This long-awaited book sets out the implications of Habermas's theory of communicative action for moral theory. "Discourse ethics" attempts to reconstruct a moral point of view from which normative claims can be impartially judged. The theory of justice it develops replaces Kant's categorical imperative with a procedure of justification based on reasoned agreement among participants in practical discourse.Habermas connects communicative ethics to the theory of social action via an examination of research in the social psychology of moral and interpersonal development. (...) He aims to show that our basic moral intuitions spring from something deeper and more universal than contingent features of our tradition, namely from normative presuppositions of social interaction that belong to the repertoire of competent agents in any society. JÃ¼rgen Habermas is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Frankfurt. (shrink)
Recent scholarship on Adam Smith has stressed that he accepts that commercial society has a number of important moral and political drawbacks, but it has not adequately addressed the question of why he defends commercial society despite these problems. I argue that one of Smith's earliest writings, a review of Rousseau's Discourse on Inequality, points towards the ultimate grounds of his defence of commercial society, which lies above all in his account of the moral and political drawbacks of pre-commercial societies. (...) Whereas Rousseau sees commercial society largely as a lamentable departure from a happy and peaceful state of nature, Smith sees it as a definite improvement over the poverty, dependence and insecurity that characterized most previous ages, its very real imperfections notwithstanding. (shrink)
How can we establish a political/legal order that in principle does not require the human flourishing of any person or group to be given structured preference over that of any other? Addressing this question as the central problem of political philosophy,_ Norms of Liberty_ offers a new conceptual foundation for political liberalism that takes protecting liberty, understood in terms of individual negative rights, as the primary aim of the political/legal order. Rasmussen and Den Uyl argue for construing individual rights as (...) metanormative principles, directly tied to politics, that are used to establish the political/ legal conditions under which full moral conduct can take place. These they distinguish from normative principles, used to provide guidance for moral conduct within the ambit of normative ethics. This crucial distinction allows them to develop liberalism as a metanormative theory, not a guide for moral conduct. The moral universe need not be minimized or morality grounded in sentiment or contracts to support liberalism, they show. Rather, liberalism can be supported, and many of its internal tensions avoided, with an ethical framework of Aristotelian inspiration—one that understands human flourishing to be an objective, inclusive, individualized, agent-relative, social, and self-directed activity. (shrink)
In this first book-length comparative study of these leading eighteenth-century thinkers, Dennis Rasmussen highlights Smith's sympathy with Rousseau's concerns and analyzes in depth the ways in which Smith crafted his arguments to defend ...
Inductive reasoning is a fundamental and complex aspect of human intelligence. In particular, how do subjects, given a set of particular examples, generate general descriptions of the rules governing that set? We present a biologically plausible method for accomplishing this task and implement it in a spiking neuron model. We demonstrate the success of this model by applying it to the problem domain of Raven's Progressive Matrices, a widely used tool in the field of intelligence testing. The model is able (...) to generate the rules necessary to correctly solve Raven's items, as well as recreate many of the experimental effects observed in human subjects. (shrink)
If “perfectionism” in ethics refers to those normative theories that treat the fulfillment or realization of human nature as central to an account of both goodness and moral obligation, in what sense is “human flourishing” a perfectionist notion? How much of what we take “human flourishing” to signify is the result of our understanding of human nature? Is the content of this concept simply read off an examination of our nature? Is there no place for diversity and individuality? Is the (...) belief that the content of such a normative concept can be determined by an appeal to human nature merely the result of epistemological naiveté? What is the exact character of the connection between human flourishing and human nature? These questions are the ultimate concern of this essay, but to appreciate the answers that will be offered it is necessary to understand what is meant by “human flourishing.” “Human flourishing” is a relatively recent term in ethics. It seems to have developed in the last two decades because the traditional translation of the Greek term eudaimonia as “happiness” failed to communicate clearly that eudaimonia was an objective good, not merely a subjective good. (shrink)
In the past decade the work of Jurgen Habermas has sparked off a series of lively debates over modernity and post-modernity, the nature of language, the interplay of law and politics and the dilemmas of morality. Significantly, these debates unfold in the context of his particular reading of the modern philosophical tradition from the German enlightment to the present period. In this original interpretation, David Rasmussen provides both guide and critique to the later Habermas encountered in the context of the (...) best of the critical literature that has emerged in recent years. Reading Habermas argues that Habermas' concept of modernity provides the context for the theory of language as well as his approaches to law and ethics. This book, as its title implies, offers a reading. It explores philosophical options chosen in the light of other, rejected readings. It is a distinctive, readable contribution to the current controversy surrounding the most recent developments in critical theory. (shrink)
Adam Smith is popularly regarded as the ideological forefather of laissez-faire capitalism, while Rousseau is seen as the passionate advocate of the life of virtue in small, harmonious communities and as a sharp critic of the ills of commercial society. But, in fact, Smith had many of the same worries about commercial society that Rousseau did and was strongly influenced by his critique. In this first book-length comparative study of these leading eighteenth-century thinkers, Dennis Rasmussen highlights Smith’s sympathy with Rousseau’s (...) concerns and analyzes in depth the ways in which Smith crafted his arguments to defend commercial society against these charges. These arguments, Rasmussen emphasizes, were pragmatic in nature, not ideological: it was Smith’s view that, all things considered, commercial society offered more benefits than the alternatives. Just because of this pragmatic orientation, Smith’s approach can be useful to us in assessing the pros and cons of commercial society today and thus contributes to a debate that is too much dominated by both dogmatic critics and doctrinaire champions of our modern commercial society. (shrink)
