Why democracy? Most often this question is met with an appeal to some decidedly moral value, such as equality, liberty, dignity or even peace. But in contemporary democratic societies, there is deep disagreement and conflict about the precise nature and relative worth of these values. And when democracy votes, some of those who lose will see the prevailing outcome as not merely disappointing, but morally intolerable. How should citizens react when confronted with a democratic result that they regard as intolerable? (...) Should they revolt, or instead pursue democratic means of social change? In this book, Robert Talisse argues that each of us has reasons to uphold democracy - even when it makes serious moral errors - and that these reasons are rooted in our most fundamental epistemic commitments. His original and compelling study will be of interest to a wide range of readers in political philosophy and political theory. (shrink)
In Overdoing Democracy, Robert B. Talisse turns the popular adage "the cure for democracy's ills is more democracy" on its head. Indeed, he argues, the widely recognized, crisis-level polarization within contemporary democracy stems from the tendency among citizens to overdo democracy. When we make everything--even where we shop, the teams we cheer for, and the coffee we drink--about our politics, we weaken our bonds to one another, and work against the fundamental goals of democracy. Talisse advocates civic friendship built around (...) shared endeavors that we must undertake with fellow citizens who do not necessarily share our political affinities as the best way we can obtain a healthier, more sustainable democracy. (shrink)
In recent years there has been a renewed interest in American pragmatism. In political philosophy, the revival of pragmatism has led to a new appreciation for the democratic theory of John Dewey. In this book, Robert B. Talisse advances a series of pragmatic arguments against Deweyan democracy. Particularly, Talisse argues that Deweyan democracy cannot adequately recognize pluralism , the fact that intelligent, sincere, and well-intentioned persons can disagree sharply and reasonably over moral ideals. Drawing upon the epistemology of the founder (...) of pragmatism, Charles S. Peirce, Talisse develops a conception of democracy that is anti-Deweyan but nonetheless pragmatist. Talisse then brings the Peircean view into critical conversation with contemporary developments in democratic theory, including deliberative democracy, Rawlsian political liberalism, and Richard Posner’s democratic realism. The result is a new pragmatist option in democratic theory. (shrink)
A new kind of debate about the normative error theory has emerged. Whereas longstanding debates have fixed on the error theory’s plausibility, this new debate concerns the theory’s believability. Bart Streumer is the chief proponent of the error theory’s unbelievability. In this brief essay, we argue that Streumer’s argument prevails against extant critiques, and then press a criticism of our own.
Email and ethics -- Causation and laws of nature -- Internalism and epistemology -- Einstein, relativity, and absolute simultaneity -- Epistemology modalized -- Truth and speech acts -- Fiction, narrative, and knowledge -- A pragmatist philosophy of democracy.
Why We Argue : A Guide to Political Disagreement presents an accessible and engaging introduction to the theory of argument, with special emphasis on the way argument works in public political debate. The authors develop a view according to which proper argument is necessary for one’s individual cognitive health; this insight is then expanded to the collective health of one’s society. Proper argumentation, then, is seen to play a central role in a well-functioning democracy. Written in a lively style and (...) filled with examples drawn from the real world of contemporary politics, and questions following each chapter to encourage discussion, Why We Argue : A Guide to Political Disagreement reads like a guide for the participation in, and maintenance of, modern democracy. An excellent student resource for courses in critical thinking, political philosophy, and related fields, Why We Argue : A Guide to Political Disagreement is an important contribution to reasoned debate. (shrink)
An intuitive view regarding the epistemic significance of disagreement says that when epistemic peers disagree, they should suspend judgment. This abstemious view seems to embody a kind of detachment appropriate for rational beings; moreover, it seems to promote a kind of conciliatory inclination that makes for irenic and cooperative further discussion. Like many strategies for cooperation, however, the abstemious view creates opportunities for free-riding. In this essay, the authors argue that the believer who suspends judgment in the face of peer (...) disagreement is vulnerable to a kind of manipulation on the part of more tenacious peers. The result is that the abstemious view can have the effect of encouraging dogmatism. (shrink)
Abstract Richard Posner and Ilya Somin have recently posed forceful versions of a common objection to deliberative democracy, the Public Ignorance Objection. This objection holds that demonstrably high levels of public ignorance render deliberative democracy practically impossible. But the public?ignorance data show that the public is ignorant in a way that does not necessarily defeat deliberative democracy. Posner and Somin have overestimated the force of the Public Ignorance Objection, so the question of deliberative democracy's practical feasibility is still open.
