An important objection to political liberalism is that it provides no means by which to decide conflicts between public and non-public reasons. This article develops John Rawls' idea of `reasoning from conjecture' as one way to argue for a commitment to public reason. Reasoning from conjecture is a form of non-public justification that allows political liberals to reason from within the comprehensive views of at least some unreasonable citizens. After laying out the basic features of this form of non-public justification, (...) this article responds to three objections based on concerns about insincerity, cultural imperialism, and the epistemic authority of those who reason from conjecture. (shrink)
A common objection to the idea of public reason is that it cannot resolve fundamental political issues because it excludes too many moral considerations from the political domain. Following an important but often overlooked distinction drawn by Gerald Gaus, there are two ways to understand this objection. First, public reason is often said to be inconclusive because it fails to generate agreement on fundamental political issues. Second, and more radically, some critics have claimed that public reason is indeterminate because it (...) cannot provide any citizen with sufficient reason(s) for making important political decisions. Against the first of these objections, I argue that the purpose of public reason is not to end reasonable disagreement. Rather, it is to provide a suitable framework of values and principles within which citizens may resolve their moral and political differences. Against the second objection, I argue, first, that the indeterminacy of public reason is much less common than its inconclusiveness; and, second, that there are second-order decision-making strategies that may enable citizens to cope with cases of indeterminacy. The incompleteness of public reason, whether it takes the form of inconclusiveness or indeterminacy, is not a reason for citizens to abandon their commitment to public justification. Key Words: public reason public justification political liberalism Rawls Gaus. (shrink)
John Locke's theory of toleration has been criticized as having little relevance for politics today because it rests on controversial theological foundations. Although there have been some recent attempts to develop secular; or publicly accessible, arguments out of Locke's writings, these tend to obscure and distort the religious arguments that Locke used to defend toleration. More importantly, these efforts ignore the role that religious arguments may play in supporting the development of a normative consensus on the legitimacy of liberal political (...) principles. Bracketing the search for publicly accessible justifications makes it possible to appreciate the continued relevance of Locke's religious arguments for toleration. (shrink)
In Speech Matters, Seana Shiffrin claims that certain lies should be tolerated on grounds of political inclusiveness. If political equality requires perfect compliance with fair terms of social cooperation, and if lying violates those terms, then liars might be at risk of losing their standing as political equals. To avoid that draconian result requires accommodation of moral imperfections, including some lies. In response, I argue that Shiffrin’s view may have broader implications for requirements of sincerity under non-ideal political conditions. In (...) some circumstances, where there is widespread defection from fair terms of cooperation, lying might be a moral but not a political wrong. (shrink)
Questions about the relevance and value of various liberal concepts are at the heart of important debates among feminist philosophers and social theorists. Although many feminists invoke concepts such as rights, equality, autonomy, and freedom in arguments for liberation, some attempt to avoid them, noting that they can also reinforce and perpetuate oppressive social structures. In _Challenging Liberalism _Schwartzman explores the reasons why concepts such as rights and equality can sometimes reinforce oppression. She argues that certain forms of abstraction and (...) individualism are central to liberal methodology and that these give rise to a number of problems. Drawing on the work of feminist moral, political, and legal theorists, she constructs an approach that employs these concepts, while viewing them from within a critique of social relations of power. (shrink)
This collection breaks new ground in four key areas of feminist social thought: the sex/gender debates; challenges to liberalism/equality; feminist ethics; and feminist perspectives on global ethics and politics in the 21st century. Altogether, the essays provide an innovative look at feminist philosophy while making substantive contributions to current debates in gender theory, ethics, and political thought.
: Liberal rights theory can be used either to challenge or to support social hierarchies of power. Focusing on Ronald Dworkin's theory of rights and Catharine MacKinnon's feminist critique of liberalism, I identify a number of problems with the way that liberal theorists conceptualize rights. I argue that rights can be used to chal-lenge oppressive practices and structures only if they are defined and employed with an awareness and critique of social relations of power.
Popular interest in the topic of food has exploded in the past decade. Due in part to books by Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver, and Eric Schlosser and films such as Food, Inc., Super Size Me, and Forks over Knives, people are starting to think critically about where their food originates, how it is processed, and how their consumption choices affect the environment, nonhuman animals, and other people. At the same time, there is rising concern about the dangers of obesity. Although (...) the voices raising these concerns are by no means monolithic, one of the most common solutions offered to various food-related issues is the suggestion that people educate themselves and make.. (shrink)
In responding to Anderson, Tobin, and Mills, I focus on questions about non-ideal theory, normative individualism, and standpoint theory. In particular, I ask whether feminist theorizing can be "liberal" and yet not embody the problematic forms of abstraction and individualism described in "Challenging Liberalism". Ultimately, I call for methods of theorizing that illuminate and challenge oppressive social hierarchies.
