+1(978)310-4246 credencewriters@gmail.com
  

Description

Use the three readings or two of the readings and one of your own choosing.

Relevant Sources:

Pragmatism and Justice,

Chapters 8-13 ,

Any secondary sources cited by the authors of Chapters 8-13. Include a

thesis

statement, a concise answer to the question, (the “thrust” of your

essay) and an enumeration of your general categories you will use to approach the

question in your INTRODUCTION. This should include a “

road

map

” of what you

will present in the paper. Be utterly clear about what you will do and in what order.

IT IS OK TO USE THE FIRST-PERSON PRONOUN “I.” As in “In what follows, I will

first explain w, second analyze x, and third give a critique of y.” (road map)

“Ultimately I will argue z.” (thesis)

w, x, and y should amount to organizational

topics or categories chosen, by you, to help support your thesis statement.

i
Pragmatism and Justice
ii
iii
Pragmatism and Justice
Susan Dieleman,
David Rondel,
and Christopher Voparil
Edited by
1
iv
1
Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers
the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education
by publishing worldwide. Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University
Press in the UK and certain other countries.
Published in the United States of America by Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, United States of America.
© Oxford University Press 2017
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in
a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the
prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted
by law, by license, or under terms agreed with the appropriate reproduction
rights organization. Inquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the
above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the
address above.
You must not circulate this work in any other form
and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Dieleman, Susan, editor. | Rondel, David, 1978– editor. |
Voparil, Christopher J., 1969– editor.
Title: Pragmatism and justice / edited by Susan Dieleman, David Rondel,
and Christopher Voparil.
Description: New York, NY : Oxford University Press, 2017. | Includes
bibliographical references and index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2016028625 | ISBN 9780190459246 (pbk. : alk. paper) |
ISBN 9780190459239 (cloth : alk. paper) | ISBN 9780190459260 (online course) |
ISBN 9780190459253 (pdf)
Subjects: LCSH: Pragmatism. | Justice (Philosophy)
Classification: LCC B832 .P564 2017 | DDC 172/.2—dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2016028625
9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Paperback printed by WebCom, Inc., Canada
Hardback printed by Bridgeport National Bindery, Inc., United States of America
v
CONTENTS
Permissions
ix
Abbreviations xi
Contributors xiii
Introduction: Perspectives on Pragmatism and Justice
1
Susan Dieleman, David Rondel, and Christopher Voparil
PART I
The Pragmatist Turn to Justice
CHAPTER 1 Justice as a Larger Loyalty
21
Richard Rorty
CHAPTER 2 Abnormal Justice
37
Nancy Fraser
CHAPTER 3 Pragmatism’s Contribution to Nonideal Theorizing:
Fraser, Addams, and Rorty
65
Christopher Voparil
CHAPTER 4 Empirical Approaches to Problems of Injustice:
Elizabeth Anderson and the Pragmatists
81
Gregory Fernando Pappas
CHAPTER 5 Ideal and Actual in Dewey’s Political Theory
Matthew Festenstein
CHAPTER 6 Justice in Context
115
Ruth Anna Putnam
97
vi
CHAPTER 7 Realism, Pragmatism, and Critical Social
Epistemology
129
Susan Dieleman
PART II
Resisting Oppression and Injustice
CHAPTER 8 Social Inequality, Power, and Politics: Intersectionality
in Dialogue with American Pragmatism 147
Patricia Hill Collins
CHAPTER 9 Pragmatism and Radical Social Justice: Dewey,
Du Bois, and Davis
163
V. Denise James
CHAPTER 10 Contesting Injustice: Why Pragmatist Political
Thought Needs Du Bois 179
Colin Koopman
CHAPTER 11 Pragmatism, Racial Injustice, and Epistemic
Insurrection: Toward an Insurrectionist
Pragmatism 197
José Medina
CHAPTER 12 An Aesthetics of Resistance: Deweyan Experimentalism
and Epistemic Injustice 215
Paul C. Taylor
CHAPTER 13 Setting Aside Hope: A Pragmatist Approach to
Racial Justice
231
Shannon Sullivan
PART III
Pragmatism, Liberalism, and Democracy
CHAPTER 14 Reconsidering Deweyan Democracy
249
Hilary Putnam
CHAPTER 15 Dewey and the Problem of Justice
265
Peter T. Manicas
CHAPTER 16 Pragmatism, Democracy, and the Need for a Theory
of Justice
281
Robert B. Talisse
vi
|
Contents
vii
CHAPTER 17 A Pragmatist Account of Legitimacy and Authority:
Holmes, Ramsey, and the Moral Force of Law 295
Cheryl Misak
CHAPTER 18 William James on Justice and the Sacredness
of Individuality
309
David Rondel
Index
325
Contents
|
vii
viii
ix
PERMISSIONS
Richard Rorty, “Justice as a Larger Loyalty,” pp. 9–22 in Ron Bontekoe and
Marietta Stepaniants (eds.), Justice and Democracy: Cross- Cultural
Perspectives, © 1997 by University of Hawaii Press. Reprinted with
permission from the University of Hawaii Press.
Nancy Fraser, “Abnormal Justice,” Critical Inquiry 34:3 (2008): 393– 422,
© 2008 by the University of Chicago. Reprinted with permission from
the University of Chicago Press.
Ruth Anna Putnam, “Justice in Context,” Southern California Law Review
63:6 (1990): 1797–1810. Reprinted with permission of the Southern
California Law Review.
Patricia Hill Collins, “Social Inequality, Power, and Politics: Intersectionality
and American Pragmatism in Dialogue,” Journal of Speculative
Philosophy 26:2 (2012): 442– 457.
Hilary Putnam, “A Reconsideration of Deweyan Democracy,” Southern
California Law Review 63:6 (1990): 1671–1697. Reprinted with permission of the Southern California Law Review.
Peter T. Manicas, “John Dewey and the Problem of Justice,” Journal
of Value Inquiry 15:4 (1981): 279–291, © 1981 Martinus Nijhoff
Publishers, The Hague. Reprinted with kind permission of Springer
Science+Business Media.
x
xi
ABBREVIATIONS
Citations of Charles Sanders Peirce’s writings are to the eight-volume
Collected Papers (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1931–
1958). Parenthetical citations follow the standard formula, according
to which (CP 1:123) denotes paragraph 123 of volume 1 of Peirce’s
Collected Papers.
Citations of John Dewey’s writings are to the thirty-seven-volume The
Collected Works of John Dewey (Southern Illinois University Press,
1969–1991). The Collected Works is organized into three chronological
periods, The Early Works, The Middle Works, and The Later Works.
Parenthetical citations follow the standard formula, according to which
(EW 4:30) denotes page 30 of volume 4 of The Early Works and (MW
6:100) designates page 100 of volume 6 of The Middle Works.
Citations of William James’s writings are to the 19-volume The Works of
William James (Harvard University Press, 1975–1988). Parenthetical
citations follow the standard formula, according to which (WWJ 1:44)
denotes page 44 of volume 1 of The Works of William James.
xii
xiii
CONTRIBUTORS
Patricia Hill Collins is Distinguished University Professor of Sociology at
the University of Maryland, College Park. She is the author of nine books,
among them Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and
the Politics of Empowerment (1990, 2000); Black Sexual Politics: African
Americans, Gender, and the New Racism (2004); On Intellectual Activism
(2013), and Intersectionality (2016). Professor Collins has lectured widely
in the United States and internationally, and served in many capacities in
professional and community organizations. In 2008, she became the one
hundredth President of the American Sociological Association.
Susan Dieleman is Assistant Professor of Philosophy (with term) at the
University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada. Her research takes
a pragmatist-feminist approach to issues that arise at the intersection of
political philosophy and epistemology. Her work has been published in
Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, Social Epistemology: A Journal
of Knowledge, Culture, and Policy, Social Philosophy Today, The Pluralist,
and elsewhere. She is currently working on a monograph that borrows resources from feminist and pragmatist philosophies to show how ethical and
epistemic success are more likely when deliberative democratic spaces are
guided by norms of epistemic justice.
Matthew Festenstein is Professor in the Department of Politics at the
University of York. He has researched and published widely in political
theory and the history of political thought. His work has particularly focused on the character and significance of pragmatism for political theory
and the politics of cultural diversity. His books include Pragmatism
and Political Theory (University of Chicago Press, 1997), Negotiating
xiv
Diversity: Culture, Deliberation, Trust (Polity Press, 2005), and, as coeditor, Richard Rorty: Critical Dialogues (Polity Press, 2001), Political
Ideologies (Oxford University Press, 2005), and Radicalism in English
Political Thought, 1550–1850: Tradition or Fabrication? (Cambridge
University Press, 2007).
Nancy Fraser is Loeb Professor of Philosophy and Politics at the New
School for Social Research and holder of the “Global Justice” Chair at
the Collège d’études mondiales in Paris. Her most recent books are
Domination et anticipation: pour un renouveau de la critique, with Luc
Boltanski (2014), Transnationalizing the Public Sphere: Nancy Fraser
Debates Her Critics (2014), and Fortunes of Feminism: From StateManaged Capitalism to Neoliberal Crisis (2013). Other works include
Redistribution or Recognition? (2004, with Axel Honneth), Adding Insult
to Injury (2008), Scales of Justice (2009), Justice Interruptus (1997), and
Unruly Practices (1989).
V. Denise James is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University
of Dayton, where she facilitates the Diversity Across the Curriculum faculty workshop. She writes and researches about the politics of geography,
identity, and social justice. She has published essays about the intersections of classical American pragmatism and black feminism, street violence against young women and girls, radical social justice theory, and
the philosophical significance of the seminal black feminist thinker Anna
J. Cooper. She is at work on a book about the banality of the dying city and
geopolitical racism.
Colin Koopman is Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at
the University of Oregon. His research is focused on the critical traditions of
pragmatism and genealogy and their applicability to current issues in politics, ethics, and culture. His publications include Pragmatism as Transition
(Columbia University Press, 2009), Genealogy as Critique (Indiana
University Press, 2013), and articles in Critical Inquiry, Constellations,
Contemporary Pragmatism, Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society,
and elsewhere. He is working on a book on the politics of data.
Peter T. Manicas (1934–2015) was Professor of Philosophy at University
of Hawai’i at Manoa, where he was Director of the Interdisciplinary Studies
program (1988–2011), and Emeritus Professor at Queens College, CUNY.
His research interests include the history and philosophy of the social sciences, American pragmatism, Marxism, and political and social theory.
Among his many books are The Death of the State (1974), A History and
xiv
|
Contributors
xv
Philosophy of the Social Sciences (1987), War and Democracy (1989),
A Realist Philosophy of Science (2006), and Rescuing Dewey: Essays in
Pragmatic Naturalism (2008).
José Medina received his Ph.D. from Northwestern University and is
Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. Drawing on American
and European critical theorists and philosophers of language, he has published primarily in social epistemology, speech act theory, feminist theory,
queer theory, and critical philosophy of race. His articles in these areas
have appeared in journals such as Inquiry, Metaphilosophy, Philosophical
Studies, and Social Epistemology. His books include Speaking from
Elsewhere (SUNY Press, 2006), and The Epistemology of Resistance
(Oxford University Press, 2012), which received the 2012 North-American
Society for Social Philosophy Book Award.
Cheryl Misak is Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the