The origins of pragmatism -- Pragmatism and epistemology -- Pragmatism and truth -- Pragmatism and metaphysics -- Pragmatism and ethics -- Pragmatism and politics -- Pragmatism and environmental ethics.
In recent work, Cheryl Misak has developed a novel justification of deliberative democracy rooted in Peircean epistemology. In this article, the author expands Misak's arguments to show that not only does Peircean pragmatism provide a justification for deliberative democracy that is more compelling than the justifications offered by competing liberal and discursivist views, but also fixes a specific conception of deliberative politics that is perfectionist rather than neutralist. The article concludes with a discussion of whether the `epistemic perfectionism' implied by (...) the pragmatist argument could be endorsed by liberal democrats. Key Words: deliberative democracy epistemology liberalism Cheryl Misak Charles Peirce perfectionism pragmatism truth. (shrink)
In a recent article, Iris Marion Young raises several challenges to deliberative democracy on behalf of political activists. In this paper, the author defends a version of deliberative democracy against the activist challenges raised by Young and devises challenges to activism on behalf of the deliberative democrat. Key Words: activism • deliberative democracy • Discourse • Ideology • public sphere • I. M. Young.
Folk epistemology?the idea that one can't help believing that one's beliefs are true?provides an alternative to political theorists' inadequate defenses of democracy. It implicitly suggests a dialectical, truth-seeking norm for dealing with people who do not share one's own beliefs. Folk epistemology takes us beyond Mill's consequentialist claim for democracy (that the free array of opinions in a deliberative democracy leads us to the truth); instead, the epistemic freedom of the democratic process itself makes citizens confident that evidence for one's (...) beliefs have not been distorted by a corrupt system. Since the starting point of folk epistemology is the meta-conviction that people believe that what they believe is true, it should also serve as a starting point for more rigorous scholarship that seeks to understand why people believe what they believe, instead of dismissing them as ?irrational? if one disagrees with their beliefs. (shrink)
The revival of pragmatism has brought renewed enthusiasm for John Dewey's conception of democracy. Drawing upon Rawlsian concerns regarding the fact of reasonable pluralism, the author argues that Deweyan democracy is unworthy of resurrection. A modified version of Deweyan democracy recently proposed by Elizabeth Anderson is then taken up and also found to be lacking. Then the author proposes a model of democracy that draws upon Peirce's social epistemology. The result is a non-Deweyan but nonetheless pragmatist option in democratic theory.
In this paper, the author engages William Galston's recent attempt to revive the Berlinian project of developing a comprehensive theory of liberalism from value pluralist premises. The author's argument maintains that, despite Galston's attempts, the value pluralist in fact has no resources with which to recommend a liberal political order over a variety of illiberal regimes, and that, further, Galston's own justificatory strategy is indistinguishable from the later Rawls's noncomprehensive, ‘political' liberalism. Although the argument engages the work of Berlin and (...) Galston in particular, the primary aim is to preserve the intuition, common to Rawls, Brian Barry, Ronald Dworkin, and John Gray, that value pluralism is inconsistent with comprehensive liberalism. (shrink)
This essay summarizes the research program developed in our new book, Why We Argue : A Guide to Political Disagreement. Humans naturally want to know and to take themselves as having reason on their side. Additionally, many people take democracy to be a uniquely proper mode of political arrangement. There is an old tension between reason and democracy, however, and it was first articulated by Plato. Plato’s concern about democracy was that it detached political decision from reason. Epistemic democrats attempt (...) to show how the two can be re-attached. What is necessary is to couple the core democratic liberties with norms of rational exchange. Thus epistemology and argument provides a basis for democratic politics. Why We Argue makes a case for the connection and develops a toolkit for maintaining it. (shrink)
