From the time of our first communication, some thirty years ago, Fred Dallmayr and I have never ceased to disagree about key foundational issues in social and political theory. Our disagreements are not haphazard but consistent; they might be characterized roughly as stemming from the differences between his brand of hermeneutics and my brand of critical theory, or between his sources of inspiration in Hegel and Heidegger and my own in Kant and Habermas. But they are also “reasonable disagreements” that (...) allow for considerable “overlapping consensus” on both methodological and substantive issues. Thus we overlapped sufficiently on questions concerning the role of interpretive understanding in social inquiry to co-edit an anthology on that topic very early on.1 And I want to suggest here that we now overlap sufficiently on the idea of multicultural cosmopolitanism to make our ongoing conversation continually fruitful despite the persistent differences in our “comprehensive doctrines.” Those differences do entail, however, that we follow widely diverging paths before arriving in the same region of the political-theoretical world. And they likely also mean that we are relying on different maps of this region and of the roads leading beyond it as well. But I shall confine my remarks here to charting an alternative route to the sort of global and plural democracy that Dallmayr has set out in a series of recent works.2 It is a route that leads from Kant’s idea for a universal history from a cosmopolitan point of view, through Habermas’s conceptions of social evolution and a postnational constellation, to a sketch of multicultural cosmopolitanism that bears strong affinities to Dallmayr’s vision of “our world.” I Though the genre of universal history to which Kant gave exemplary expression was deeply implicated in colonial domination and exploitation, it cannot simply be discarded in favor of genealogical or other broadly deconstructive modes of historical.. (shrink)
There are few ideas as important to the history of modern democracy as that of the nation as a political community. And yet, by comparison to its companion idea of political community as based upon the agreement of free and equal individuals, it remained until recently a marginal concern of liberal political theory. The aftermath of decolonization and the breakup of the Soviet empire, among other things, has changed that and brought it finally to the center of theoretical attention. And (...) once there, the deep-seated tensions in theory between nationalism and liberalism have proved to be as hard to overlook as their all too familiar tensions in practice. (shrink)
There has recently been a surge of interest, theoretical and political, in reparations for slavery. This essay takes up several moral-political issues from that intensifying debate: how to conceptualize and justify collective compensation and collective responsibility, and how to establish a plausible connection between past racial injustices and present racial inequalities. It concludes with some brief remarks on one aspect of the very complicated politics of reparations: the possible effects of hearings and trials on the public memory and political culture (...) of a historically racist society. The hope is that these arguments, taken together, draft a coherent case for slavery reparations as pursued by the Reparations Coordinating Committee. (shrink)
The settlement of the North American continent was... a consequence not of any higher claim in a democratic or international sense, but rather of a consciousness of what is right which had its sole roots in the conviction of the superiority and thus of the right of the white race. —Adolf Hitler, 1932.
In contrast to Bernstein's emphasis on the common ground shared by Rorty and Habermas, this paper stresses the basic differences between them, particularly their diverse assessments of rationalism, universalism, foundationalism and developmentalism, as well as their opposed evaluations of systematic thought and critical social theory. Several difficulties with Rorty's views on reason, truth and objectivity, as with his historicism and physicalism are suggested. It is concluded that Bernstein's emphasis on the common elements in their "moral-political vision", in the face of (...) these striking theoretical differences, overestimates the extent to which normative ideals can survive being cut off from larger contexts of ideas. (shrink)
Philosophers of Science have recently put a good deal of energy into locating the precise methodological boundaries between the natural and the social sciences. The methodological affinities of the latter with certain aspects of the humanities have been as yet too little explored. A convenient starting point for this discussion, and one which is adopted in this paper, is a reconsideration of the role and nature of interpretive understanding in the social sciences. However, before a serious examination of this issue (...) can be undertaken, a clearing operation on the encrusted misunderstandings which are part of the legacy of logical positivism is necessary. In this paper I argue that the neo-positivistic account of understanding rests on a misunderstanding of the concept; that a more adequate conception of the issues involved - and one closer to the traditional Verstehen problematic of Dilthey et al. - can be gleaned from the work of Peter Winch; and that this development is furthered in a number of important respects by recent work done in hermeneutic philosophy - especially that of H.-G. Gadamer. The discussion of Gadamer suggests that the problem of locating the boundaries with the humanities might be as serious a problem for the theory of the social sciences as has been that concerning the natural sciences. The paper concludes with several suggestions as to the implications of the analysis of understanding for the thesis of the methodological unity of the sciences. (shrink)