Reasonable, agonistic, or good?: The character of a democrat

Philosophy and Social Criticism 35 (8):961-983 (2009)
Abstract
Postmodernists reject what they call the universalist-rationalist framework of liberalism. When they do defend liberal democracy, they do so in a contextualist manner (within a ‘form of life’) and on the basis of contestation (‘agonism’). Liberals are right to charge postmodernism with self-contradiction, relativism, and immoralism. It is also argued in this article that liberalism and postmodernism are incompatible, and therefore, they cannot be joined together in response to the hegemonic construction of democratic debate. However, liberals are caught in a bind as they insist on impartiality but also believe the exercise of virtue (reasonableness, mutual respect) is a requirement of rational dialogue. This article argues that perfectionism (objectivism) in value judgements is required both to insist that virtuousity is a requirement of rationality and to reject postmodernism. However, it must be possible to separate perfectionism from two features of Alasdair MacIntyre’s Aristotelianism: he is hostile to liberal rights and his contextualism results in relativism
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DOI 10.1177/0191453709340639
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