The Irony of Political Philosophy


Authors
Andrew Fiala
California State University, Fresno
Abstract
Political philosophy is a paradoxical attempt to bring reason to bear upon a subject matter that is irrational. This problem has been side-stepped by many contemporary political thinkers. Political theorists like Iris Young, Michael Sandel, Jean Elshtain, Robert Bork, and Richard Peterson acknowledge that contemporary political life, with its lack of democratic participation and its undemocratic, bureaucratic institutions, is undergoing a legitimation crisis. These theorists offer philosophical analyses of this crisis in order to arrive at its rational resolution. This approach forgets, however, that there can be no rational resolutions within the political realm. Politicalphilosophy alone cannot resolve the legitimation crisis. This is especially so because the contemporary legitimation crisis arises, in part, from a lack of rationality on the part of both agents and institutions. Yet, we cannot fully give up on the enterprise of political philosophy. To do so would be to acquiesce to irrationality and the lack of legitimation found in contemporary political life. This paper argues that political philosophers, at their best, must adopt a deliberately ironic disposition: while demanding rational analyses of political life, they must acknowledge that rational analysis may itself be ineffectual in political life
Keywords Applied Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy
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ISBN(s) 1077-1999
DOI 10.5840/pcw1998516
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