>> Go to Current Issue

Social Philosophy Today

Volume 29, 2013
Civic Virtues, Divided Societies, and Democratic Dilemmas

Already a subscriber? Login here
Not yet a subscriber? - Subscribe here

Browse by:



Displaying: 1-10 of 17 documents


1. Social Philosophy Today: Volume: 29
Jeff Gauthier, Justin L. Harmon, Note from the Editor
view |  rights & permissions
2. Social Philosophy Today: Volume: 29
Jeff Gauthier, Introduction
view |  rights & permissions
part 1: problems of democracy and deliberation
3. Social Philosophy Today: Volume: 29
James Bohman, Democratic Experimentalism: From Self Legislation to Self Determination
abstract | view |  rights & permissions
As developed by Sabel, Dorf and Cohen, and John Dewey before them, democratic experimentalism is based on the premise that current democratic practices are no longer able to deal with central and pressing social and political problems. Beginning with the criticism of democracy as command and control, Dorf and Sabel show how current democratic practices are part of the problem rather than the solution. Even as democratic experimentalists have successfully explored democracy beyond the state in the European Union, I argue that they have not fully transnationalized democracy or fully appreciated “the new circumstances of politics.” With the emergence of pervasive forms of interdependence, Rousseau’s conception of democracy as self legislation is no longer adequate, despite its cogent normative assumptions. Instead, the new transnational circumstances of justice suggest a stronger conception of democracy as self determination. In order to minimize domination and maximize self determination, cross-cutting constituencies must achieve a shared democratic minimum, through which democracy may once again become a means to justice.
4. Social Philosophy Today: Volume: 29
Kyle Thomsen, Crossing the Divide: Marginalized Populations and the Dilemma of Deliberative Democracy
abstract | view |  rights & permissions
In this article I assert that deliberative democratic theory, as articulated by Jürgen Habermas and Seyla Benhabib, explicitly fails to live up the demands of its discourse-ethical foundation when we examine undocumented immigrants who live in any given nation. In the case of undocumented immigrants, there is a gap which exists between a moral imperative to include those affected by a norm in discourse, and legal structures which actualize this imperative. I offer the following account in an effort to show how one might bridge this gap. First, virtual representation of undocumented interests by the citizens of a bounded community is not sufficient to correct the dilemma of deliberative democracy. Second, I will claim (contra Habermas) that the rhetorical power of personal testimony from marginalized individuals is required for a responsible judgment in discourse. Finally I will discuss practical forums for this participation which can potentially solve the dilemma of deliberative democracy. Through direct confrontation with those who are unjustly marginalized, we can cross the divide that exists between a moral imperative to respect the undocumented and a legally-recognized right to participate in discourse.
5. Social Philosophy Today: Volume: 29
Melissa A. Mosko, Democracy, Deliberation, and the (So-called) War on Women
abstract | view |  rights & permissions
Deliberative democratic theory as developed by Jürgen Habermas struggles in its applicability to particular political communities due to its ideality and abstractness. However, philosophers who level this critique against deliberative theory also find in it resources for addressing the legitimacy of live political discourse as it aims towards rationality. This paper takes up the procedural requirement that legitimacy is provided through, as Seyla Benhabib writes, “the free and unconstrained public deliberation of all about matters of common concern.” Using deliberative theory, I develop a test for judging the success and failure of public discourse, and apply this test to political debates in the United States in 2011–2012 concerning women’s lives: the Violence Against Women Act, the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act, the censuring of two female legislators in Michigan, and the congressional testimony of a fetus in Ohio. A central piece of my argument is that the knowledge produced about women’s interests and about women’s epistemic authority undermines their participation in public discourse, thus challenging the legitimacy of the decisions resulting from these instances of deliberation.
6. Social Philosophy Today: Volume: 29
Jamie T. Kelly, Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij, Epistemic Perfectionism and Liberal Democracy
abstract | view |  rights & permissions
Robert Talisse’s recent attempt to justify liberal democracy in epistemic terms is in many ways a breath of fresh air. However, in the present paper we argue that his defense faces two inter-related problems. The first problem pertains to his defense of liberalism, and owes to the fact that a commitment to the folk-epistemological norms in terms of which he makes his case does not commit one to partaking in liberal institutions. Consequently, our (alleged) commitment to the relevant epistemic norms does not justify liberal democracy. The second problem pertains to his defense of democracy. The problem is that, if Talisse provides what we take to be the most plausible response to the first problem, framed in terms of his acceptance of a form of epistemic perfectionism, he is able to maintain his commitment to liberal institutions, but at the price of leaving democracy behind in favor of what we will refer to as a liberal epistocracy.
