Reference : Identity and Rawlsian points of view
Scientific congresses, symposiums and conference proceedings : Unpublished conference
Arts & humanities : Philosophy & ethics
Identity and Rawlsian points of view
Burks, Deven mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Identités, Politiques, Sociétés, Espaces (IPSE) >]
Political Identity on the Threshold
from 10-09-2018 to 11-09-2018
Nova Universidad Lisbon
[en] identity ; standpoint epistemology ; Rawls
[en] 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).

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