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See detailThe real problem with Rawlsian reasonableness
Burks, Deven UL

Scientific Conference (2019, September 17)

In The Law of Peoples, Rawls states that, if “political liberalism offers no way of proving that this specification [of reasonableness] is itself reasonable”, this is no great loss, for “it is simply ... [more ▼]

In The Law of Peoples, Rawls states that, if “political liberalism offers no way of proving that this specification [of reasonableness] is itself reasonable”, this is no great loss, for “it is simply politically reasonable to offer fair terms of cooperation to other free and equal citizens, and it is simply politically unreasonable to refuse to do so” (Rawls 1999: 87-8). While Rawls is undoubtedly right that public reason liberalism analytically requires some standard of reasonableness, it is less obvious this standard must take Rawls’s preferred form. Yet criticisms of Rawlsian “reasonableness” as “loaded” (Stout 2004: 184), “chimerical” (Young 2005: 308) or “entirely circular” (Mulhall and Swift 2003: 483) often equivocate on the meaning of reasonableness and so fall afoul of the “equivocation defense” (Freeman 2004: 2063-5). In this paper, I improve on those earlier criticisms by means of a narrow, immanent criticism whereon the two basic aspects of reasonableness – (A1) proposing and abiding by fair terms of cooperation and (A2) recognizing the “burdens of judgment” (Rawls 1996: 54-8) – may plausibly conflict: in some instances, accepting (A2) may give persons reason to disagree over the need to accept (A1). To show this, I first restate two aspects of reasonableness as a biconditional: a person is reasonable iff (A1) and (A2) obtain. I then examine whether Rawls’s burdens give reason to doubt the requirement in (A1). Insofar as the third, fourth and fifth burdens give reason to doubt just this requirement, I conclude that Rawlsian reasonableness should be reformulated. This reformulation preserves what Rawls gets right about reasonableness – namely, the burdens – but replaces the old standard with “reasonableness pluralism”, from which it follows that public reason cannot represent all the necessary conditions of political justification under circumstances of reasonable pluralism. [less ▲]

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See detailThe view from anywhere: A better orientation towards public justification?
Burks, Deven UL

Scientific Conference (2019, September 05)

If reasoning proceeds from perspectives, from which perspective should one reason when pursuing the ideal of public justification (acceptability (Lister 2013) or justifiability (Vallier 2018) of statutes ... [more ▼]

If reasoning proceeds from perspectives, from which perspective should one reason when pursuing the ideal of public justification (acceptability (Lister 2013) or justifiability (Vallier 2018) of statutes or policy to different perspectives)? Although recent debate focuses on the relative merits of consensus (Quong 2011) or convergence (Gaus and Vallier 2009), public justification may require both consensus and convergence, suitably understood. Accordingly, I survey two broad orientations towards public justification: the views “from nowhere” (Nagel 1986) and “from everywhere” (Muldoon 2016). I argue that neither is adequate to socio-political complexity and privilege instead the “view from anywhere”. I first take up individually the views from nowhere and from everywhere. The former consists in the individual ideal of a neutral perspective between preferences and beliefs, attained through following an impartial procedure. In political morality, Rawls’s original position and its associated standpoints are prominent examples (Rawls 1999). Yet this view underestimates the conceptual difficulties of navigating decisions from an alien perspective and avoiding prejudging what is and is not morally relevant. The latter is an epistemic-moral social orientation which aggregates individual perspectives in collective deliberation in order to evaluate proposals via evidentiary support from different perspectives (Muldoon 2016). Such support frames “economic” bargaining between persons and groups over local, fixed-term social contracts. Though both impartial and epistemically feasible, this view likewise encounters conceptual difficulties: a.) underestimating the importance of some uniformity in bargaining and the risks of epistemic bubbles and alternative facts (Frazer 2017); b.) reifying perspectives as insulated standpoints. Consequently, a distinct orientation to public justification is needed to secure impartiality and epistemic feasibility, to build disagreement into the orientation and to allow for perspectives and their transformation. The view from anywhere does so in two ways. First, it extends McMahon’s (2009) “moral nominalism” to show how perspectives inhere in a shared use-history of prescriptive terms in evaluative judgments. Because judgments constitutive of a perspective are susceptible to extension and novel use which may be challenged by others sharing those terms, perspectives may undergo considerable negotiation. Disagreeing parties may come to agree on certain matters or to see their differences. Deliberative conversions remain possible. Second, it fosters a “social picture of reasoning” (Laden 2012) whereon reasonableness consists in issuing one another invitations to alter certain elements of one’s perspective or judgment history to reach the point where each authorizes each to speak for her on some shared concern. Public reasons are not merely accessible in form and content but via their history of mutual invitation and response. The view from anywhere thus makes more sense of public justification’s perspectival character and provides a better picture of how public justification should proceed and public reasons develop in contemporary democracies by allowing that the person may start from anywhere in the justificatory landscape and, potentially, arrive at a conclusion anywhere therein. To Rawls’s reminder to heed “where we are and whence we speak” (Rawls 2005: 382), I add that one may be and speak from anywhere, with enough time, effort and good will. [less ▲]

