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See detailA gradualist path toward sortition
Burks, Deven UL; Kies, Raphaël UL

in Gastil, John; Wright, Erik Olin (Eds.) Legislature by Lot: Transformative Designs for Deliberative Governance (in press)

Conventional wisdom holds that building democracy takes time. Deliberative democracy will likely prove no exception. To that end, this chapter will explore one possible path towards more deliberative ... [more ▼]

Conventional wisdom holds that building democracy takes time. Deliberative democracy will likely prove no exception. To that end, this chapter will explore one possible path towards more deliberative institutions and decision-making in the form of Gastil and Wright’s proposal for a Sortition Chamber. Our thesis is that deliberative innovations, notably a sortition chamber, require a gradualist approach to implementation. While other authors in this volume may take for granted that some form of sortition chamber will be institutionalized and focus instead on design questions, we probe the necessary conditions preceding institutionalization. To support this thesis, we shall make an argument comprising four main claims. 1.) Sortition is a promising deliberative innovation. 2.) A strong, unaccountable deliberative device like sortition may delegitimize citizen deliberation and future deliberative innovations, in particular a sortition chamber. 3.) A weaker deliberative device like citizens’ consultation is effective though often blocked by a lack of institutional footing. 4.) Citizens’ consultation, once proven to be effective and regular, opens one path towards enhanced deliberative innovations like the sortition chamber. Claim 1.) will not be developed here beyond the point that a sortition chamber’s “hybrid legitimacy” may allow it to overcome critiques addressed to one-shot, single-issue consultative or 1 empowered mini-publics which may lack institutional footing1. Such mini-publics face multiple challenges: significant social or political uptake, electoral accountability, capture by interests, political redundancy, representativeness, biases, frames2. If a sortition chamber prima facie meets or precludes these different critiques, it represents a striking contribution to democratic innovations beyond mini-publics. That said, we must work out claims 2.), 3.) and 4.) in individual sections below. While examples in 3.) and 4.) will mainly be drawn from the European Union, we maintain that this argument is broadly applicable at local, regional national and transnational levels. We argue that, if institutionalizing consultative mini-publics is desirable and feasible at the EU level, it will be all the more so at other levels throughout the decision-making process’ different stages. [less ▲]

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See detailRigor or rhetoric: Public philosopher and public in dialogue
Burks, Deven UL

in Perspectives: International Postgraduate Journal of Philosophy (in press), 9

Brian Leiter (2016) throws down two gauntlets to philosophers engaged in dialogue with the broader public. If, with the first, public philosophers recognize that they cannot offer substantive answers but ... [more ▼]

Brian Leiter (2016) throws down two gauntlets to philosophers engaged in dialogue with the broader public. If, with the first, public philosophers recognize that they cannot offer substantive answers but only sophisticated method, they nevertheless fail to realize that said method does not resonate with the very public whom they purport to help. For, with the second, that method does not engage the emotivist and tribalist cast of contemporary public discourse: emotivist because a person’s moral and political beliefs are a function of emotional attitudes or affective responses for which she adduces reasons post hoc; tribalist because the person tracks not the inferential relation between beliefs but her similarity with interlocutors. In order to understand the full extent of this critique, it is necessary, first, to parse strands of public philosophy, distinct discursive sites, and pictures of philosophical practice and, then, to probe the critique’s empirical groundedness and intended scope. These elements in place, it is then possible to sketch public philosophy reconceived along Leiter’s lines as equal part rigor and rhetoric. That sketch may be somewhat filled out through two tactics employed in Jeffrey Stout’s (2004, 2010) work. These form part of a toolkit for philosophical dialogue whereby philosophers get a discursive grip on non-discursive factors underlying public discourse and push back on Leiter's dilemma. [less ▲]

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See detailIdentity and Rawlsian points of view
Burks, Deven UL

Scientific Conference (2018, September 11)

Does political liberalism’s outwardly universal appeal in fact trade on a liberal theory of standpoints and identities parallel to that found in feminist and Marxist epistemology? Answering this question ... [more ▼]