For well over a decade, much of liberal political theory has accepted the founding premise of Rawls's political liberalism, according to which the fact of reasonable pluralism renders comprehensive versions of liberalism incoherent. However, the founding premise presumes that all comprehensive doctrines are moral doctrines. In this essay, the author builds upon recent work by Allen Buchanan and develops a comprehensive version of liberalism based in a partially comprehensive social epistemic doctrine. The author then argues that this version of liberalism (...) is sufficiently accommodating of the fact of reasonable pluralism. The conclusion is that the founding premise of political liberalism admits of a counterexample; there is a version of comprehensive liberalism that is sufficiently pluralistic. (shrink)
Several distinct epistemic states may be properly characterized as states of ?ignorance.? It is not clear that the ?public ignorance? on which Jeffrey Friedman bases his critique of social democracy is objectionable, because it is not evident which of these epistemic states is at issue. Moreover, few extant theories of democracy defend it on the grounds that it produces good outcomes, rather than because its procedures are just. And even the subcategory of democratic theories that focus on epistemic issues take (...) the state of epistemic justification, not the condition of reaching the truth, to be the touchstone of democratic legitimacy. (shrink)
If one interprets Plato’s dialogues using the dialogical mode, then the principal philosophical significance of the work is not exhausted by the arguments put forward by its characters. Integral to the dialogical mode involves a consideration of the purpose of investigating a philosophical issue in the form of a dialogue rather than a treatise. But Plato’s dialogues should not only be understood in a dialogical mode but instructors should also teach using this mode of interrogation. This paper describes a new (...) way Plato’s Euthyphro might be taught to students, focusing less on its use as a logical primer and more on the character of Euthyphro. (shrink)
This essay surveys three prominent trends in current pragmatist political philosophy: Deweyan Democratic Perfectionism, Rortyan Ironism, and Pragmatist Epistemic Deliberativism. After articulating the main commitments of each view, the author raises philosophical problems each must confront. The essay closes with the more general criticism that pragmatist political theory has been nearly exclusively focused on democracy, but needs to address additional topics.
Recent commentaries on “The Fixation of Belief” have located and emphasized an inconsistency or “tension” in Peirce’s central argument. On the one hand, Peirce maintains that “the settlement of opinion is the sole object of inquiry”; on the other, he wants to establish that the method of science is superior to all other methods of inquiry. The tension arises from the fact that whereas Peirce dismisses the methods of tenacity, authority, and a priority on the grounds that they cannot fulfill (...) the “sole object of inquiry,” his defense of the scientific method makes no appeal to its ability to “settle opinion.” In this paper, the author reconstructs Peirce’s argument in a way that resolves this tension. (shrink)
Abstract In Two Faces of Liberalism, John Gray pursues the dual agenda of condemning familiar liberal theories for perpetuating the failed ?Enlightenment project,? and promoting his own version of anti?Enlightenment liberalism, which he calls ?modus vivendi.? However, Gray's critical apparatus is insufficient to capture accurately the highly influential ?political? liberalism of John Rawls. Moreover, Gray's modus vivendi faces serious challenges raised by Rawls concerning stability. In order to respond to the Rawlsian objections, Gray would have to reinstate the aspirations and (...) principles characteristic of Enlightenment theories of liberalism. (shrink)
In this brief essay, we clarify Cohen’s ‘Facts and Principles’ argument, and then argue that the objections posed by two recent critiques of Cohen—Robert Jubb (Res Publica 15:337–353, 2009) and Edward Hall (Res Publica 19:173–181, 2013)—look especially vulnerable to the charge of being self-defeating. It may still be that Cohen’s view concerning facts and principles is false. Our aim here is merely to show that two recent attempts to demonstrate its falsity are unlikely to succeed.
