Reference : The view from anywhere: A better orientation towards public justification?
Scientific congresses, symposiums and conference proceedings : Unpublished conference
Arts & humanities : Philosophy & ethics
The view from anywhere: A better orientation towards public justification?
Burks, Deven mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Identités, Politiques, Sociétés, Espaces (IPSE) >]
2019 ECPR General Conference
from 04/09/2019 to 07/09/2019
University of Wroclaw
[en] public justification ; impartiality ; feasibility
[en] 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.

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