University of Toronto. Her research interests include pragmatism, history of analytic philosophy, philosophy of medicine, ethics, and political philosophy. She is the author of many books, including Truth and the
End of Inquiry (Oxford University Press, 1990), Truth, Politics, Morality
(Routledge, 2000), and The American Pragmatists (Oxford University
Press, 2013).
Gregory Fernando Pappas is Professor at Texas A&M University. He
is the author of numerous articles on the philosophy of William James
and John Dewey. Pappas is the author of Pragmatism in the Americas,
a work on the philosophical connections between American pragmatism
and Latin American philosophy. He is also the author of John Dewey’s
Ethics: Democracy as Experience, the first comprehensive interpretation of Dewey’s ethics. Pappas has been a Fulbright scholar and the recipient of a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, the William James
and the Latin American Thought prizes by the American Philosophical
Association, and the Mellow Prize by the Society for the Advancement of
American Philosophy.
Hilary Putnam (1926–2016) was Cogan University Professor Emeritus
at Harvard University. His research areas include philosophy of language,
philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of science, and American pragmatism. His most recent books include Philosophy in an Age of Science
(2012), Jewish Philosophy as a Guide to Life (2008), Ethics without
Ontology (2004), The Threefold Cord (1999), Pragmatism: An Open
Question (1995), and Words and Life (1995).
Contributors
|
xv
xvi
Ruth Anna Putnam is Professor Emerita of Philosophy at Wellesley
College. She has written extensively on ethics, political philosophy, and
pragmatism. Her writings include The Cambridge Companion to William
James (1997) and many influential essays.
David Rondel is Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at
the University of Nevada, Reno. His main research areas are political philosophy, ethics, and American pragmatism. He has published widely in
these areas. His essays have appeared, among other places, in the Canadian
Journal of Philosophy, the Journal of Philosophical Research, the Journal
of Speculative Philosophy, Dialogue, Contemporary Pragmatism, and
Socialist Studies. He is also coeditor of a volume of professor Kai Nielsen’s
political-philosophical essays, published by the University of Calgary
Press in 2012.
Richard Rorty (1931–2007) was a prolific philosopher and public intellectual who, throughout his illustrious career, taught at Princeton, the
University of Virginia, and, until his death, Stanford University. His many
works include Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979), Consequences
of Pragmatism (1982), Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (1989),
Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth- Century America
(1998), Philosophy and Social Hope (1999), and four volumes of philosophical papers.
Shannon Sullivan is Chair of Philosophy and Professor of Philosophy
and Health Psychology at University of North Carolina, Charlotte. She is
the author of four books, most recently Good White People: The Problem
with Middle- Class White Anti-racism (2014) and The Physiology of
Sexist and Racist Oppression (2015). Good White People was named a
2014 Choice Outstanding Academic Title and a Ms. magazine Must-Read
Feminist Book of 2014. She also is coeditor of four books, including Race
and Epistemologies of Ignorance (2007) and Feminist Interpretations of
William James (2015).
Robert B. Talisse is W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy and Chair
of the Philosophy Department at Vanderbilt University. He specializes in
contemporary political philosophy and pragmatism. He has written many
books, including A Pragmatist Philosophy of Democracy (Routledge,
2007), Democracy and Moral Conflict (Cambridge University Press,
2009), and Pluralism and Liberal Politics (Routledge, 2012). He is also
the editor (with Scott F. Aikin) of The Pragmatism Reader (Princeton
University Press, 2011).
xvi
|
Contributors
xvii
Paul C. Taylor teaches philosophy and African American studies at
Pennsylvania State University, where he also serves as the Associate
Dean of undergraduate studies. His books include Race: A Philosophical
Introduction (2003) and Black Is Beautiful: A Philosophy of Black
Aesthetics (2016), and he was one of the founding editors of the journal
Critical Philosophy of Race.
Christopher Voparil is on the Graduate Faculty of Union Institute &
University, where he teaches philosophy and political theory. He is author
of Richard Rorty: Politics and Vision (2006) and articles in, among
others, Contemporary Pragmatism, Journal of Speculative Philosophy,
Philosophy and Social Criticism, and Transactions of the Charles
S. Peirce Society. With Richard J. Bernstein he is coeditor of The Rorty
Reader (2010). He has been a Fulbright scholar, served as Secretary of the
Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy, and is founding
President of the Richard Rorty Society.
Contributors
|
xvii
xvii
1
Introduction
Perspectives on Pragmatism and Justice
Susan Dieleman, David Rondel,
and Christopher Voparil
Any observed form or object is but a challenge. The case is not
otherwise with ideals of justice or peace or human brotherhood, or
equality, or order. They too are not things self-enclosed to be known
by introspection, as objects were once supposed to be known by
rational insight. Like thunderbolts and tubercular disease and the
rainbow they can be known only by extensive and minute observation
of consequences incurred in action.
—John Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct
The charge that the tradition of American pragmatism has had relatively little to contribute to philosophical discussions of justice is pointless to dispute. There are no distinctively pragmatist theories of justice,
if by “theory of justice” one has in mind the sort of thing that Locke,
Kant, Rawls, or Nozick offered their readers. A theory of justice in this
conventional sense typically endorses a set of principles that attempts an
elucidation of the concept and content of justice, along with a set of claims
about the institutions, practices, and behaviors that best realize these principles. One looks in vain for a theory of justice in this conventional sense
in the writings of virtually all major pragmatist thinkers—both classical
and “neo.” Even in the work of John Dewey, easily the most politically
engaged of the classical pragmatists, there is nothing even approaching a
well worked out theory of this kind. The word “justice” appears noticeably
infrequently in Dewey’s voluminous writings.
2
It is certainly true that pragmatists have expended considerable energy
developing rich accounts of democracy and have contributed incisively to
a range of important political-philosophical debates. Yet, as Robert Talisse
points out in his contribution to this volume, the democratic ideal that
pragmatists have formulated may “ring hollow” unless it is “supplemented
by an accompanying vision of the fundamental social and material entitlements of democratic citizens. This latter task calls for theorizing justice.”
Why have pragmatists had so little to say about this age-old philosophical
topic? What best explains this apparent oversight? And to the extent that the
tradition of American pragmatism has anything to contribute to thinking
more clear-headedly about justice and injustice, what might such a contribution look like?
In this introduction we attempt to shed light on pragmatism’s conspicuous
silence about justice, and to briefly outline some of the ideas and commitments that together gesture toward a broadly pragmatist orientation toward
these questions. Our claim is certainly not that there is unanimity among
pragmatists about how justice is best understood, pursued, or theorized;
indeed, some of these disagreements will become apparent in the chapters
ahead. What we offer in this introduction rather is a stylized and tentative
sketch of some central pragmatist commitments, along with reflections about
how they suggest a pragmatist—or pragmatist-ish or pragmatist-friendly—
approach to questions of justice and injustice.1 For, while there may be no
conventionally philosophical theories of justice in the pragmatist canon,
the writings of many pragmatists demonstrate an obvious sensitivity and
responsiveness to injustice. Many pragmatists were and are moved by a deep
sense of justice—by an awareness of the suffering of people, of the need to
build just institutions, and to search for a tolerant and nondiscriminatory
culture that regards all people with equal concern and respect.
Dewey famously sought to reconstruct philosophy so that it ceases to
be “a device for dealing with the problems of philosophers and becomes a
method, cultivated by philosophers, for dealing with the problems of men”
(MW 10:46). He worked on behalf of the women’s movement and was a
cofounder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
We readily acknowledge that pragmatism can mean many things, and that there are deep
disagreements about how it is best understood, and about the comparative merits and demerits of
various brands of pragmatist thought. “Pragmatism,” says the most noteworthy pragmatist of the
second half of the twentieth century, is “a vague, ambiguous, and overworked word” (Rorty 1982,
160). We use the phrases pragmatist-ish and pragmatist-friendly to gesture at a set of ideas that
undoubtedly reside in the pragmatist solar system, while remaining largely noncommittal about
some of these interpragmatist disagreements.
1
2
|
Pragmatism and Justice
3
People (Seigfried 2002). For all of his idiosyncratic Emersonian preoccupations, William James intervened publicly on multiple occasions to protest
the domination and moral insensitivity toward others endemic to America’s
imperial projects around the turn of the nineteenth century and its lynching practices at home, after diagnosing such “blindness” in himself (Cotkin
1990). Jane Addams’s lifetime of tireless reform efforts on behalf of the
least advantaged and progressive social activism for peace, public health,
and the protection of women would seem of a piece with her social philosophy and social ethics (Knight 2005). More recently, Cornel West has been
a persistent critic not only of American imperialism but its racist legacies,
drawing on the tradition of pragmatism, filtered through the traditions and
experiences of African American life, to voice a public prophecy of protest
against subjugation and injustice (Mendieta 2007). Even Richard Rorty attuned his later philosophical reflections to victims of ethnic cleansing and
excluded and oppressed groups, and claimed that to “intervene in cultural
politics” should be philosophers’ primary assignment (Voparil 2011). Yet
are these public interventions expressions of philosophical commitments or
merely contingent facts of solely biographical import?
The most obvious explanation for pragmatism’s apparent failure to theorize justice has to do with the fact that, as William James famously asserted, “Pragmatism is a method only” that “does not stand for any special
results” (WWJ 1:31). On one interpretation of this claim, pragmatism concerns itself with procedures for deciding what to do and what to believe; it
does not concern itself, by and large, with what such procedures might substantively yield. That is, pragmatism does not tell us what to believe or what
to do. At most, it provides us with methods for deciding these questions.
On this view, because pragmatism does not deliver conclusions, endorse
ends, or insist on specific outcomes, it is neutral between various substantive moral and political claims. As Eric MacGilvray glosses this thought:
Pragmatism was only ever meant to provide a theory of meaning and justification, and not a substantive theory of the good. It is this theory of meaning and justification that the founding pragmatists (and their critics) were
talking about when they were talking about pragmatism, and so we must
be careful to define pragmatism in these terms rather than to associate it
with the moral and ethical commitments of any particular time, place, or
thinker. (MacGilvray 2004, 11)2
See also Rorty 1999; Posner 1990; Fish 1998 for additional defenses of pragmatism’s supposed
“neutrality.”
2
Introduction
|
3
4