In a recent article, Thomas Nagel argues against the court’s decision to strike down the Dover school district’s requirement that biology teachers in Dover public schools inform their students about Intelligent Design. Nagel contends that this ruling relies on questionable demarcation between science and nonscience and consequently misapplies the Establishment Clause of the constitution. Instead, he argues in favor of making room for an open discussion of these issues rather than an outright prohibition against Intelligent Design. We contend that Nagel’s (...) arguments do not succeed. First, we argue that Nagel’s case trades on an ambiguity regarding the content of non-theological views and fails to engage adequately some of the problems of ID. Then we raise concerns about Nagel’s conclusion; specifically, we will point to three incongruities between Nagel’s argument and his conclusion, and then we will raise a more general worry about the likely impact of Nagel’s view. (shrink)
Restating an interlocutor’s position in an incredulous tone of voice can sometimes serve legitimate dialectical ends. However, there are cases in which incredulous restatement is out of bounds. This article provides an analysis of one common instance of the inappropriate use of incredulous restatement, which the authors call “modus tonens.” The authors argue that modus tonens is vicious because it pragmatically implicates the view that one’s interlocutor is one’s cognitive subordinate and provides a cue to like-minded onlookers that dialectical opponents (...) are not to be treated as epistemic peers. (shrink)
In A Pragmatist Philosophy of Democracy, I launched a pragmatist critique of Deweyan democracy and a pragmatist defense of an alternative view of democracy, one based in C. S. Peirce's social epistemology. In this article, I develop a more precise version of the criticism of Deweyan democracy I proposed in A Pragmatist Philosophy of Democracy, and provide further details of the Peircean alternative. Along the way, some recent critics are addressed.
Christopher Eberle has developed a powerful critique of justificatory liberalism. According to Eberle, justificatory liberalism’s doctrine of restraint , which requires religious citizens to refrain from publicly advocating for policies that can be supported only by their religious reasons, is illiberal. In this article, I defend justificatory liberalism against Eberle’s critique.
In popular parlance the term "liberalism" denotes a collection of welfarist and progressive social policies, but I am here concerned with liberalism as the theoretical framework within which familiar debates over distributive justice and the scope of state power typically are conducted. To be sure, liberalism in this sense is a complex doctrine, but its core has been well captured by Martha Nussbaum.
Robert Westbrook claims that pragmatist political theorists share a common hope for democracy. I argue that there are at least two distinct and opposed pragmatist conceptions of democracy - one Deweyan, the other Peircean - and thus two distinct and opposed hopes for democracy. I then criticize the Deweyan view and defend the Peircean view.
Abstract Rawls ?s political liberalism abandons the traditional political?theory objective of providing a philosophical account of liberal democracy. However, Rawls also aims for a liberal political order endorsed by citizens on grounds deeper than what he calls a ?modus vivendi? compromise; he contends that a liberal political order based upon a modus vivendi is unstable. The aspiration for a pluralist and ?freestanding? liberalism is at odds with the goal of a liberalism endorsed as something deeper than a modus vivendi compromise (...) among competing comprehensive doctrines. A liberalism that is supported ?for its own sake? rather than as a compromise must necessarily be based on some conception of the good, of the sort that political liberalism eschews. (shrink)
This short paper summarizes the main line of argument in my book, *A Pragmatist Philosophy of Democracy* (Routledge, 2007), which is the subject of a forthcoming symposium issue of the journal *Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society*.
In his Pragmatist Egalitarianism, David Rondel proposes a “pluralist egalitarianism” as a pragmatist resolution to longstanding debates over egalitarian justice. On Rondel’s view, egalitarianism has three distinct and irreducible variables. In this comment, I argue that pluralist views generally do not reconcile anything, but instead posit sites of normative conflict that are in principle invulnerable to remediation by human intelligence. I then propose that although Rondel might be correct to identify three distinct sites of egalitarian concern, there remains reason to (...) prioritize what he calls the “institutional” variable. (shrink)
In this reply to J. Edward Hackett’s “Why James Can Be an Existential Pluralist,” we show that Hackett’s argument against our 2005 thesis that pragmatism and pluralism are inconsistent fails. First, his rejection of our distinction between epistemic and metaphysical forms of pluralism does not affect our original argument’s soundness. Second, his proposed existential pluralism is a form of monism, and so fails as an example of pragmatist pluralism. Though we no longer hold the inconsistency thesis that we defended in (...) 2005, Hackett’s criticism of it nevertheless fails. (shrink)