How to Attack a Non-Strawman: a Reply to the Andrew I. Cohen Review of Escape from Leviathan

Abstract

Primarily using philosophy, but also some social science, Escape from Leviathan (EfL) explains and defends what it calls an extreme version of the implicit ‘classical liberal compatibility thesis’: liberty, welfare, and anarchy are overwhelmingly complementary in normal practice (rationality is added for its intimate theoretical connections to these categories). This is done using theories, not definitions, of each concept. This important thesis is entirely positive. Therefore, somewhat unusually, all normative issues are avoided as irrelevant distractions in this context. In addition, the epistemology used is also unorthodox. A justificationist, or foundationalist, approach would be literally illogical: the self-refuting trilemma faced by ‘supporting justifications’ (as regards arguments and evidence) is of entailing infinite regresses, dogmatic starting points, or circularities. Consequently, critical rationalism is assumed: conjecture and criticism are all that is possible. Thus all aspects of the conjectured thesis are explained and defended from criticism as thoroughly as the book can encompass. It is concluded that the thesis has not been refuted and so may be critically preferred. (However, this could all still be viewed as a ‘justification’ by those thus inclined.) All of this is made clear enough in the short introductory chapter and repeated where relevant throughout. Yet some reviews do not have a firm grasp of the specific project and so reject it with unsound criticisms. We now turn to one such example.

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J. C. Lester
London School of Economics

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