Many have persuasively challenged the claim that pragmatism lacks moral
and political valence, but the details of that dispute need not detain us
here.3 It will be enough to note that if the general gist of the “neutralist”
reading of pragmatism is on the mark, that may go a long way to explaining why pragmatists have had relatively little to say about justice.
Whatever readers are inclined to think about the “neutrality” issue, we
argue that the pragmatist silence about justice can be accounted for, at least
partially, in terms of three related and mutually reinforcing ideas to which
virtually all pragmatists are committed. In no particular order, these are
(1) A prioritization of concrete problems and real-world injustices
ahead of abstract precepts
(2) A distrust of a priori theorizing, along with a corresponding fallibilism and methodological experimentalism
(3) A deep and persistent pluralism, both in respect to what justice is
and requires, and in respect to how real-world injustices are best
recognized and remedied
To see how these three large clusters of ideas inform a broadly pragmatist
approach to justice and injustice, consider a distinction drawn recently by
Amartya Sen (ironically, someone who has never self-identified with the
pragmatist tradition). In his magisterial work The Idea of Justice, Sen distinguishes between two kinds of theoretical approaches to justice, both of
which, he claims, have many eminent proponents in the history of moral
and political philosophy. The first is a group of theories that Sen consolidates under the banner “transcendental institutionalism.” Such theories are
“transcendental” in that they aim “to offer resolutions of questions about
the nature of perfect justice” (Sen 2009, ix); they tend to focus on the pure
concept of justice—the unchanging and essential nature of “the just”—
rather than on relative comparisons of justice and injustice. And they are
“institutionalist” in that they concentrate on getting the institutions right,
as it were, while neglecting (or ignoring altogether) questions that arise
about the actual societies that would ultimately emerge from any given set
of institutional arrangements. Sen cites Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant,
and Rawls as paradigmatic examples of this kind of approach.
“Transcendental” accounts of justice stand in contrast to what Sen
calls “comparative” accounts. Comparative accounts abjure the search for
3
See, for instance, Anderson 2006; Hilary Putnam (this volume); and Misak and Talisse 2014.
4
|
Pragmatism and Justice
5
perfect justice, focusing instead on locating criteria for some alternative
state of affairs being “less unjust” than another. Adam Smith, Condorcet,
Wollstonecraft, Bentham, Marx, and John Stuart Mill are cited as exemplars. While Sen does not mention the names of any pragmatist philosophers in his discussion, we believe that pragmatists are far more likely to
be “comparativists” than “transcendentalists.” Like comparativists, pragmatists will be skeptical about the usefulness of trying to specify—absent
some particular project, context, or specific complaint—what ideally just
institutions would be like. They are likely to regard such attempts as emblematic of what Dewey criticized as “philosophy’s search for the immutable” (LW 4:21), as yet further examples of philosophy’s ambition for
“finality and foreverness” (LW 2:357). Comparativists and pragmatists
will agree that perfect and consummate justice—like perfect and consummate truth—is chimerical. Just as many of the beliefs we take to be
true may turn out to be false, many of the laws, institutions, and behaviors
we take to be just may turn out to contain hidden, previously undetected,
injustices. In both cases, a healthy commitment to fallibilism ensures that
such possibilities can never be finally ruled out.
From a pragmatist view, there are obvious advantages to conceiving of
justice in “comparative” rather than “transcendental” terms. First, a comparative approach helps us make sense of real-world struggles for justice
in a way that transcendental approaches simply cannot. “What moves us,”
Sen writes in his book’s preface, “is not the realization that the world falls
short of being completely just … but that there are clearly remediable injustices around us which we want to eliminate” (2009, vii). This focus on
“clearly remediable injustices” chimes with pragmatism’s basic appreciation for concrete problems. Unlike the famous rationalists, for whom philosophy begins with disinterested contemplation, and unlike the famous
empiricists, for whom it begins with passively receiving sensory stimuli,
pragmatists believe that thinking and inquiry are fundamentally occasioned by problems. Problems spur us into action. They unsettle previously
settled experience, disrupting the normal flow of things. When genuine
problems arise, it is no longer possible for us to carry on as usual. While
the language of “problems” is characteristically Deweyan—he preferred
the clunky phrase “problematic situation”—the same basic idea underlies
virtually all pragmatist thought.
The pragmatist prioritization of “problems” goes hand in hand with an
approach for which real-world struggles carried out in the name of justice, as opposed to abstract and idealized principles, will be given priority. Pragmatists need not insist that abstract (idealized) philosophizing
Introduction
|
5
6
about justice is useless or always beside the point. Minimally, perhaps,
it can do no harm. Maximally, it can be useful to the extent that it moves
people to see the present setup as one alternative among many, thus inspiring them to dream up new options (Rorty 2006, 58).4 Nevertheless,
the kind of approach favored by pragmatists affords a certain priority to
questions about how injustice is actually experienced in the real world,
and to questions about the specific problems (political, moral, cultural,
economic) to which this gives rise. Comparativists and pragmatists will
agree that questions about the concepts and content of justice cannot
be satisfactorily answered from the philosopher’s armchair, in isolation
from some context, complaint, or problem. They agree that in the real
world, demands for justice always reveal themselves as demands made
by specific people, at specific times and places, and always for something specific. There has never been a political movement that mobilized without an agenda or a set of demands—in the name of nothing
but transcendental “justice itself.” As Dewey well summed up the point,
“Men have constructed a strange dream-world when they have supposed
that without a fixed ideal of remote good to inspire them, they have no
enticement to get relief from present troubles, no desires for liberation
from what oppresses and for clearing-up what confuses present action”
(MW 14:195).
Because pragmatists tend not to be involved in the search for “perfect
justice”—because justice is not, they think, the sort of thing one “gets
right” once and for all—they tend also not to be perturbed by the fact
that judgments of justice and injustice suffer from a certain degree of
vagueness and indeterminacy. Unlike conventional theories of justice,
which aim to establish a set of principles from which all claims about
justice can be understood to follow, pragmatists adopt the different (more
modest) goal of trying to find better ways of meeting this or that complaint, solving this or that problem, overcoming this or that injustice.
This is not a plea for simplifying or dumbing-down theoretical reflection about justice. Nor is it a plea to focus on the “practical” in place of
the “theoretical.” On the contrary, as C. I. Lewis writes, “Pragmatism
could be characterized as the doctrine that … there can be ultimately
no valid distinction of theoretical and practical, so there can be no final
Iris Young writes, “Appeals to principles of justice have a more pragmatic function in political
interaction than many theorists of justice attribute to them. Where practical judgments are the
result at which discussants aim, appeals to principles of justice are steps in arguments about what
should be done” (2000, 29).
4
6
|
Pragmatism and Justice
7
separation of questions of truth … from questions of the justifiable ends
of action” (Lewis 1970, 108). The aspiration rather is that theoretical
reflection on justice and real-world struggles against injustice become
correlated, integrated, aligned. The aspiration is born of the conviction
that a philosophical theory of justice, no matter how intellectually alluring or elegant, must be modified or discarded if it cannot intelligently
speak to the problems that men and women find themselves having to
contend with.
The pragmatist emphasis on concrete “problems” thus also goes hand
in hand with a methodological experimentalism. Different problems can
be dealt with in a variety of ways, some better and more intelligent than
others. Solutions, in turn, are potentially as diverse and numerous as the
problems they seek to address. No one can say in advance how a particular problem will best be resolved. Discovering that requires conducting
experiments, and even then such knowledge is always tentative and revisable. Put differently, if we construe our fallibility in terms of the idea
that improved habits and beliefs are always possible and desirable, then it
becomes reasonable to view our theorizing about justice not as the search
for absolute truth or unmovable certainty, but as a generic name for problem solving: as shorthand for the activity, as Dewey put it, of generating
hypotheses “to be used and tested in projects of reform” (MW 12:189).
As Richard Rorty captures the thought, “Pragmatists are entirely at home
with the idea that political theory should view itself as suggestions for
future action emerging out of recent historical experience, rather than
attempting to legitimate the outcome of that experience by reference to
something ahistorical” (1999, 272).
One of Sen’s central arguments is that there is no such thing as the one
best approach to justice, one ideal form of reasoning, one privileged perspective, one procedure or rubric with which to make all decisions about
justice. He emphasizes throughout his book “the need to accept the plurality of reasons that may be sensibly accommodated in an exercise of evaluation,” sensibly noting that “The fact that a person can reason his or her way
into rejecting slavery … does not indicate that the same person must be
able to decide with certainty whether a 40 per cent top rate of income tax
would be better than— or more just than—a top rate of 39 per cent” (2009,
394–396). Again, this pluralist outlook is one with which pragmatists are
likely to be sympathetic. Pragmatists will agree that wisdom is to be potentially found in all corners. No one has a monopoly on insight; there are
a variety of different ways of fruitfully proceeding. Here it is helpful to
Introduction
|
7
8
remember William James’s characterization of the pragmatist methodological temperament from the Pragmatism lectures:
She [pragmatism] is willing … to follow either logic or the senses and
to count the humblest and most personal experiences. … Her only test
of probable truth is what works best in the way of leading us, what fits
every part of life best and combines with the collectivity of experience’s
demands, nothing being omitted … [Y]ou see already how democratic
she is. Her manners are as various and flexible, her resources as rich
and endless, and her conclusions as friendly as those of mother nature.
(WWJ 1:44)
As we will see more clearly in the chapters ahead, pragmatism’s approach
to questions of justice and injustice will be likewise open-minded, eclectic,
and “completely genial.”
It is sometimes easier to specify what one is against in theorizing justice
and injustice than it is to articulate an affirmative theory. This may well be
true of pragmatist approaches to the subject, which have tended to express
skepticism about “ideal theory”— of trying to discern principles of justice
that are timeless, universal, and insensitive to context—and a similar reluctance to offer a theory of the state, its justification, and the conditions
under which its exercise of coercion is legitimate. We believe that some
of the issues briefly explored above help make sense of the silence from
