To fully respond to the demands of multiculturalism, a view of toleration would need to duly respect diversity both at the level of the application of principles of toleration and at the level of the justificatory foundations that a view of toleration may appeal to. The paper examines Rainer Forst’s post-Rawlsian, ‘reason-based’ attempt to provide a view of toleration that succeeds at these two levels and so allows us to tolerate tolerantly. His account turns on the view that a constructivist (...)
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  9. Thomas M. Besch (2008). Constructing Practical Reason: O'Neill on the Grounds of Kantian Constructivism. Journal of Value Inquiry 42 (1):55-76.
    The paper addresses O'Neill's view that her version of Kant's Categorical Imperative, namely, the requirement of followability (RF), marks the supreme principle of reason; it takes issue with her claim that RF commits us to Kantian constructivism in practical philosophy. The paper distinguishes between two readings of RF: on a weak reading, RF ranges over all (practical) reasoning but does not commit to constructivism, and on a strong version RF commits to constructivism but fails to meet its own test, and (...)
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  10. Thomas M. Besch (2004). On Practical Constructivism and Reasonableness. Dissertation, University of Oxford
    The dissertation defends that the often-assumed link between constructivism and universalism builds on non-constructivist, perfectionist grounds. To this end, I argue that an exemplary form of universalist constructivism – i.e., O’Neill’s Kantian constructivism – can defend its universalist commitments against an influential particularist form of constructivism – i.e., political liberalism as advanced by Rawls, Macedo, and Larmore – only if it invokes a perfectionist view of the good. (En route, I show why political liberalism is a form of particularism and (...)
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  11. Thomas M. Besch (1998). Über John Rawls' Politischen Liberalismus. Peter Lang.
    (In German.) The book addresses Rawls's post-1985 political liberalism. His justification of political liberalism -- as reflected in his arguments from overlapping consensus -- faces the problem that liberal content can be justified as reciprocally acceptable only if the addressees of such a justification already endorse points of view that suitably support liberal ideas. Rawls responds to this legitimacy-theoretical problem by restricting public justification's scope to include reasonable people only, while implicitly defining reasonableness as a substantive liberal virtue. But this (...)
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