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See detailThe real problem with Rawisian reasonableness
Burks, Deven UL

Scientific Conference (2019, June 26)

Reactions to Rawlsian “reasonableness” range from its being “loaded” (Stout 2004: 184) or “chimerical” (Young 2005: 308) to “entirely circular” (Mulhall and Swift 2003: 483). Yet more critical reactions ... [more ▼]

Reactions to Rawlsian “reasonableness” range from its being “loaded” (Stout 2004: 184) or “chimerical” (Young 2005: 308) to “entirely circular” (Mulhall and Swift 2003: 483). Yet more critical reactions often employ external standards or equivocal senses of reasonableness to their detriment (Freeman 2004: 2045, 2063-5). In this paper, I put forward a narrow, immanent criticism whereon the two basic aspects of reasonableness are shown to be in tension: the “burdens of judgment” may give the person reason to disagree over the need to propose and to abide by a common basis of fair terms of cooperation. I proceed in two steps. First, I shall recall the two aspects of reasonableness and hold that their conjunction is necessary for a person to qualify as “reasonable”. In particular, this involves showing a biconditional: a person is reasonable if and only if the two basic aspects of reasonableness obtain. Secondly, I shall examine whether any burden gives reason to doubt the need to propose and to abide by a common basis of fair terms of cooperation. I find that each of the burdens, in its own way, leaves room to doubt whether reasonable persons in a well-ordered society would assent to such a need. For the first burden (complexity of evidence), the evidence backing the requirement of shared terms of cooperation defined ex ante is not obviously less complex than that contained in reasonable comprehensive doctrines. Regarding the second (relative weight of reasons), even supposing agreement on which reasons are relevant to deciding questions of justice, there may be still be disagreement over the relative priority of those reasons in deciding a given question. As to the third (conceptual indeterminacy and hard cases), such concepts as justice and fairness, cooperation and equality are all subject to the difficulties of identifying hard cases and probing a concept’s limits. Of the fourth (divergent total life experience), it is clear that, through her life experience, a person acquires a set of beliefs (political, moral, epistemological, religious, etc.) which could give the person reason to doubt or otherwise reject the first basic aspect of reasonableness, especially given its significant complexity. Finally, for the fifth burden (conflicting distinct normative considerations), persons may disagree over whether the first basic aspect in fact realizes these different considerations, the priority ordering to be fixed for such considerations and whether a common currency might be found so as to make such considerations commensurable, any of which may suffice for persons to be unable to reach agreement on the requirement, not simply on the reasons why it holds, but also on whether it holds at all. Thus, I parallel Clarke’s (1999: 639-41) claim that the burdens of judgment apply both to contractarianism’s “reasonable rejection procedure” and principles but do so from narrower, immanent grounds. This analysis yields two striking conclusions. First, public reason becomes looser and shifts to the domain of politics where one sees what public reasons others may in fact accept (Laden 2001). Seen from a different angle, one need not accept the idea that the first basic aspect and, hence, Rawlsian reasonableness are necessary conditions of political justification under conditions of reasonable pluralism (contra Krasnoff 2014: 696-7): rejecting this aspect and reasonableness in no way means that there can be no political justification under conditions of (reasonable) pluralism. Second, when conceiving justification and discourse, Rawls may be committed, despite himself, to accepting “reasonableness pluralism”, i.e. the view that there exist distinct, possibly irreconcilable accounts of reasonableness to which one may appeal when conceiving justification and discourse. Their combination may lead to a public reason liberalism framework which is at once looser and more actionable. [less ▲]

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See detailThe interplay of deliberative legitimacy, constituent power and constitutional form
Burks, Deven UL

Scientific Conference (2019, May 21)

Enhanced legitimacy is a driving force behind deliberative innovations (Fung 2015, Curato and Böker 2016). This is no less the case for constitutional deliberative innovations. Assessing deliberative ... [more ▼]