Feminist philosophers have questioned whether liberal theory can account for the phenomenon of adaptive preferences, specifically women’s preferences that are formed under conditions of sexist oppression. In this paper, I examine the argument of one feminist who addresses the problem of women’s “deformed desires” by relying on a liberal framework. Assessing her argument, I conclude that liberalism provides inadequate resources for responding to this issue since it errs in understanding adaptive preferences as exceptional, provides little explanation of how changes in (...) individual preferences are motivated, and often fails to identify the adaptive nature of such preferences. I illustrate my arguments through a brief discussion of women’s choices around motherhood and sexuality, and I conclude by offering several suggestions of how an alternative theory might better address the problems raised by preference adaptation in the context of oppression. (shrink)
“It is certainly true, as nominalists have been concerned to acknowledge, that judgements about kinds are determined in part by human interests, projects, and practices. But the possibility that human interests, projects, and practices sometimes develop as they do because the real (physical or social) world is as it is suggests that this sort of dependence is not by itself an argument against essentialism.” -Susan Babbitt (1996, 146).
Legal definitions of rape traditionally required proof of both force and nonconsent. Acknowledging the difficulty of demonstrating the conjunction of force and nonconsent, many feminists argue that rape should be defined based on one element or the other. Instead of debating which of these two best defines the crime of rape, I argue that this framework is problematic, and that both force and nonconsent must be situated in a critique of social power structures. Catharine MacKinnon provides such a critique, and (...) she reframes rape as a matter of gender inequality. However, rather than rejecting the force/nonconsent dichotomy, MacKinnon focuses exclusively on force, which she thinks can be reconceived to include inequalities. Considering the #MeToo movement and feminist efforts to use Title IX to address campus rape, I argue that the concept of consent is more flexible than MacKinnon suggests and that “affirmative consent” can challenge this liberal model. In requiring active communication, affirmative consent shifts responsibility for rape, opens space for women’s sexual agency, and allows for the transformation of rape culture. Thus, I argue that rape should be defined by the use of force, the lack of affirmative consent, or the presence of both elements. (shrink)
The Gaia hypothesis emerged from two interpenetrating traditions, the mechanist and the organicist, with the former tending to reductionism and the latter to holism. While mechanist James Lovelock is the acknowledged father, he collaborated with the organicist Lynn Margulis in the early 1970s when the first papers appeared in the scientific literature. Both continued to be active in Gaia-related conferences until Margulis’s premature death in late 2011. In a very readable exposition, Michael Ruse succeeds brilliantly in tracing the philosophical roots (...) of this concept continuing in the histories of modern geology and biology to its formulation in the late twentieth century.This is Lovelock and Margulis’s definition of the Gaia hypothesis quoted in this book: “We conclude from the fact that the temperature and certain other environmental conditions on the earth have not altered very much from what is an optimum for life on surface, that life must actively maintain these conditions”. (shrink)
The plurality and complexity of modern science and technology require the research institutions in universities, government and even the private sector to engage in a plurality of activities, from basic to applied science, from graduate education to extension work and teacher-training. They should also be stimulated to diversify their sources of funds, from government to private companies, non-profit foundations and paying clients and students. Specialisation will take place, is necessary, and should grow through a combination of external incentives and internal (...) drive. Scientific research and development, to remain alive, should take place in a highly internationalised and competitive environment for resources, prestige and recognition. And the leading scientists should be also entrepreneurs of this enterprise for the promotion of the growth of knowledge. (shrink)
In her recent book, Perfectionism and Contemporary Feminist Values, Kimberly Yuracko argues that perfectionism is a promising theory for feminists, and she suggests that “what really motivates and drives feminists’ arguments is not a neutral commitment to freedom or equality but a perfectionist commitment to a particular, albeit inchoate, vision of human flourishing.” In my paper, I explore the connections between feminism, perfectionism, and critiques of liberal neutrality by focusing critical attention on Yuracko’s arguments. After summarizing Yuracko’s position, I contend (...) that she wrongly portrays feminists as criticizing the “choices” of individual women, rather than attacking the structures of power in which these choices are situated. By misconstruing feminist arguments in this way, Yuracko suggests that feminists are endorsing a form of liberal neutrality, rather than offering a critique of such neutrality in favor of a more radical analysis.In the second half of my paper, I develop an alternative analysis, which I call “equality as non-domination,” which I think more accurately describes many of the feminist arguments Yuracko considers. I compare my alternative account to both liberal neutrality and to Yuracko’s perfectionism. Because feminism is centrally concerned with criticizing social structures of domination and unjust hierarchy, I conclude that it cannot be understood as falling squarely on either side of the neutrality/perfectionism debate. (shrink)
A literary criticism is presented of the book "Challenging Liberalism: Feminism As Political Critique," by Lisa Schwartzman, in response to a symposium devoted to her book. The author comments on feminist theory's criticism of liberalism and the potential for feminist methodology to address the oppression of women globally. Topics include the argument for women's rights as human rights and criticism of the women's rights movement by African scholars, as well as a discussion of the Massai tribe.
D. Micah Hester thinks the residency match system helps sustain the divide between the haves and the have-nots in healthcare. He believes that the match system channels talent away from the have-nots in a more or less systematic way, damaging moral values in physicians as it goes. As a way of making inroads against these effects, he has asked whether assigning medical school graduates to residencies at random would distribute talent and educational opportunity more broadly and promote desirable moral (...) values. I pointed out what I think are serious limitations of this proposal, and Hester has extended me the courtesy of a reply. Yet with that reply, I find that he has made it even more difficult to defend a lottery approach to residency assignment. (shrink)
A series of observations concerning the books of Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah raise questions about prophecy's very nature and pose the issues of definition and interpretation in a way that can help to address this problem for modern readers of biblical prophecy.