Universalism vs. Communitarianism focuses on the question, raised by recent work in normative philosophy, of whether ethical norms are best derived and justified on the basis of universal or communitarian standards. It is unique in representing both Continental and American points of view and both the older and a younger generation of scholars. The essays introduce the key issues involved in universalism vs. communitarianism and take up ethics in historical perspective, practical reason and ethical responsibility, justification, application and history, and (...) communitarian alternatives. Based on a special issue of the Journal Philosophy and Social Criticism, the book includes two additional essays by Chantal Mouffe and by Hubert and Stuart Dreyfus. David Rasmussen is Professor of Philosophy at Boston College and editor of Philosophy and Social Criticism. Contents: introduction, David, Rasmussen. Universalisms: Procedural, Contextualist, and Prudential, Alessandro Ferrara. Beyond Liberalism and Communitarianism: Toward a Critical Theory of Social Justice, Gerald Doppelt. The Liberal/Communitarian Controversy and Communicative Ethics, Kenneth Baynes. Discourse Ethics and Civil Society, Jean Cohen. Equality, Political Order and Ethics: Hobbes and the Systematics of Democratic Rationality, Rolf Zimmermann. Atomism and Ethical Life: On Hegel's Critique of the French Revolution, Axel Honneth. The Gadamer-Habermas Debate Revisited: The Question of Ethics, Michael Kelly. What Is and What Is Not Practical Reason? Agnes Heller. Adorno, Heidegger, and Postmodernity, Hauke Brunkhorst. Impartial Application of Moral and Legal Norms: A Contribution to Discourse Ethics, Klaus Günther. An Ethics, Politics, and History, Jürgen Habermas in an interview conducted by Jean-Marc Ferry. Rawls: Political Philosophy without Politics, Chantal Mouffe. What Is Morality: A Phenomenological Account of the Development of Ethical Expertise, Hubert L Dreyfus, Stuart E. Dreyfus. Universalism and Communitarianism: A Bibliography, Michael Zilles. (shrink)
Against pronouncements of the recent demise of both democracy and the political, I maintain that there is, rather, something amiss with the process of politicization in which social grievances are translated into matters of political concern and become objects of policy-making. I therefore propose to seek an antidote to the de-politicizing tendencies of our age by reanimating the mechanism that transmits social conflicts and grievances into politics. To that purpose, I formulate the notion of a ‘fundamental right to politics’ as (...) the opposite of the techne of policy-making. I articulate this right via a reconstruction of the logical presuppositions of democracy as collective self-authorship. I then recast the concept of non-domination by discerning two trajectories of domination – ‘relational’ and ‘systemic’ ones, to argue that in a viable democracy that makes full use of the right to politics, the dynamics of politicization should take place along both trajectories; currently, however, matters of systemic injustice get translated in relational terms and politicized as concerns for inclusion into and distribution within the existing system of social relations, rather than its radical overhaul. (shrink)
In this essay, I consider whether the alleged demise of metaphysical realism does actually provide a better way for defending the cognitive status of ethical judgments. I argue that the rejection of a realist ontology and epistemology does not help to establish the claim that ethical knowledge is possible. More specifically, I argue that Hilary Putnam's argument does not succeed in making a case for ethical knowledge. In fact, his account of the procedures by which our valuations are warranted—the criteria (...) of idealized inquiry—ultimately begs the question in a number of crucial ways. Moreover, it prejudices the moral and political discussion in certain ideological respects. Finally, though Putnam has apparently modified to some extent his approach to the issue of realism in recent years, I will point out that these modifications are not fundamental and do not help to advance the case for ethical knowledge. I note also that Martha C. Nussbaum's appeal to Putnam’s argument actually works against her attempt to make a case for an Aristotelian conception of human flourishing. Ultimately, I conclude that metaphysical realism is vital for ethical knowledge. (shrink)
CHARLES TAYLOR, IN TWO IMPORTANT ESSAYS, offers both a refutation of what appears to be the foundations of liberalism as well as an alternative “third way” to the liberal-communitarian debate. In this paper we are broadly interested in the role of community within a liberal framework, and for that reason the Taylor essays are a useful way to begin such an exploration. There is, we believe, much in Taylor with which to agree. If liberalism somehow fails to accommodate any meaningful (...) conception of community or somehow manages to undermine the possibility of community, that would be a serious strike against it. “Atomism” is one of those concepts inherently linked by thinkers such as Taylor to liberalism. It is the sort of concept meant to evoke, if not describe, a perspective on human association that is at least problematic to community-building, if not directly undermining it. Taylor’s first essay with the title of “Atomism” explores this idea and levels the charge of anticommunity against liberalism. The second essay, “Cross Purposes: The Liberal-Communitarian Debate,” builds upon that charge but seeks to moderate the apparent antiliberal stance of the first. Our position is that liberalism is not opposed to community and that “atomism” when applied to liberalism is something of a myth — a caricature rather than an integral part of liberalism. Our specific theses will be the following: “atomism” as used by Taylor is a confused tool and one whose uses for understanding liberalism are extremely limited, if applicable at all; the applicability of “atomism” is ironically more consistent with certain forms of collectivism than with liberalism; and Taylor’s own proposed way of navigating the difference between liberalism and communitarianism is in the end a form of communitarianism and not an alternative at all. (shrink)
Against arguments that suggest that Rawls’s notion of reasonability is ‘obscure’ and ‘unclear’ I argue in this essay that the idea of reasonability in the later Rawls can be defended in three ways. First, it can be shown that reasonability is fundamental to the architectonic of the later work. Reasonability, and the subordination of reason to reasonability, is fundamental to the later (post-1980) writings. Second, it can be shown that reasonability is not necessarily a vague term as many have claimed. (...) Third, it can be shown that reasonability is fundamental to what Rawls calls the three major new ideas of Political Liberalism: overlapping consensus; the reconception of the priority of the right over the good; and the idea of public reason. (shrink)
The recognition of conflict puts an end to the idea that cosmopolitanism may be legitimized by a comprehensive doctrine. The article argues that within the limits of a post-secular society, toleration must be conceived as a principle of justice, based on regard for the law, within a society in which not only others’ rights but also other cultures must be respected.
