William James on Justice and the Sacredness of Individuality

In Susan Dieleman, David Rondel & Christopher Voparil (eds.), Pragmatism and Justice. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 309-323 (2017)

Authors
David Rondel
University of Nevada, Reno
Abstract
In this chapter I introduce and defend the democratic individualism in William James’s thought. Drawing on the work of George Kateb and others, I show how what James calls the “democratic respect for the sacredness of individuality” can be understood in terms of four inter-related commitments: (1) A commitment to the principle that each person’s individuality counts equally; no one’s more or less than anyone else’s. (2) A commitment to the principle that each individual should be able to flourish, on his or her own terms, and to a set of social conditions that enable such flourishing. (3) A commitment to examine oneself for moral blind spots: for ways in which one might be oblivious to, and complicit in, the frustration of others’ individuality. (4) A commitment to “strenuously” revise one’s habits and behavior in light of the previous three commitments.
Keywords William James  Individualism  Justice  American Pragmatism
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