Enhanced legitimacy is a driving force behind deliberative innovations (Fung 2015, Curato and Böker 2016). This is no less the case for constitutional deliberative innovations. Assessing deliberative constitutionalism’s success in generating legitimacy necessitates a better grasp of the distinct legitimacy standards which constitutional deliberative innovations may meet. Bound up with those standards is deliberative constitutionalism’s attempt to navigate the tension between politics and law, constituent power (CP) and constituted form (CF). How do factors of deliberative legitimacy interact with standard ways of modelling that tension? To answer this question, I proceed in three parts, the first of which maps ten factors of deliberative legitimacy at four levels: personal, interpersonal, institutional, and systemic. The second lays out four ways of modelling the tension between CP and CF from Loughlin and Walker (2007): the containment, mutual articulation, radical potential, and irritant models. The last part sets out to determine whether the four models directly or indirectly support or neglect the realization of the forms of deliberative legitimacy and casts in a different light from Parkinson (2016) the landscape of deliberative democracy and constitutions. I conclude that certain forms of deliberative legitimacy may be more sensitive to and better served by some models of CP and CF than by others. [less ▲]

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See detailThe real problem with Rawlsian reasonableness
Burks, Deven UL

Scientific Conference (2019, February 16)

Rawlsian “reasonableness” has been the object of considerable and varied criticism. Reactions range from its being “loaded” (Stout 2004: 184) or “chimerical” (Young 2005: 308) to “entirely circular” ... [more ▼]

Rawlsian “reasonableness” has been the object of considerable and varied criticism. Reactions range from its being “loaded” (Stout 2004: 184) or “chimerical” (Young 2005: 308) to “entirely circular” (Mulhall and Swift 2003: 483). Yet more critical reactions often employ external standards or equivocal senses of reasonableness to their detriment (Freeman 2004: 2045, 2063-5) or marshal apparently conflicting materials from Rawls’s broader theory (Young 2005, 2006). In this paper, I put forward a narrow, immanent criticism whereon the two basic aspects of reasonableness are shown to be in tension: the “burdens of judgment” may give the person reason to disagree over the need to propose and to abide by a common basis of fair terms of cooperation. My aims in doing so are threefold. First, I try to make sense of and set on firmer ground Stout’s (2004) critique of reasonableness as being epistemologically untenable. My second and third aims stem from the first. The second consists in carving out a middling conceptual space wherein the negation of Rawlsian “reasonableness” is not merely “unreasonable” in the sense of being willing to impose one’s comprehensive doctrine on others as the terms of political justification and coercion (Rawls 1996: 60-1; Freeman 2004: 2049) nor “unreasonable” in the sense of persons’ culpably endorsing a doctrine inconsistent with acceptance of the burdens of judgment (Rawls 2001: 184, 190; Freeman 2004: 2064) but, instead, “reasonably unreasonable” in the sense of the person’s nonculpably or justifiably rejecting the requirement to offer and to abide by fair terms of cooperation in view of the burdens of judgment. Third, I attempt to salvage a minimal core of reasonableness from the two-conjunct Rawlsian reasonableness, a core which contemporary political philosophers are hard-pressed to do without: the second conjunct consisting in the person’s acknowledgement of the burdens of judgment (Rawls 1996: 54-8). To that end, I proceed in two steps. First, I shall recall the two aspects of reasonableness and hold that their conjunction is necessary for a person to qualify as “reasonable”. In particular, this involves showing that a biconditional obtains: a person is reasonable if and only if the two basic aspects of reasonableness obtain, i.e. if and only if she is willing to propose fair terms of cooperation and she is willing to recognize the burdens of judgment. I also briefly define the site wherefrom one checks a person’s reasonableness: the “you and me” standpoint (Rawls 1996: 28). Secondly, I shall examine whether any burden gives reason to doubt the need to propose and to abide by a common basis of fair terms of cooperation. I find that each of the burdens, in its own way, leaves room to doubt whether reasonable persons in a well-ordered society would assent to such a need. For the first burden (complexity of evidence), the evidence backing the requirement of shared terms of cooperation defined ex ante is not obviously less complex than that contained in reasonable comprehensive doctrines. Regarding the second (relative weight of reasons), even supposing agreement on which reasons are relevant to deciding questions of justice, there may be still be disagreement over the relative priority of those reasons in deciding a given question. As to the third (conceptual indeterminacy and hard cases), such concepts as justice and fairness, cooperation and equality are all subject to the difficulties of identifying hard cases and probing a concept’s limits. Of the fourth (divergent total life experience), it is clear that, through her life experience, a person acquires a set of beliefs (political, moral, epistemological, religious, etc.) which could give the person reason to doubt or otherwise reject the first basic aspect of reasonableness, especially given its significant complexity. Finally, for the fifth burden (conflicting distinct normative considerations), persons may disagree over whether the first basic aspect in fact realizes these different considerations, the priority ordering to be fixed for such considerations and whether a common currency might be found so as to make such considerations commensurable, any of which may suffice for persons to be unable to reach agreement on the requirement, not simply on the reasons why it holds, but also on whether it holds at all. In reaching these findings, I parallel Clarke’s (1999: 639-41) claim that the burdens of judgment apply both to contractarianism’s “reasonable rejection procedure” and principles but do so from narrower, immanent grounds rather than the stronger claim that Rawls’s approach must be committed to substantive epistemological positions. This analysis yields two striking conclusions: First, public reason – the demand to present others with reasons which the person could reasonably expect them to accept – becomes looser and shifts to the domain of politics where one sees what public reasons others may in fact accept (Laden 2001). Seen from a different angle, one need not accept the idea that the first basic aspect and, hence, Rawlsian reasonableness are necessary conditions of political justification under conditions of reasonable pluralism (contra Krasnoff 2014: 696-7): rejecting this aspect and reasonableness in no way means that there can be no political justification under conditions of (reasonable) pluralism. Second, when conceiving justification and discourse, Rawls may be committed, despite himself, to accepting “reasonableness pluralism”, i.e. the view that there exist distinct, possibly irreconcilable accounts of reasonableness to which one may appeal when conceiving justification and discourse. Their combination may lead to a public reason liberalism framework which is at once looser and more actionable. [less ▲]