pragmatists about justice, and to gesture at the contours of a pragmatist
orientation to these issues. The real and difficult work of grappling with
these questions, however, takes place in the chapters ahead.
Despite the fact, noted above, that the tradition of American pragmatism has had relatively little to contribute to philosophical discussions of
justice, there have been in recent years occasional reflections on how pragmatists might contribute to philosophical debates about what justice is,
how it can be achieved, and by and for whom. Part I, “The Pragmatist
Turn to Justice,” brings some of these early reflections together with new
essays that consider what a pragmatist approach to questions of justice and
injustice might look like.
The volume begins with Richard Rorty’s 1997 essay “Justice as a Larger
Loyalty.” Rorty there asks,
Would it be a good idea to treat “justice” as the name for loyalty to a certain very large group, the name for our largest current loyalty, rather than
the name of something distinct from loyalty? Could we replace the notion
8
|
Pragmatism and Justice
9
of “justice” with that of loyalty to that group—for example, one’s fellowcitizens, or the human species, or all living things? Would anything be lost
by this replacement?
Rorty answers this final question in the negative. Pace Kantian thinkers
like Jürgen Habermas, who insists that reason provides us with “universal and unconditional moral obligations” that we think of as obligations
of justice, while loyalty is nothing more than our “affectional relations,”
Rorty argues that justice is just the name we give to loyalty expanded to
the widest possible community. In other words, by rejecting the dichotomy
between reason and sentiment, Rorty thereby rejects the dichotomy between justice and loyalty. He suggests, with theorists like Annette Baier
and Michael Walzer, that our relationships with and obligations to our
fellow humans begin “thickly” and become “thin” as they expand to incorporate increasing numbers of people who are different from ourselves.
Conceiving of justice as a larger loyalty would provide us with a better
vocabulary for engaging with distant others in the global context.
In “Abnormal Justice” Nancy Fraser takes up Rorty’s distinction between normal and abnormal discourse (an adaptation of Thomas Kuhn’s
famous distinction between normal and revolutionary science) to characterize different sorts of justice claims. The one sort takes place under conditions of normal justice; these involve the “what” of justice, that is, the
“substance with which it is concerned.” The other sort takes place under
conditions of abnormal justice, where, absent the recognizable structure
and shared “grammar” of normal discourse, not only the “what” but the
“who” or “how” of justice is up for grabs. Fraser’s contribution exhibits
a pragmatist orientation insofar as it represents a move from ideal theory
to nonideal theory, where that move is motivated by the need to attend to
the actual practices of our responses to and attempts to grapple with the
injustices and abnormalities of the contemporary scene.
In chapter 3 of the volume, “Pragmatism’s Contribution to Nonideal
Theorizing: Fraser, Addams, and Rorty,” Christopher Voparil uncovers and
builds upon the pragmatist themes in Fraser’s nonideal theorizing, including her embrace of fallibilism and her recognition of the need to actively
foster habits and practices. These intimate the potential for Fraser’s project
to be advanced “beyond the conceptual.” However, Voparil suggests that,
if this potential is to be realized, Fraser’s efforts to “democratize the process of frame setting” need to be supplemented by an explanation of how
such democratization might occur. Voparil finds these added resources in
the work of Jane Addams and Richard Rorty, both of whom “understood
Introduction
|
9
10
that the ethical and epistemic virtues of open-mindedness and responsiveness must be fostered on the part of the privileged.” Specifically, Addams’s
attention to the social dimension of justice and Rorty’s emphasis on cultural
politics provide tools for cultivating “social sensibilities and the virtues of
open-mindedness and listening that promote responsiveness to injustice.”
In “Empirical Approaches to Problems of Injustice: Elizabeth Anderson
and the Pragmatists,” Gregory Pappas also explores the ideal-nonideal
theory debate, via Anderson’s The Imperative of Integration (2010).
Though Pappas applauds Anderson’s “characterization of the pragmatist
approach,” he worries that it does not fully capture its inherently radical
nature. Drawing primarily on Dewey’s “more ‘unorthodox’ and more demanding” method of inquiry, Pappas suggests that there are two specific
features of the pragmatist approach that Anderson overlooks: the starting
point of inquiry, which refers to “the concrete problems of injustice as they
are experienced in the midst of social life,” and the “initial experiential
material” that exists prior to diagnosis. Had Anderson made fuller use of
pragmatism’s methodological commitments and practices, Pappas thinks,
she would have been able to avoid criticisms regarding, for example, her
lack of “experiential basis for the knowledge that she has produced.”
In “Ideal and Actual in Dewey’s Political Theory,” Matthew Festenstein
revisits recent arguments that position Dewey as an exemplar of nonideal
normative theorizing, including by Anderson, Medina, and Pappas. Calling
attention to the “bold appeal to ideals” that Dewey makes at key points,
Festenstein distinguishes between two distinct views of ideals that exist in
Dewey’s work: a critical view of ideals severed from the means necessary
for their achievement and an affirmation of the positive role ideals play in
the context of practical inquiry and political thinking. Festenstein introduces much-needed clarity to the varied and often conflicting ways that
the line between ideal and nonideal theory has been drawn by discerning
three distinct claims of nonideal theorists: the inappropriateness of idealization, the methodological priority of injustice, and the commitment to
making local improvements rather than achieving perfect justice. While
he finds support for all three in Dewey’s work, he also argues that genuine
ideals play an important role for Dewey. As hypotheses constructed in response to problematic situations, ideals are not dispensable but “a feature
of a reflective response to a problem,” without which the possibilities they
open would remain undiscovered. Festenstein charts a novel middle course
that is critical of projects of ideal theory that rely on Dewey’s conception
of deliberative inquiry, while at the same time recovering Dewey’s positive
account of ideals as projected possibilities.
10
|
Pragmatism and Justice
11
Some of the concerns that prompt Voparil’s move beyond both ideal
theory and nonideal theory, as well Pappas’s more radically empirical approach to nonideal theorizing about justice, can be spotted already in Ruth
Anna Putnam’s 1990 essay “Justice in Context.” For example, Putnam
argues that “ideal theory and nonideal practice constitute each other and
for a pragmatist this is not paradoxical.” Indeed, on Putnam’s view, James’s
“cries of the wounded” must be complemented by a “standard of justice” if
we are to see something as an injustice, as a wrong that ought to be righted,
rather than as mere expression of pain or resentment. Putnam argues that,
conceived in this way, pragmatism can be defended against two common
charges: that it is inherently conservative and merely seeking to defend the
status quo, and that it deprives us of a secure sense of justice.
Part I concludes with Susan Dieleman’s “Realism, Pragmatism, and
Critical Social Epistemology,” a reflection on the connections between
pragmatism and the project of critical social epistemology, which examines
“those epistemic practices that create and maintain injustices, and explores
ways of reforming epistemic practices so as to achieve greater justice.”
Dieleman focuses on the tendency among critical social epistemologists,
like Charles Mills and Linda Martín Alcoff, to defend realist “appeals to
a way the world really is—to an antecedent and determinate reality that
has been hidden behind an ignorance produced by and for political purposes.” Dieleman asserts, contra these thinkers, that Rorty’s rejection of
realism (or rather, of the realism-antirealism distinction) does not undermine possibilities of resisting oppression and injustice, but makes room for
them instead. Using the examples of feminist and trans social movements
that resist the epistemic injustices that give rise to those very movements,
Dieleman concludes that “a pragmatist account of (epistemic) justice, and
especially one of a distinctly Rortyan variety that takes contingency seriously, pairs well with critical social epistemology.”
One of the greatest challenges to liberal, ideal theories of justice has
been the indictment of its deep, unacknowledged gendered and racialized
hierarchies that privilege white males at the expense of women and people
of color.5 Seen from the margins, the apparent neutrality and universality
of liberal conceptions are “predicated on the white experience” rather than
informed by the experience of racial and gender injustice (Mills 2008,
1385). In the face of this bias, Charles Mills has argued that “Making
racial sociopolitical oppression methodologically central would put us on
5
See Pateman 1988; Mills 1997; Pateman and Mills 2007.
Introduction
|
11
12
very different theoretical terrain from the start” (2008, 1387). The essays
that comprise Part II, “Resisting Oppression and Injustice,” take up the
challenge of making oppression and injustice methodologically central.
They see in pragmatism some of the resources required to resist and respond to forms of injustice that affect different social groups unequally,
and they share an interest in strengthening the weaknesses of pragmatism
or responding to apparent lacunae.
Patricia Hill Collins’s “Social Inequality, Power, and Politics:
Intersectionality in Dialogue with American Pragmatism” argues that
pragmatist conceptual tools are valuable for understanding community
and conceptualizing forward-looking social movements in the pursuit of
social justice. However, the value of these contributions needs to be complemented by an awareness of what has been marginalized by and has
therefore helped to shape pragmatist thought through its absence, namely,
attention to “social inequality, power, and politics.” This awareness can be
provided, Collins thinks, and pragmatism pushed to a more self-reflective
mode, by combining pragmatism with intersectionality, a “newly recognized field of study within the academy whose purpose has been to analyze social inequality, power, and politics.” Collins highlights four themes
on which intersectionality and pragmatism could fruitfully engage: the
nature of collective identities, the epistemological implications of social
locatedness, the importance of relational processes, and the relations between knowledges and communities. “In all,” Collins suggests, “in both
discourses, using the pragmatist construct of community and infusing it
with intersectionality’s ideas about social inequality, power, and politics
might animate new avenues of investigation.”
Like Collins, V. Denise James sees both strengths and weaknesses
in pragmatism. In “Pragmatism and Radical Social Justice: Dewey, Du
Bois, and Davis,” James seeks to retrieve the radical potential of Dewey’s
thought, which she thinks problematically prioritizes freedom over justice. However, its radical potential can be actualized by bringing Dewey’s
thought into conversation with that of W. E. B. Du Bois, which provides a
“black radical corrective … that is compatible with Dewey’s pragmatism
even as it enlarges and enriches it.” Bringing the thought of these two classical pragmatists together reveals, James contends, that “if we are to think
through radical justice, we must reject the common philosophical distinctions made between freedom and justice. The resulting messy, complex
attempt to define social justice is thoroughly pragmatic and radical.” James
shows that the picture of social justice that results from bringing Dewey
and Du Bois together can be fruitfully evaluated using the lens of Angela
12
|
Pragmatism and Justice