Does political liberalism’s outwardly universal appeal in fact trade on a liberal theory of standpoints and identities parallel to that found in feminist and Marxist epistemology? Answering this question hinges on how seriously one takes Rawls’s talk of “points of view” (Rawls, 1996: 172; 1999: 28) or “standpoints” (Rawls, 1996: 58, 150; 1999: 175). Do these play a vital role in the exposition of justice as fairness and evince sufficient proximity to the structural features of a “standpoint”? For our purposes, we define these features as: being pinned to a social location or identity, defined as a type, limited in scope and possessing epistemic privilege over other defined standpoints. In this exploratory paper, we outline two cases for this approach, one strong, one weak, and conclude in favour of the weak. We begin by combing Rawls’s work for talk of points of view or standpoints and focus particularly on his discussion of the “you and me”, “representative party” and “citizen in a well-ordered society” standpoints. Moreover, we further break the last two down into “sub-standpoints”, defined along the lines of the four-stage sequence (Rawls, 1999: §31) and the three-part justification of the political conception (Rawls, 1996: 385-389). A case for Rawls as theorist of standpoints and identities is strong when all of the structural features cited above are to be found in Rawls’s points of view as well. On the contrary, should some, but not all, such structural features underlie Rawls’s points of view, then we have reason to speak only of a weak case. As we shall see, the majority of Rawls’s standpoints isolate themselves (“representative party”) or are at a theoretical remove (“you and me”, “citizen in a well-ordered society”) from the richly informative social locations or identities which furnish conventional standpoints their epistemic privilege within a field. That being said, some sub-standpoints are not so isolated or removed (e.g. that associated with full justification of the political conception). In fairness to Rawls, the aforementioned points of view are nevertheless keyed to artificial social locations, set up such that they accrue epistemic privilege over differently situated standpoints. Finally, these points of view manifest other structural features more in keeping with theories of standpoints and identities: type-definition, link with an aspect affording epistemic privilege, limited scope and privilege over other defined standpoints. The combination of the above speaks in favour of the weak case, yields a view on which Rawls puts forward a species of standpoint and identity and offers a fresh look at how we might make sense of Rawls’s reported “conviction that justification is always justification to a particular other” (Laden, 2003: 385). [less ▲]

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See detailAre we post-justification? Stout's case for self-knowledge, political justification and public philosophy
Burks, Deven UL

in Ethics, Politics & Society (2018), 1

Must the participant to public discourse have knowledge of her beliefs, attitudes and reasons as well as belief-formation processes to have justified political belief? In this paper, we test this question ... [more ▼]

Must the participant to public discourse have knowledge of her beliefs, attitudes and reasons as well as belief-formation processes to have justified political belief? In this paper, we test this question with reference to Jeffrey Stout’s (2004) approach to public discourse and public philosophy. After defining self- knowledge and justification along the lines of James Pryor (2004), we map thereon Stout’s view of public discourse and public philosophy as democratic piety, earnest storytelling and Brandomian expressive rationality. We then lay out Brian Leiter’s (2016) naturalistic critique of public philosophy as “discursive hygiene” to see whether Stoutian public philosophy survives the former’s emotivist-tribalist gauntlet. Lastly, we find that Leiter’s critique proves less radical than it may appear and requires the moderating influence of a public philosophy like Stout’s. All in all, Stoutian public discourse and public philosophy powerfully illustrates a strong, necessary connection between self-knowledge and political justification. Post-truth is not post-justification. [less ▲]

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See detailUsage public normalisé ou anormal: Kant et les Lumières face à Jeffrey Stout
Burks, Deven UL

in Ruffing, Margit; Grapotte, Sophie; Lequan, Mai (Eds.) Kant: L’année 1784: Droit et philosophie de l’histoire (2017, October)

Dans “Réponse à la question: Qu’est-ce que les Lumières?”, Kant se donne pour tâche de garantir “la plus inoffensive de toutes les libertés, celle de faire publiquement usage de sa raison en toutes ... [more ▼]