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See detailCan Rawlsians be constitutional deliberative democrats?
Burks, Deven UL

Scientific Conference (2019, January 31)

Most see Rawls as a “constitutionalist” rather than a “proceduralist”. He insists that the basic schedule of freedoms, rights and governing procedures, once established, be removed from the table of ... [more ▼]

Most see Rawls as a “constitutionalist” rather than a “proceduralist”. He insists that the basic schedule of freedoms, rights and governing procedures, once established, be removed from the table of governmental and democratic decision-making. Pragmatically, that schedule must be fixed to avoid majoritarian domination, acrimonious bargaining and gridlock and to realize the stabilizing effect of a permanent public set of institutional arrangements and values. Morally, one must affirm only those institutional principles which one would choose in perpetuity, for past, present and future generations. Accordingly, Rawlsians might wonder what good can come of constitutional deliberative democracy, i.e. enabling citizens to formulate and modify the constitution, potentially undermining its stability? Though a necessary element of any just political order and a great political good, stability is only such when stable institutions are also just and guarantee the “fair value of political liberty”, namely that “citizens similarly gifted and motivated have roughly an equal chance of influencing the government’s policy and of attaining positions of authority irrespective of their economic and social class” (Rawls 2005: 358). Formal equality is no replacement for effective equality. Despite lamenting that “one of the main defects of constitutional government has been the failure to insure the fair value of political liberty” (Rawls 1999: 198), Rawls’s institutional vision remains largely within familiar representative and electoral logics. His threefold view of deliberative democracy is similarly limited: an idea of public reason, an institutional framework including a deliberative legislature, and public uptake of the public reason idea(l) (Rawls 2005: 448). Accordingly, I argue that Rawls and his “fair value guarantee” are better served by promoting both freestanding and embedded citizen deliberation on constitutional arrangements. This vehicle for the fair value guarantee is more easily attainable than the transition to a his preferred alternative for political economy, “property-owning democracy” (Rawls 2001: §41) and may fulfill similar aims. Finally, I review two remaining objections from Rawlsians concerning compelled participation and institutional pluralism. All in all, given Rawls’s prominence in political theory, showing that Rawlsians can be constitutional deliberative democrats may help bring another piece to the constitutional deliberative democratic coalition. [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 (2019), 9(1), 1-10

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 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 (2019)

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 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 detailPhilosophical dialogue with the public: Two challenges and two replies
Burks, Deven UL

Scientific Conference (2018, May 05)

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 ... [more ▼]

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. While this should not dissuade public philosophers, it should, per Leiter, make them reconsider the role of rhetoric within philosophy. What would extramural philosophical dialogue then look like? For one possible answer, we highlight two tactics employed in Jeffrey Stout's work. First, public philosophers might gauge how far persons are tracking reasons and apply rhetorical pressure to their self-image as reasonable. Second, public philosophers might embrace this affective turn through appealing to persons’ emotional attitudes and affective responses with “moral perceptions” which, though non-inferential, are inferentially connected to the underlying attitudes and responses. Such tactics may 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 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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