13
Davis’s work, which is a valuable source of “radical, pragmatic habits of
justice” that can replace habits of oppression.
James’s contribution shares with others in Part II a desire to find hope
for radical change within pragmatism. Another way to understand this
project of making oppression and injustice methodologically central is as
an attempt to meet what Leonard Harris has called “the insurrectionist
challenge”: “whether there exist features of pragmatism that require, as
necessary conditions to be a pragmatist, support for participation in insurrection” (2002, 201). In “Contesting Injustice: Why Pragmatist Political
Thought Needs Du Bois,” Colin Koopman sets for himself the task of
imagining a pragmatism that could “motivate critique of entrenched
orders of inequality, unfreedom, domination, and oppression.” He argues
that a contestatory pragmatism, understood as an orientation that has resources for, and can motivate, contestation, gets us at least some of the
way to meeting the insurrectionist challenge. However, Koopman worries that pragmatists have for too long centered Dewey in the pragmatist
pantheon, and particularly in contemporary efforts to develop pragmatist
political theory. We would be better off, he suggests, to look elsewhere for
resources for this contestatory pragmatism: to William James’s reminder
that pragmatism can be “articulated in a key that is about as far from the
pitches of utilitarian efficiency and romanticizing idealization as one can
get,” and W. E. B. Du Bois’s pragmatist vision of contestation constituted
simultaneously by strife and by hopefulness.
Like Koopman, José Medina is interested in the potential of pragmatism
to meet the insurrectionist challenge. In “Pragmatism, Racial Injustice,
and Epistemic Insurrection: Toward an Insurrectionist Pragmatism,” he
defends an insurrectionist pragmatism that is capable of radical transformation in the face of tragic racial injustices. He suggests that, despite
common charges, pragmatism is neither “naively optimistic nor reducible to a gradualist reformism.” Nevertheless, if pragmatism is going to
be capable of motivating radical changes to situations of domination and
oppression, it will have to give up its focus on “predictability and controllability.” It can do this, Medina thinks, by recentering its focus on “embodied, lived experience,” which provides “an important shared commitment
in pragmatism and insurrectionism: the egalitarian commitment to facilitate the human flourishing of all subjects and groups.”
In “An Aesthetics of Resistance: Deweyan Experimentalism and
Epistemic Injustice,” Paul C. Taylor offers a “friendly amendment”
to Medina’s project as presented in The Epistemology of Resistance.
Specifically, he urges Medina to consider the aesthetic dimension of
Introduction
|
13
14
epistemic injustice, “as a domain for the reformation and retraining of
our identities and sensibilities.” Drawing on Dewey’s Art as Experience,
Taylor thinks that a rich, phenomenological account of aesthetic practice
is important for developing the moral imagination and thereby an aesthetic
of resistance. Rather than trying to expand epistemology to account for
the ethical and political in the way that Medina does, Taylor recommends
what he calls a “historicist phenomenology” instead, since it “immediately
builds in the affective, emotive, and social considerations that Medina
takes such pains to highlight.”
In the final chapter of Part II, “Setting Aside Hope: A Pragmatist
Approach to Racial Justice,” Shannon Sullivan offers us a harsh reminder
of the toll that fighting injustice, and seemingly intractable racial injustice
in particular, can take. This reminder is presented against the backdrop of
Cornel West’s emphasis on hope as important for resistance to injustice.
Sullivan worries that this emphasis is misplaced, as the empirical evidence
suggests that hope wears down its bearers: hope, she suggests, “does not
tend to help African Americans cope well with the insidious effects of
white racism, and it even can contribute to a decline in black people’s
psychological and physiological health.” And so Sullivan turns to the
work of Derrick Bell and Calvin Warren instead, as sources of “alternative strategies for addressing antiblack racism.” She recommends “setting
aside hope” of achieving racial justice to focus on small, everyday forms
of resistance, as a pragmatically better strategy for black communities in
the United States.
Part III of the volume, “Pragmatism, Liberalism, and Democracy,” revisits the works of the classical pragmatists to consider what, if anything,
they can contribute to efforts by contemporary pragmatists to theorize justice and injustice. Hilary Putnam’s “Reconsidering Deweyan Democracy”
offers a justification of democracy grounded in Dewey’s theory of inquiry.
Democracy is often defended on ethical grounds, but Putnam’s argument is
that it can be defended on cognitive or epistemic grounds as well. Putnam
explains and defends the Deweyan thesis that “democracy is a precondition for the full application of intelligence to solving social problems.”
On this view, the epistemic quality of inquiry is established in large part
by the extent to which the inquiring community is inclusive or exclusive,
democratic or elitist. Inquiry is best when it is democratic (when it weighs
all interests and respect all voices). To be properly “scientific” on this
view is thus to be democratic. While Putnam is less impressed with the
power of Deweyan pragmatism to satisfactorily answer questions of individual ethics, he commends Dewey’s as the best approach to adopt for the
14
|
Pragmatism and Justice
15
resolution of collective and social problems. The advantages of Dewey’s
approach, Putnam concludes, are its methodological experimentalism and
its commitment to the (Peircean) idea of a community of free inquirers.
In the volume’s earliest essay, “John Dewey and the Problem of Justice,”
Peter T. Manicas addresses head on Dewey’s “lack of discussion of the
theory and problems of justice,” especially given that it cannot be explained
“by a failure to see problems, nor by an unwillingness to deal with them at
the theoretical or practical level.” We can account for this relative inattention, Manicas thinks, by the fact that Dewey took the liberal conception of
justice to be too narrow. In seeking to enlarge this conception of justice,
partly by attending to the virtues of love and sympathy, Dewey displaced
the problem of justice as a substantive theoretical problem and replaced
it with a working program or orientation that emphasized problems connected more directly to method and to practice. And because “the problem
of justice … cannot be ‘solved’ by ‘experts’ or by philosophers [but only
by] people in the everyday world in their doings and sufferings,” Manicas
thinks that Dewey’s social philosophy seems both thin and obvious; hence
a failure to engage substantively with the concept or a theory of justice.
Like Manicas, Robert B. Talisse, in “Pragmatism, Democracy, and the
Need for a Theory of Justice,” begins by investigating Dewey’s “atypical
silence” on the topic of justice. This is a silence that is manifest, Talisse
thinks, in his neglect of the issues of “marginalization, exclusion, discrimination, and disadvantage,” which are not merely bad, but wrong, and
therefore constitute a society that “is not merely in need of improvement,
but also illegitimate.” Particularly because Dewey, and other pragmatist
political theorists who take their cue from his thought, are “epistemic participationists,” he and they have a special obligation to consider the ways in
which individuals’ ability to engage in those activities that are constitutive
of democracy might be impacted. Talisse’s recommendation, therefore, is
that pragmatists “build camp” among the democratic egalitarians, who
agree that “the point or aim of justice is to establish and maintain conditions under which citizens are able to interact as democratic equals,” even
if this means revisiting those key pragmatist commitments, such as the
view that “democracy is a way of life,” that are likely to act as roadblocks
in the development of a pragmatist approach to justice.
In “A Pragmatist Account of Legitimacy and Authority: Holmes,
Ramsey, and the Moral Force of Law,” Cheryl Misak similarly emphasizes the epistemic dimensions of democracy, legitimacy, and justice. The
epistemic response to the question of legitimacy and authority—“Why is
that law authoritative for me?” or “How does this law make a normative
Introduction
|
15
16
demand on me?”—suggests there is value in “taking the perspectives and
experiences of others seriously, given that we want to reach the right, or
warranted, decision.” Misak traces this argument back to the work of Oliver
Wendell Holmes, to see “how the pragmatist epistemic argument was first
carved out.”Holmes, Misak suggests, offered a definition of “well-settled
belief” as a belief that will “stand up to experience and standards,” which
meets up with questions of legitimacy and justice: a citizen might “object
to a law because it goes against [her] moral code, but [she] should nonetheless regard it as binding on [her] or legitimate, because it was made by the
best possible process, a process that is also moral.”
The volume concludes with “William James on Justice and the
Sacredness of Individuality,” David Rondel’s exploration of how “democratic individuality” shows up in James’s ongoing efforts to consider “how
things look differently when considered from diverse vantage points.” Our
inner lives and unique perspectives give rise to an “imperative of tolerance,” Rondel suggests, which in turn prompts two questions that bring the
issue of justice into view: a perceptual question, about “perceiving sympathetically the lived experience of injustice,” and an ethical one, about “responding appropriately to injustice by interrogating our own habits, biases,
and blindnesses.” For James these questions prompt obligations that he
defends through an epistemic argument that resembles Talisse’s epistemic
participationism, according to which we have an obligation “to weigh all
ideals and consider all points of view,” and through a metaphysical argument, which Rondel refers to as James’s “cosmic” egalitarianism, according to which “each inner ocean has the same incommensurable value.”
Rondel suggests that we see the “personal” register of James’s thinking
about justice as complementing—not competing with—“more institutionally and culturally focused approaches.”
Works Cited
Anderson, Elizabeth. 2006. “The Epistemology of Democracy.” Episteme 3: 8–22.
———. 2010. The Imperative of Integration. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Cotkin, George. 1990. William James: Public Philosopher. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press.
Fish, Stanley. 1998. “Truth and Toilets: Pragmatism and the Practices of Life.” In The
Revival of Pragmatism: New Essays on Social Thought, Law, and Culture, edited
by Morris Dickstein, 418– 433. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Harris, Leonard. 2002. “Insurrectionist Ethics: Advocacy, Moral Psychology, and
Pragmatism.” In Ethical Issues for a New Millennium, edited by J. Howie, 192–210.
Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.
16
|
Pragmatism and Justice
17
Knight, Louise W. 2005. Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Lewis, C. I. 1970. Collected Papers. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.
MacGilvray, Eric. 2004. Reconstructing Public Reason. Cambridge: Harvard
University Press.
Mendieta, Eduardo. 2007. “Translating Democracy or Democratic Acts of Translation: On
Cornel West’s Democracy Matters.” Contemporary Pragmatism 4(1): 25–37.
Mills, Charles W. 1997. The Racial Contract. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
———. 2008. “Racial Liberalism.” PMLA 123(5): 1380–1397.
Misak, Cheryl, and Robert Talisse. 2014. “Pragmatist Epistemology and Democratic
Theory: A Reply to Eric MacGilvray.” Journal of Political Philosophy 22: 366–376.
Pateman, Carole. 1988. The Sexual Contract. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Pateman, Carole, and Charles W. Mills. 2007. The Contract and Domination. Malden,
MA: Polity Press.
Posner, Richard. 1990. The Problems of Jurisprudence. Cambridge: Harvard
University Press.