This essay deals with two conceptions of the political, one that entails a clash of civilizations associated with a Schmittian critique of liberalism and a second which envisions the political as an emerging domain. The latter idea can be associated with the later work of John Rawls which separates the comprehensive from the political. I argue that it is this idea, when reconstructed in relationship to a theory of multiple modernities, that can be appropriated for an emerging notion of global (...) justice. Hence, it is in the domain of the political that we should look for a global concept of justice. (shrink)
_The Handbook of Critical Theory_ brings together for the first time a detailed examination of the state of critical theory today. The fifteen essays provide analyses of the various orientations which critical theory has taken both historically and systematically in recent years, expositions of the new perspectives which have begun to shape the field, and reflections upon the direction of critical theory.
Fifteen distinguished contributors free present up-to-date arguments for the libertarian alternative. Part One introduces libertarianism and outlines some approaches by which it might be justified. Part Two addresses how a society that embraces libertarian principles might deal with various social problems, especially those that seem to require government intervention. Part Three responds to criticisms of libertarianism from other political perspectives and presents a libertarian critique of those viewpoints. Contributors: N. Scott Arnold; James E. Chesher; Mike Gemmell; John Hospers; Gregory R. (...) Johnson; Loren E. Lomasky; Tibor R. Machan; Eric Mack; Jan Narveson; Douglas B. Rasmussen; Daniel Shapiro; Aeon Skoble; Mark Thornton; Douglas J. Den Uyl; Steven Yates. (shrink)
In this essay I consider the normative implications of the notion of reasonability for the construction of an idea of public reason that is cosmopolitan in scope. First, I consider the argument for the distinction between reason and reasonability in the work of Sibley and Rawls. Second, I evaluate the normative implications of reasonability through a consideration of Korsgaard's recent work. Third, I argue for a notion of reasonability that moves us beyond a Kantian concept of autonomy through a consideration (...) of the relationship between reasonability and judgment vis-à-vis Arendt's work on Kant's Third Critique. Finally, I argue for a cosmopolitan appropriation of the notion of reasonability based on Kant's notion of the aesthetic idea. The latter argument relaxes the bonds of public reason, moving us beyond the domain of ethnocentricism. (shrink)
This essay examines the relationship between human choice and Rand's ethical standard for moral goodness and obligation. It shows that the neo-Aristotclian interpretation of Rand's ethics—an interpretation that does not accept the doctrine of "premoral choice" but instead claims that flourishing as a rational animal is the telos of human life and choice—is crucial to the viability of her ethical theory. The defenders of premoral choice confuse the conceptual order with the real and, despite their intentions, make Rand's ethics into (...) a voluntarist ethics, that is, an ethics in which reason is subordinate to will. (shrink)
GREGORY R. JOHNSON and DAVID RASMUSSEN argue that Rand's defense of abortion on demand is inconsistent with her own fundamental metaphysical, epistemological, and moral principles, namely that everything that exists has a determinate identity, that the concept of man refers to all of man's characteristics, not just his essential characteristics, and that there is no gap between what an organism truly is and what it ought to be.
The paper argues that Paul Ricoeur's The Philosophy of the Will retained a certain fidelity to phenomenology's early emphasis on subjectivity. When Ricoeur turned to the philosophy of language, he found a way to retain a certain emphasis on subjectivity and individuality that would make his work distinctive among other approaches to the philosophy of language. Hence, the title, Preserving the Eidetic Moment, intends to characterize Ricoeur's distinctive contribution to philosophy. The paper goes on to show how Ricoeur's approach can (...) contribute to Critical Theory, particularly in relationship to its theory of interlocution. (shrink)