part 2: civic virtues
7. Social Philosophy Today: Volume: 29
Martin Gunderson, Human Rights and the Virtue of Democratic Civility
abstract | view |  rights & permissions
Democratic civility is a core civic virtue of persons engaged in democratic deliberation. It is a complex trait that includes tolerance of diverse political views, openness regarding civic matters to reasons offered by others, willingness to seek compromise in an effort to find workable political solutions, and willingness to limit one’s individual interests for the public good when there are adequate reasons for doing so. Various writers have noted a tension between rights and civility. Insofar as rights trump general considerations of community welfare and entail claims that can be demanded, an emphasis on individual rights and standing on one’s rights can undermine the sort of civility required for political compromise. Similarly an emphasis on civility might require not standing on rights when doing so is at the expense of the welfare of the community. Notwithstanding this tension, I argue that human rights and democratic civility have a symbiotic relationship. In particular, I argue that democratic civility is important for determining the scope of human rights as they are implemented in institutional structures, and that human rights have an important role to play in shaping the virtue of democratic civility.
8. Social Philosophy Today: Volume: 29
Gordon B. Mower, Confucianism and Civic Virtue
abstract | view |  rights & permissions
Understanding within the western tradition of civic virtue can be supplemented in important ways by giving attention to the civic tradition as it developed in classical Chinese philosophy. The western tradition of civic virtue originates in the context of the small city-state political dynamics of Athens and Florence. As a result of this developmental context, the traditional civic virtues themselves are geared to the ends associated with small states. Established wisdom before the foundation of the United States suggested that any republic, of necessity, would have to remain small. With the expansion of modern democratic states, failure to sustain citizen participation has been recognized as a threat to continued sustainability of the large-scale republic. As a result of this realization, the revivalist civic theory has emphasized participatory virtues. The development of these virtues, however, is hindered by political alienation resulting from the bureaucratic structure of the large-scale state. The suggestion here is that civic theory in the modern world can be advanced by learning from the classical Chinese civic theorists what civic virtues they associated with large state dynamics, and it is suggested that these virtues can act as antecedents to the participatory virtues necessary for democracy.
9. Social Philosophy Today: Volume: 29
Judith Andre, Open Hope as a Civic Virtue: Ernst Bloch and Lord Buddha
abstract | view |  rights & permissions
Hope as a virtue is an acquired disposition, shaped by reflection; as a civic virtue it must serve the good of the community. Ernst Bloch and Lord Buddha offer help in constructing such a virtue. Using a taxonomy developed by Darren Webb I distinguish open hope from goal-oriented hope, and use each thinker to develop the former. Bloch and Buddha are very different (and notoriously obscure; I do not attempt an exegesis). But they share a metaphysics of change, foundational for making any sense of hope.Buddhism would seem to repudiate hope; it is a source of suffering (i.e., pain in living with reality). Seen more deeply, however, Buddhism offers material for a carefully limited virtue of hope: the habits of noticing good and acknowledging transience. This disposition, acquired through Buddhist practice among other ways, shields one against despair. The habit also frees up energy that would otherwise be wasted. Ernst Bloch gives us insight into how to use that energy, teaching us to value the yearning implicit throughout culture. Open hope becomes a civic virtue when it concerns civic matters; it can be threatened by hyperbolic discourse in political life.
part 3: knowledge, truth, and justice
10. Social Philosophy Today: Volume: 29
Michelle Maiese, Embodied Social Cognition, Participatory Sense-Making, and Online Learning
abstract | view |  rights & permissions
I will argue that the asynchronous discussion format commonly used in online courses has little hope of bringing about transformative learning, and that this is because engaging with another as a person involves adopting a personal stance, comprised of affective and bodily relatedness (Ratcliffe 2007, 23). Interpersonal engagement ordinarily is fully embodied to the extent that communication relies heavily on individuals’ postures, gestures, and facial expressions. Subjects involved in face-to-face interaction can perceive others’ desires and feelings on the basis of their expressions and movements, to which they become attuned by way of bodily resonance. Moreover, social cognition is enactive in the sense that parties do not passively receive information from their environments, but instead actively participate in the generation of meaning. They do so not in isolation, but instead via ongoing engagement and coordination with their interaction partners, so that sense-making becomes a shared activity. This paves the way for what I will call ‘participatory sense-making.’ To the extent that it involves asynchronous discussion and disembodied social engagement, online learning severs these interactive links between students and makes this sort of participatory sense-making unlikely.