Rorty, Richard. 1982. Consequences of Pragmatism. Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press.
———. 1999. Philosophy and Social Hope. London: Penguin.
———. 2006. “An Interview with Richard Rorty.” Gnosis 8: 54–59.
Seigfried, Charlene Haddock, ed. 2002. Feminist Interpretations of John Dewey.
University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.
Sen, Amartya. 2009. The Idea of Justice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Voparil, Christopher J. 2011. “Rortyan Cultural Politics and the Problem of Speaking for
Others.” Contemporary Pragmatism 8(1): 115–131.
Young, Iris. 2000. Inclusion and Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Introduction
|
17
18
19
PART I
The Pragmatist Turn to Justice
20
21
CHAPTER 1
Justice as a Larger Loyalty
Richard Rorty
All of us would expect help if, pursued by the police, we asked our
family to hide us. Most of us would extend such help even when we know
our child or our parent to be guilty of a sordid crime. Many of us would be
willing to perjure ourselves in order to supply such a child or parent with a
false alibi. But if an innocent person is wrongly convicted as a result of our
perjury, most of us will be torn by a conflict between loyalty and justice.
Such a conflict will be felt, however, only to the extent to which we can
identify with the innocent person whom we have harmed. If the person is a
neighbor, the conflict will probably be intense. If a stranger, especially one
of a different race, class, or nation, it may be considerably weaker. There
has to be some sense in which he or she is “one of us,” before we start to
be tormented by the question of whether or not we did the right thing when
we committed perjury. So it may be equally appropriate to describe us as
torn between conflicting loyalties—loyalty to our family and to a group
large enough to include the victim of our perjury—rather than between
loyalty and justice.
Our loyalty to such larger groups will, however, weaken, or even vanish
altogether, when things get really tough. Then people whom we once
thought of as like ourselves will be excluded. Sharing food with impoverished people down the street is natural and right in normal times, but
perhaps not in a famine, when doing so amounts to disloyalty to one’s
family. The tougher things get, the more ties of loyalty to those near at
hand tighten, and the more those to everyone else slacken.
22
Consider another example of expanding and contracting loyalties: our
attitude toward other species. Most of us today are at least half— convinced
that the vegetarians have a point, and that animals do have some sort of
rights. But suppose that the cows, or the kangaroos, turn out to be carriers
of a newly mutated virus, which, though harmless to them, is invariably
fatal to humans. I suspect that we would then shrug off accusations of
“speciesism” and participate in the necessary massacre. The idea of justice between species will suddenly become irrelevant, because things have
gotten very tough indeed, and our loyalty to our own species must come
first. Loyalty to a larger community—that of all living creatures on our
home planet—would, under such circumstances, quickly fade away.
As a final example, consider the tough situation created by the accelerating export of jobs from the First World to the Third. There is likely to be
a continuing decline in the average real income of most American families. Much of this decline can plausibly be attributed to the fact that you
can hire a factory worker in Thailand for a tenth of what you would have
to pay a worker in Ohio. It has become the conventional wisdom of the
rich that American and European labor is overpriced on the world market.
When American business people are told that they are being disloyal to
the United States by leaving whole cities in our Rust Belt without work or
hope, they sometimes reply that they place justice over loyalty.1 They argue
that the needs of humanity as a whole take moral precedence over those
of their fellow-citizens and override national loyalties. Justice requires that
they act as citizens of the world.
Consider now the plausible hypothesis that democratic institutions and
freedoms are viable only when supported by an economic affluence that is
achievable regionally but impossible globally. If this hypothesis is correct,
democracy and freedom in the First World will not be able to survive a
thoroughgoing globalization of the labor market. So the rich democracies
face a choice between perpetuating their own democratic institutions and
traditions and dealing justly with the Third World. Doing justice to the
Third World would require exporting capital and jobs until everything is
leveled out—until an honest day’s work, in a ditch or at a computer, earns
no higher a wage in Cincinnati or Paris than in a small town in Botswana.
But then, it can plausibly be argued, there will be no money to support free
public libraries, competing newspapers and networks, widely available
Donald Fites, the CEO of the Caterpillar tractor company, explained his company’s policy of
relocation abroad by saying that “as a human being, I think what is going on is positive. I don’t
think it is realistic for 250 million Americans to control so much of the world’s GNP” (quoted in
Luttwak 1993, 184).
1
22
|
The Pragmatist Turn to Justice
23
liberal arts education, and all the other institutions that are necessary to
produce enlightened public opinion, and thus to keep governments more
or less democratic.
What, on this hypothesis, is the right thing for the rich democracies to
do? Be loyal to themselves and each other? Keep free societies going for a
third of mankind at expense of the remaining two-thirds? Or sacrifice the
blessings of political liberty for the sake of egalitarian economic justice?
These questions parallel those confronted by the parents of a large
family after a nuclear holocaust. Do they share the food supply they
have stored in the basement with their neighbors, even though the stores
will then only last a day or two? Or do they fend those neighbors off
with guns? Both moral dilemmas bring up the same question: Should we
contract the circle for the sake of loyalty, or expand it for the sake of
justice?
I have no idea of the right answer to these questions, neither about the
right thing for these parents to do, nor about the right thing for the First
World to do. I have posed them simply to bring a more abstract, and merely
philosophical, question into focus. That question is: Should we describe
such moral dilemmas as conflicts between loyalty and justice, or rather,
as I have suggested, between loyalties to smaller groups and loyalties to
larger groups?
This amounts to asking: Would it be a good idea to treat “justice” as
the name for loyalty to a certain very large group, the name for our largest current loyalty, rather than the name of something distinct from loyalty? Could we replace the notion of “justice” with that of loyalty to that
group—for example, one’s fellow-citizens, or the human species, or all
living things? Would anything be lost by this replacement?
Moral philosophers who remain loyal to Kant are likely to think that a
lot would be lost. Kantians typically insist that justice springs from reason,
and loyalty from sentiment. Only reason, they say, can impose universal
and unconditional moral obligations, and our obligation to be just is of this
sort. It is on another level from the sort of affectional relations that create
loyalty. Jürgen Habermas is the most prominent contemporary philosopher to insist on this Kantian way of looking at things: the thinker least
willing to blur either the line between reason and sentiment, or the line
between universal validity and historical consensus. But contemporary
philosophers who depart from Kant, either in the direction of Hume (like
Annette Baier) or in the direction of Hegel (like Charles Taylor) or in that
of Aristotle (like Alasdair MacIntyre), are not so sure.
Justice as a Larger Loyalty
|
23
24
Michael Walzer is at the other extreme from Habermas. He is wary of
terms like “reason” and “universal moral obligation.” The heart of his new
book, Thick and Thin, is the claim that we should reject the intuition that
Kant took as central: the intuition that “men and women everywhere begin
with some common idea or principle or set of ideas and principles, which
they then work up in many different ways.” Walzer thinks that this picture
of morality “starting thin” and “thickening with age” should be inverted.
He says that, “Morality is thick from the beginning, culturally integrated,
fully resonant, and it reveals itself thinly only on special occasions, when
moral language is turned to special purposes” (Walzer 1994, 4). Walzer’s
inversion suggests, though it does not entail, the neo-Humean picture of
morality sketched by Annette Baier in her book Moral Prejudices. On
Baier’s account, morality starts out not as an obligation but as a relation of
reciprocal trust among a closely knit group, such as a family or clan. To
behave morally is to do what comes naturally in your dealings with your
parents and children or your fellow clan-members. It amounts to respecting the trust they place in you. Obligation, as opposed to trust, enters the
picture only when your loyalty to a smaller group conflicts with your loyalty to a larger group.2
When, for example, the families confederate into tribes, or the tribes
into nations, you may feel obliged to do what does not come naturally: to
leave your parents in the lurch by going off to fight in the wars, or to
rule against your own village in your capacity as a federal administrator or judge. What Kant would describe as the resulting conflict between
moral obligation and sentiment, or between reason and sentiment, is, on
a non-Kantian account of the matter, a conflict between one set of loyalties and another set of loyalties. The idea of a universal moral obligation
to respect human dignity gets replaced by the idea of loyalty to a very
large group—the human species. The idea that moral obligation extends
beyond that species to an even larger group becomes the idea of loyalty to
all those who, like yourself, can experience pain— even the cows and the
kangaroos— or perhaps even to all living things, even the trees.
This non-Kantian view of morality can be rephrased as the claim that
one’s moral identity is determined by the group or groups with which one
identifies—the group or groups to which one cannot be disloyal and still
like oneself. Moral dilemmas are not, in this view, the result of a conflict
Baier’s picture is quite close to that sketched by Wilfrid Sellars and Robert Brandom in their quasiHegelian accounts of moral progress as the expansion of the circle of beings who count as “us.”
2
24
|
The Pragmatist Turn to Justice
25
between reason and sentiment but between alternative selves, alternative self-descriptions, alternative ways of giving a meaning to one’s life.
Non-Kantians do not think that we have a central, true self by virtue of
our membership in the human species—a self that responds to the call of
reason. They can, instead, agree with Daniel Dennett that a self is a center
of narrative gravity. In nontraditional societies, most people have several
such narratives at their disposal, and thus several different moral identities.
It is this plurality of identities that accounts for the number and variety
of moral dilemmas, moral philosophers, and psychological novels in such
societies.
Walzer’s contrast between thick and thin morality is, among other
things, a contrast between the detailed and concrete stories you can tell
about yourself as a member of a smaller group and the relatively abstract
and sketchy story you can tell about yourself as a citizen of the world.
You know more about your family than about your village, more about
your village than about your nation, more about your nation than about
humanity as a whole, more about being human than about simply being
a living creature. You are in a better position to decide what differences
between individuals are morally relevant when dealing with those whom
you can describe thickly, and in a worse position when dealing with those
whom you can only describe thinly. This is why, as groups get larger, law
has to replace custom, and abstract principles have to replace phronesis.
