Journal of the History of Philosophy 48 (2):pp. 249-250 (2010)

In this short but intriguing book, Elisabeth Ellis tackles the problem that our political language is misleadingly full of clashes between conclusive political principles, when in fact our political actions necessarily take place in a world too complex and changing for such fixed answers. Drawing upon the work of Immanuel Kant, Ellis proposes to clarify our political talk and reasoning by replacing the language of conclusive principles with that of provisional reasoning. It is the aim of the book to describe a theory of provisional politics derived from Kant's political writings, to show that provisional reasoning is a better tool for modern-day democratic politics than conclusive reasoning, and to demonstrate the effectiveness of provisional reasoning about political policies through a series of case studies of contemporary political issues.According to Ellis, to theorize provisionally is to "always leave open the possibility of entering into a rightful condition" . In particular, provisional theory takes as a given that agency and plurality are basic conditions of politics—not that they are "absolute precepts," but rather "conditions of principled political action as such" . Throughout the book, Ellis evaluates the merit of
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DOI 10.1353/hph.0.0217
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