Dans “Réponse à la question: Qu’est-ce que les Lumières?”, Kant se donne pour tâche de garantir “la plus inoffensive de toutes les libertés, celle de faire publiquement usage de sa raison en toutes choses” et, par là même, de fonder le progrès des lumières dans un discours public de type normalisé. La démarche de Kant se révèle normalisante dans la mesure où elle “rend commensurable toute contribution au discours dans un domaine” (Jeffrey Stout, Ethics After Babel, p. 294, ma traduction): dans l’usage public, tout interlocuteur part d’un vocabulaire épuré, “à titre de savant”, pour s’adresser à un public de “lecteurs” de sorte que tout autre interlocuteur peut accepter les raisons du premier, peu importe sa fonction dans la société. Une telle normalisation des conditions de pratiques discursives peut-elle réellement faire progresser la société humaine comme le prétend Kant? Certes, un discours normalisé rend compte de la fragmentation de l’autorité dans la société moderne. Mais il résiste à l’effort de certains interlocuteurs, peu satisfaits de ses prétentions libérales fondationnalistes, d’y apporter des éléments justificatifs issus non pas des usages publics de la raison mais de ceux dits “privés”. Car, pour Jeffrey Stout, la discussion qui fait réellement progresser la société cosmopolite passe par l’écoute, “l’interaction conversationnelle” et la critique improvisée dans un “discours anormal” (idem.). À force de vouloir fixer les critères du débat en avance, on le rendrait en même temps stérile. Si cela constitue une critique forte d’un discours normalisé kantien dont les principes sont fondationnalistes, il n’exclut nullement un discours normalisé kantien de type non-fondationnaliste. A cet effet, il suffirait de supposer une raison pratique et un discours modaux, sensibles aux particularités des interlocuteurs, selon lesquels l’usage public exige des interlocuteurs des raisons qui pourraient être adoptées de façon cohérente par tout interlocuteur dans le domaine en question (cf. Towards justice and virtue, Onora O’Neill). Dans cet optique modal, l’usage public résiste-il mieux ou finit-il par se rapprocher de ses critiques plus qu’on ne le soupçonne? [less ▲]

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See detailStout’s unconstrained discourse: Does reason-giving apply across the board?
Burks, Deven UL

Scientific Conference (2017, October)

If considerable scholarly attention has, to this point, focused on the content permitted in Jeffrey Stout’s pragmatist-expressivist account of political discourse and justification as reason-giving, set ... [more ▼]

If considerable scholarly attention has, to this point, focused on the content permitted in Jeffrey Stout’s pragmatist-expressivist account of political discourse and justification as reason-giving, set out in 2004’s Democracy and Tradition, little enough has been said on the scope which he envisions therefor. Can time-consuming and intensely individual reason-giving shape institutional and governmental discourse in the same way as it does face-to-face encounters, associational life and broad-based organizing? While one can concede that unconstrained discourse and appeal to an individual standpoint are appropriate to building consensus and legitimacy in the latter forms, as 2010’s Blessed are the Organized purports to show, one may nonetheless harbour doubts whether public officials could likewise engage in earnest personal narration and exchange of individual perspectives. For, despite the limited number of participants, it remains an open question whether such discourse represents either an appropriate or a practicable way of proceeding in such settings. Indeed, Stout’s own questions, in his 2010 book, as to the efficacy of grassroots groups and broad-based organizing at the state, national or international level, may leave one with the impression that there exists a gap between the individual and associational context and the institutional and governmental. This leaves us with two questions going forwards about unconstrained discourse and the individual standpoint. First, are these different settings sufficiently similar such that Stout’s version of political discourse displaces liberal public reason in institutional and governmental settings? Otherwise, does the former merely complement the latter, contrary to Stout’s assertions? Second, from a systemic point of view, is Stout’s version of public discourse deliberatively net-positive? In other words, as formulated, can it make an important contribution to the balance of the overall deliberative system? If these questions do not admit of an unqualified yes or no, there is reason to suspect that Stout’s account cannot be implemented equally at all levels of political discourse. In the end, we will argue that unconstrained discourse and the individual standpoint, while salutary, are incomplete in themselves and are best suited to a complementary role in institutional and governmental settings as, at most, one tactic among others. [less ▲]

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See detailDoes self-knowledge advance political justification? The case of public philosophy and Stout’s “unconstrained discourse”
Burks, Deven UL

Scientific Conference (2017, June)

Can self-knowledge of personal attitudes and belief-formation figure as a requirement on those engaging in political justification? Would this not be asking too much of participants both at the personal ... [more ▼]