So Kantians are wrong to see phronesis as a thickening up of thin abstract
principles. Plato and Kant were misled by the fact that abstract principles
are designed to trump parochial loyalties into thinking that the principles are somehow prior to the loyalties—that the thin is somehow prior to
the thick.
Walzer’s thick-thin distinction can be aligned with Rawls’s contrast between a shared concept of justice and various conflicting conceptions of
justice. Rawls sets out that contrast as follows:
the concept of justice, applied to an institution, means, say, that the institution makes no arbitrary distinctions between persons in assigning basic
rights and duties, and that its rules establish a proper balance between
competing claims… . [A] conception includes, besides this, principles and
criteria for deciding which distinctions are arbitrary and when a balance
between competing claims is proper. People can agree on the meaning of
justice and still be at odds, since they affirm different principles and standards for deciding these matters. (Rawls 1993a, 14n)
Justice as a Larger Loyalty
|
25
26
Phrased in Rawls’s terms, Walzer’s point is that thick “fully resonant” conceptions of justice, complete with distinctions between the people who
matter most and the people who matter less, come first. The thin concept,
and its maxim “do not make arbitrary distinctions between moral subjects,” is articulated only on special occasions. On those occasions, the
thin concept can often be turned against any of the thick conceptions from
which it emerged, in the form of critical questions about whether it may not
be merely arbitrary to think that certain people matter more than others.
Neither Rawls nor Walzer think, however, that unpacking the thin concept of justice will, by itself, resolve such critical questions by supplying
a criterion of arbitrariness. They do not think that we can do what Kant
hoped to do— derive solutions to moral dilemmas from the analysis of
moral concepts. To put the point in the terminology I am suggesting: we
cannot resolve conflicting loyalties by turning away from them all toward
something categorically distinct from loyalty—the universal moral obligation to act justly. So we have to drop the Kantian idea that the moral law
starts off pure but is always in danger of being contaminated by irrational feelings that introduce arbitrary discriminations among persons. We
have to substitute the Hegelian-Marxist idea that the so-called moral law
is, at best, a handy abbreviation for a concrete web of social practices.
This means dropping Habermas’s claim that his “discourse ethics” articulates a transcendental presupposition of the use of language, and accepting
his critics’ claim that it articulates only the customs of contemporary liberal societies.3
Now I want to raise the question of whether to describe the various moral
dilemmas with which I began as conflicts between loyalty and justice,
or rather as conflicting loyalties to particular groups, in a more concrete
form. Consider the question of whether the demands for reform made on
the rest of the world by Western liberal societies are made in the name of
something not merely Western—something like morality, or humanity, or
rationality— or are simply expressions of loyalty to local, Western, conceptions of justice. Habermas would say that they are the former. I would
say that they are the latter, but are none the worse for that. I think it is
better not to say that the liberal West is better informed about rationality
This sort of debate runs through a lot of contemporary philosophy. Compare, for example,
Walzer’s contrast between starting thin and starting thick with that between the PlatonicChomskian notion that we start with meanings and descend to use, and the WittgensteinianDavidsonian notion that we start with use and then skim off meaning as needed for
lexicographical or philosophical purposes.
3
26
|
The Pragmatist Turn to Justice
27
and justice, and instead to say that, in making demands on nonliberal societies, it is simply being true to itself.
In a recent paper called “The Law of Peoples,” Rawls discusses the
question of whether the conception of justice he has developed in his
books is something peculiarly Western and liberal or rather something
universal. He would like to be able to claim universality. He says that it
is important to avoid “historicism,” and believes that he can do this if he
can show that the conception of justice suited to a liberal society can be
extended beyond such societies through formulating what he calls “the law
of peoples” (Rawls 1993b, 44).4 He outlines, in that paper, an extension
of the constructivist procedure proposed in his A Theory of Justice—an
extension which, by continuing to separate the right from the good, lets us
encompass liberal and nonliberal societies under the same law.
As Rawls develops this constructivist proposal, however, it emerges that
this law applies only to reasonable peoples, in a quite specific sense of the
term “reasonable.” The conditions that nonliberal societies must honor in
order to be “accepted by liberal societies as members in good standing of a
society of peoples” (Rawls 1993b, 81) include the following: “its system of
law must be guided by a common good conception of justice … that takes
impartially into account what it sees not unreasonably as the fundamental
interests of all members of society” (61).
Rawls takes the fulfillment of that condition to rule out violation of
basic human rights. These rights include “at least certain minimum rights
to means of subsistence and security (the right to life), to liberty (freedom
from slavery, serfdom, and forced occupations) and (personal) property, as
well as to formal equality as expressed by the rules of natural justice (for
example, that similar cases be treated similarly)” (Rawls 1993b, 62). When
Rawls spells out what he means by saying that the admissible nonliberal
societies must not have unreasonable philosophical or religious doctrines,
he glosses “unreasonable” by saying that these societies must “admit a
measure of liberty of conscience and freedom of thought, even if these
freedoms are not in general equal for all members of society.” Rawls’
notion of what is reasonable, in short, confines membership of the society
of peoples to societies whose institutions encompass most of the hard-won
achievements of the West in the two centuries since the Enlightenment.
I am not sure why Rawls thinks historicism is undesirable, and there are passages, both early
and recent, in which he seems to throw in his lot with the historicists. (See the passage quoted in
note 5 below from his recent “Reply to Habermas.”) Some years ago I argued for the plausibility
of an historicist interpretation of the metaphilosophy of Rawls’s A Theory of Justice in my “The
Priority of Democracy to Philosophy” (see Rorty 1991).
4
Justice as a Larger Loyalty
|
27
28
It seems to me that Rawls cannot both reject historicism and invoke this
notion of reasonableness. For the effect of that invocation is to build most
of the West’s recent decisions about which distinctions between persons
are arbitrary into the conception of justice that is implicit in the law of
peoples. The differences between different conceptions of justice, remember, are differences between what features of people are seen as relevant
to the adjudication of their competing claims. There is obviously enough
wriggle room in phrases like “similar cases should be treated similarly”
to allow for arguments that believers and infidels, men and women, blacks
and whites, gays and straights should be treated as relevantly dissimilar.
So there is room to argue that discrimination on the basis of such differences is not arbitrary. If we are going to exclude from the society of
peoples societies in which infidel homosexuals are not permitted to engage
in certain occupations, those societies can quite reasonably say that we are,
in excluding them, appealing not to something universal, but to very recent
developments in Europe and America.
I agree with Habermas when he says, “What Rawls in fact prejudges
with the concept of an ‘overlapping consensus’ is the distinction between
modern and premodern forms of consciousness, between ‘reasonable’ and
‘dogmatic’ world interpretations” (Habermas 1993, 95). But I disagree
with Habermas, as I think Walzer also would, when he goes on to say that
Rawls can defend the primacy of the right over the good with the concept of an overlapping consensus only if it is true that postmetaphysical
worldviews that have become reflexive under modern conditions are epistemically superior to dogmatically fixed, fundamentalistic worldviews—
indeed, only if such a distinction can be made with absolute clarity (95).
Habermas’s point is that Rawls needs an argument from transculturally
valid premises for the superiority of the liberal West. Without such an
argument, he says, “the disqualification of ‘unreasonable’ doctrines that
cannot be brought into harmony with the proposed ‘political’ concept of
justice is inadmissible” (95).5
Habermas is here commenting on Rawls’s use of “reasonable” in writings earlier than “The Law
of Peoples,” since the latter appeared subsequent to Habermas’s book. When I wrote the present
paper, the exchange between Rawls and Habermas published in the Journal of Philosophy (see
Rawls 1995) had not yet appeared. This exchange rarely touches on the question of historicism
versus universalism. But one passage in which this question emerges explicitly is to be found on
p. 179 of Rawls’s “Reply to Habermas”: “Justice as fairness is substantive … in the sense that it
springs from and belongs to the tradition of liberal thought and the larger community of political
culture of democratic societies. It fails then to be properly formal and truly universal, and thus to
be part of the quasi-transcendental presuppositions (as Habermas sometimes says) established by
the theory of communicative action.”
5
28
|
The Pragmatist Turn to Justice
29
Such passages make clear why Habermas and Walzer are at opposite
poles. Walzer is taking for granted that there can be no such thing as a
non-question -begging demonstration of the epistemic superiority of the
Western idea of reasonableness. There is, for Walzer, no tribunal of transcultural reason before which to try the question of superiority. Walzer is
presupposing what Habermas calls “a strong contextualism for which there
is no single ‘rationality.’ ” On this conception, Habermas continues, “individual ‘rationalities’ are correlated with different cultures, worldviews,
traditions, or forms of life. Each of them is viewed as internally interwoven
with a particular understanding of the world” (95).
I think that Rawls’s constructivist approach to the law of peoples can
work if he adopts what Habermas calls a “strong contextualism.” Doing
so would mean giving up the attempt to escape historicism, as well as
the attempt to supply a universalistic argument for the West’s most recent
views about which differences between persons are arbitrary. The strength
of Walzer’s Thick and Thin seems to me to be its explicitness about the
need to do this. The weakness of Rawls’s account of what he is doing
lies in an ambiguity between two senses of universalism. When Rawls
says that “a constructivist liberal doctrine is universal in its reach, once it
is extended to … a law of peoples” (Rawls 1993b, 46), he is not saying that
it is universal in its validity. Universal reach is a notion that sits well with
constructivism, but universal validity is not. It is the latter that Habermas
requires. That is why Habermas thinks that we need really heavy philosophical weaponry, modeled on Kant’s—why he insists that only transcendental presuppositions of any possible communicative practice will do the
job.6 To be faithful to his own constructivism, I think, Rawls has to agree
with Walzer that this job does not need to be done.
Rawls and Habermas often invoke, and Walzer almost never invokes,
the notion of “reason.” In Habermas, this notion is always bound up with
that of context-free validity. In Rawls, things are more complicated. Rawls
distinguishes the reasonable from the rational, using the latter to mean
simply the sort of means-end rationality that is employed in engineering,
or in working out a Hobbesian modus vivendi. But he often invokes a third