Can self-knowledge of personal attitudes and belief-formation figure as a requirement on those engaging in political justification? Would this not be asking too much of participants both at the personal and associational level and at the institutional and governmental level? Yet such a requirement seems to follow on Jeffrey Stout’s pragmatist-expressivist account of political discourse and justification as reason-giving or “unconstrained discourse” (Stout, 2004). This self-knowledge requirement comes out in his emphasis on an individual justificatory standpoint, from which the person articulates reasons and beliefs and engages in (self-)storytelling and narration in order to express openly to the audience that person’s motivations and justification for a given political position (Stout, 2010). If his political epistemology so requires self-knowledge and “public” philosophy serves to guide political justification, the question remains by what means or resources “public” philosophy may advance the kind of self-knowledge required on the behalf of participants. To that end, Leiter (2016) may provide useful contrast as a critique of the notion of “discursive hygiene” in justification (as opposed to “rhetoric”) by elaborating the challenges posed to this notion by the obscurity of belief-formation, emotivism and tribalism. If Stout is seen to advance a view of public philosophy and political justification akin to “discursive hygiene”, Leiter’s critique poses a serious challenge to the former’s political epistemology and pragmatist-expressivist account of political justification. In short, “unconstrained discourse” would provide no meaningful standards for such justification or its participants. Our first question then is to know whether Stout can overcome both the prima facie obstacles which this epistemological requirement sets participants and Leiter’s naturalistic challenge to “public” philosophy and political justification. Provisionally, we may respond that Stout takes important steps to circumscribe the role of “public” philosophy and political justification within other publicly available modes of acculturation and moral inculcation. Our second question lies in whether Stout and Leiter then concur on the need for “rhetoric” as an argumentative standard for political justification. In the end, we will conclude that Leiter’s “rhetoric” and Stout’s “unconstrained discourse” are closer than they might at first appear. [less ▲]

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See detailUne impossibilité en or: la lecture émersonienne de Kant
Burks, Deven UL; Lefort, Elisabeth UL

in Burks, Deven; Grapotte, Sophie; Lequan, Mai (Eds.) et al Kant et les penseurs de langue anglaise (2017, May)

The idea of Ralph Waldo Emerson as Kant's interlocutor may surprise philosophers. Yet Emerson's work has undergone rehabilitation since 1950, showing engagement with philosophical issues of his time. Of ... [more ▼]

The idea of Ralph Waldo Emerson as Kant's interlocutor may surprise philosophers. Yet Emerson's work has undergone rehabilitation since 1950, showing engagement with philosophical issues of his time. Of importance are Emerson's contributions in ethics and epistemology, notably the struggle between skepticism and idealism. Therein, commentators like David Van Leer have found an “essentially Kantian orientation”, where others see engagement with broader idealist themes. This lack of consensus owes to Emerson's argumentative brushwork and few references to Kant, complicating the attempt “to delineate precisely the influence of philosophical idealism on any of the major texts”. Such complications do not prevent Van Leer from laying out a hypothetical, Kantian rereading of Emerson by “treat[ing] the essays as if they were both philosophical and organized” and “translat[ing] Emerson's private vocabulary into the more public one of traditional philosophy”. If Van Leer “tend[s] to be less concerned than most with identifying the sources of Emerson's ideas”, this holds because his “hypothetical account means only to disprove the claim that Emerson cannot be read seriously as a philosopher”. An assessment of whether this hypothesis holds water must acknowledge that “what we want to know is not Emerson's 'familiarity' with Kantian concepts, or even his 'knowledge' of them, but only his 'understanding' of those concepts”, for which “any study of the genesis of thought is irrelevant”. If, by Van Leer's own lights, his hypothesis' validity stands or falls with Emerson's understanding of Kantian concepts, one must first identify that understanding. To that end, this study shall accept Van Leer's terms by bracketing considerations of Emerson's style and sources and by charitably upholding Van Leer's replies thereto. So can attention shift to Emerson's engagement with two Kantian innovations mentioned in his work: transcendental idealism and the faculties. It will be necessary to set limits for this study, given the breadth of the authors' works. It shall thus focus on Emerson's treatment of idealism and faculties in his 1836 Nature. If this study judges Emerson's understanding of idealism at several removes from Kant's transcendental idealism, notably on the status of objective reality, it finds his understanding of the faculties more closely aligned on the function of understanding, reason and intuition, albeit with an important amendment to the latter. Accordingly, this study holds, with Winkler, Van Leer's hypothetical account to be both interpretively incomplete and constitutively unverifiable. [less ▲]

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