notion, that of “practical reason,” as when he says that the authority of a
constructivist liberal doctrine “rests on the principles and conceptions of
My own view is that we do not need, either in epistemology or in moral philosophy, the notion
of universal validity. I argue for this in “Sind Aussagen Universelle Geltungsansprüche?” (see
Rorty 2000). Habermas and Apel find my view paradoxical and likely to produce performative
self-contradiction.
6
Justice as a Larger Loyalty
|
29
30
practical reason” (Rawls 1993b, 46). Rawls’s use of this Kantian term may
make it sound as if he agreed with Kant and Habermas that there is a universally distributed human faculty called practical reason (existing prior
to, and working quite independently of, the recent history of the West), a
faculty that tells us what counts as an arbitrary distinction between persons and what does not. Such a faculty would do the job Habermas thinks
needs doing: detecting transcultural moral validity.
But this cannot, I think, be what Rawls intends. For he also says that
his own constructivism differs from all philosophical views that appeal
to a source of authority, and in which “the universality of the doctrine is
the direct consequence of its source of authority” (Rawls 1993b, 45). As
examples of sources of authority, he cites “(human) reason, or an independent realm of moral values, or some other proposed basis of universal
validity” (45). So I think we have to construe his phrase “the principles and
conceptions of practical reason” as referring to whatever principles and
conceptions are in fact arrived at in the course of creating a community.
Rawls emphasizes that creating a community is not the same thing as
working out a modus vivendi—a task which requires only means-end rationality, not practical reason. A principle or conception belongs to practical reason, in Rawls’s sense, if it emerged in the course of people starting
thick and getting thin, thereby developing an overlapping consensus and
setting up a more inclusive moral community. It would not so belong if it
had emerged under the threat of force. Practical reason for Rawls is, so to
speak, a matter of procedure rather than of substance— of how we agree
on what to do rather than of what we agree on.
This definition of practical reason suggests that there may be only a verbal
difference between Rawls’s and Habermas’s positions. For Habermas’s
own attempt to substitute “communicative reason” for “subject-centered
reason” is itself a move toward substituting “how” for “what.” The first sort
of reason is a source of truth, truth somehow coeval with the human mind.
The second sort of reason is not a source of anything, but simply the activity of justifying claims by offering arguments rather than threats. Like
Rawls, Habermas focuses on the difference between persuasion and force,
rather than, as Plato and Kant did, on the difference between two parts of
the human person—the good rational part and the dubious passionate or
sensual part. Both would like to de-emphasize the notion of the authority
of reason—the idea of reason as a faculty which issues decrees—and substitute the notion of rationality as what is present whenever people communicate, whenever they try to justify their claims to one another, rather
than threatening each other.
30
|
The Pragmatist Turn to Justice
31
The similarities between Rawls and Habermas seem even greater in the
light of Rawls’s endorsement of Thomas Scanlon’s answer to the “fundamental question why anyone should care about morality at all,” namely that
“we have a basic desire to be able to justify our actions to others on grounds
that they could not reasonably reject—reasonably, that is, given the desire to
find principles that others similarly motivated could not reasonably reject”
(Rawls 1993a, 49n). This suggests that the two philosophers might agree
on the following claim: The only notion of rationality we need, at least in
moral and social philosophy, is that of a situation in which people do not
say “your own current interests dictate that you agree to our proposal,” but
rather “your own central beliefs, the ones which are central to your own
moral identity, suggest that you should agree to our proposal.”
This notion of rationality can be delimited using Walzer’s terminology
by saying that rationality is found wherever people envisage the possibility of getting from different thicks to the same thin. To appeal to interests rather than beliefs is to urge a modus vivendi. Such an appeal is
exemplified by the speech of the Athenian ambassadors to the unfortunate
Melians, as reported by Thucydides. To appeal to your enduring beliefs
as well as to your current interests is to suggest that what gives you your
present moral identity—your thick and resonant complex of beliefs—may
make it possible for you to develop a new, supplementary, moral identity.7
It is to suggest that what makes you loyal to a smaller group may give you
reason to cooperate in constructing a larger group, a group to which you
may in time become equally loyal or perhaps even more loyal. The difference between the absence and the presence of rationality, on this account,
is the difference between a threat and an offer—the offer of a new moral
identity and thus a new and larger loyalty, a loyalty to a group formed by
an unforced agreement between smaller groups.
In the hope of minimizing the contrast between Habermas and Rawls
still further, and of rapprochement between both and Walzer, I want to
suggest a way of thinking of rationality that might help to resolve the problem I posed earlier: the problem of whether justice and loyalty are different sorts of things, or whether the demands of justice are simply the
demands of a larger loyalty. I said that question seemed to boil down to the
question of whether justice and loyalty had different sources—reason and
sentiment, respectively. If the latter distinction disappears, the former one
Walzer thinks it is a good idea for people to have lots of different moral identities. “[T]hick,
divided selves are the characteristic products of, and in turn require, a thick, differentiated, and
pluralistic society” (1994, 101).
7
Justice as a Larger Loyalty
|
31
32
will not seem particularly useful. But if by rationality we mean simply the
sort of activity that Walzer thinks of as a thinning out process—the sort
that, with luck, achieves the formulation and utilization of an overlapping
consensus—then the idea that justice has a different source than loyalty no
longer seems plausible.8
For, on this account of rationality, being rational and acquiring a larger
loyalty are two descriptions of the same activity. This is because any unforced agreement between individuals and groups about what to do creates
a form of community, and will, with luck, be the initial stage in expanding the circles of those whom each party to the agreement had previously
taken to be “people like ourselves.” The opposition between rational
argument and fellow feeling thus begins to dissolve. For fellow feeling
may, and often does, arise from the realization that the people whom one
thought one might have to go to war with, use force on, are, in Rawls’
sense, “reasonable.” They are, it turns out, enough like us to see the point
of compromising differences in order to live in peace, and of abiding by
the agreement that has been hammered out. They are, to some degree at
least, trustworthy.
From this point of view, Habermas’s distinction between a strategic use
of language and a genuinely communicative use of language begins to
look like a difference between positions on a spectrum—a spectrum of
degrees of trust. Baier’s suggestion that we take trust rather than obligation to be our fundamental moral concept would thus produce a blurring
of the line between rhetorical manipulation and genuine validity-seeking
argument—a line that I think Habermas draws too sharply. If we cease
to think of reason as a source of authority, and think of it simply as the
process of reaching agreement by persuasion, then the standard Platonic
and Kantian dichotomy of reason and feeling begins to fade away. That
dichotomy can be replaced by a continuum of degrees of overlap of beliefs
and desires.9 When people whose beliefs and desires do not overlap very
Note that in Rawls’s semitechnical sense an overlapping consensus is not the result of
discovering that various comprehensive views already share common doctrines, but rather
something that might never have emerged had the proponents of these views not started trying to
cooperate.
9
Davidson has, I think, demonstrated that any two beings that use language to communicate
with one another necessarily share an enormous number of beliefs and desires. He has thereby
shown the incoherence of the idea that people can live in separate worlds created by differences
in culture or status or fortune. There is always an immense overlap—an immense reserve army
of common beliefs and desires to be drawn on at need. But this immense overlap does not, of
course, prevent accusations of craziness or diabolical wickedness. For only a tiny amount of
nonoverlap about certain particularly touchy subjects (the border between two territories, the
name of the One True God) may lead to such accusations, and eventually to violence.
8
32
|
The Pragmatist Turn to Justice
33
much disagree, they tend to think of each other as crazy or, more politely,
as irrational. When there is considerable overlap, on the other hand, they
may agree to differ and regard each other as the sort of people one can
live with—and eventually, perhaps, the sort one can be friends with, intermarry with, and so on.10
To advise people to be rational is, on the view I am offering, simply to
suggest that somewhere among their shared beliefs and desires there may
be enough resources to permit agreement on how to coexist without violence. To conclude that someone is irredeemably irrational is not to realize
that she is not making proper use of her God-given faculties. It is rather to
realize that she does not seem to share enough relevant beliefs and desires
with us to make possible fruitful conversation about the issue in dispute.
So, we reluctantly conclude, we have to give up on the attempt to get her to
enlarge her moral identity, and settle for working out a modus vivendi—
one which may involve the threat, or even the use, of force.
A stronger, more Kantian, notion of rationality would be invoked if one
said that being rational guarantees a peaceful resolution of conflicts— that
if people are willing to reason together long enough, what Habermas calls
“the force of the better argument” will lead them to concur.11 This stronger notion strikes me as pretty useless. I see no point in saying that it is
more rational to prefer one’s neighbors to one’s family in the event of a
nuclear holocaust, or more rational to prefer leveling off incomes around
the world to preserving the institutions of liberal Western societies. To use
the word “rational” to commend one’s chosen solution to such dilemmas,
or to use the term “yielding to the force of the better argument” to characterize one’s way of making up one’s mind, is to pay oneself an empty
compliment.
More generally, the idea of “the better argument” makes sense only
if one can identify a natural, transcultural relation of relevance, which
connects propositions with one another so as to form something like
Descartes’s “natural order of reasons.” Without such a natural order, one
can only evaluate arguments by their efficacy in producing agreement
among particular persons or groups. But the required notion of natural,
intrinsic relevance—relevance dictated not by the needs of any given
community but by human reason as such—seems no more plausible or
useful than that of a God whose Will can be appealed to in order to resolve
I owe this line of thought about how to reconcile Habermas and Baier to Mary Rorty.
This notion of “the better argument” is central to Habermas’s and Apel’s understanding of
rationality. I criticize it in the article cited above in note 6.
10
11
Justice as a Larger Loyalty
|
33
34
conflicts between communities. It is, I think, merely a secularized version
of that earlier notion.
Non-Western societies in the past were rightly skeptical o…
Purchase answer to see full
attachment

  
error: Content is protected !!