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1. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 29
William C. Pamerleau Why Everyone Thinks They’re Right: A Heideggerian Analysis of Political Impasse
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Political impasse largely turns on convictions that one’s own position is right while one’s opponent’s position is wrong. When we examine how partisans defend their views, it’s clear that political divisions are not merely due to differences in strategies or priorities but to more fundamental differences in how persons perceive the world and what they think is true.In fact, the very nature of how we view “the truth” is such that most of the time we are inclined not to acknowledge our views as contingent, relative, or fallible. At least, that’s how Heidegger understands us. According to Heidegger’s phenomenological analysis, particularly in his early works, the nature of how we reveal facts and events simultaneously conceals other interpretations. Moreover, the very means of revealing a particular truth makes it difficult to notice that it is our act of revealing it which makes it true in the first place. That is, our natural tendency is to be in “error” about the very fact that it is through us that particular things obtain their character. However, Heidegger’s notion of authenticity, whereby we do acknowledge the role we play in revealing what we find true, suggests a way forward.
2. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 29
Notes on Contributors
3. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 29
Jeff Gauthier, Justin L. Harmon Note from the Editor
4. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 29
Jamie T. Kelly, Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij Epistemic Perfectionism and Liberal Democracy
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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.
5. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 29
Ben Berger Response to Critics
6. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 29
Andrew F. Smith Attention Deficit, Yes, But Not Democracy: Reply to Berger
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Ben Berger seeks to provide a number of “modest proposals” intended to prevent widespread and radical political disengagement among citizens. This is the most adverse manifestation of citizens’ invariable “attention deficit,” or their incapacity to maintain the focus and energy necessary to remain deeply and perpetually politically engaged. While attention deficit cannot be overcome, its worst effects can be kept enduringly in check, Berger argues. This is a necessary condition for the maintenance of a functional democracy. Yet I argue that democracy in America, which is Berger’s particular focus, has not endured and for reasons that relate only indirectly to attention deficit. While certain of his prescriptions are worthy of endorsement, how to implement them must be put into a context that more accurately reflects the current character of the political landscape.
7. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 29
Gordon B. Mower Confucianism and Civic Virtue
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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.
8. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 29
Michelle Maiese Embodied Social Cognition, Participatory Sense-Making, and Online Learning
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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.
9. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 29
Jeff Gauthier Introduction
10. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 29
Martin Gunderson Human Rights and the Virtue of Democratic Civility
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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.
11. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 29
Christopher Lowry Commentary on Ben Berger’s Attention Deficit Democracy
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This article critically discusses of Ben Berger’s , making two main claims. First, I argue that his conceptual distinctions ought to be further developed in order to be able to distinguish between, on the one hand, politically legitimate moral ends (i.e., ones that are suitable objects of political engagement) and, on the other hand, other moral ends that ought to be pursued only through social engagement. To help with this task I consider the significance of the difference between what I refer to as ethical reasoning and justice reasoning, and I sketch a fourfold distinction between types of justice. Second, I argue that Berger does not give adequate emphasis to the government side of the task of making political engagement more efficacious. In addition to his worthwhile recommendations for increasing the social capital of the many, we should also be concerned to determine how best to limit, or, better, remove, the now massive political influence of the financial capital of America’s wealthiest.
12. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 29
Judith Andre Open Hope as a Civic Virtue: Ernst Bloch and Lord Buddha
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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.
13. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 29
James Bohman Democratic Experimentalism: From Self Legislation to Self Determination
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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.
14. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 29
Kyle Thomsen Crossing the Divide: Marginalized Populations and the Dilemma of Deliberative Democracy
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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.
15. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 29
Wendy Lynne Lee Commentary on Ben Berger’s Attention Deficit Democracy
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In this review I argue that while Berger makes out a good argument that the language of civic engagement covers too much (and hence too little) and that education plays a vital role in developing civic-minded sensibilities, I am less sanguine that the strategies for the reform of our “attention deficit democracy” will achieve the desired effect in a political society dominated by the corrupting influence of corporations who actively seek to undermine just such sensibilities as anathema to their objectives. As corporate objectives become more and more wedded to the state, so too reform becomes less and less likely to be successful. An excellent example of this is the power wielded by the current incarnation of the fossil fuel empire and it’s influence over law-making concerning hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania. While I applaud Berger’s objectives, I am no longer convinced that pragmatism and not a more revolutionary approach can fulfill Berger’s—and my own—democratic ideals.
16. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 29
Kyle Johannsen Cohen on Rawls: Personal Choice and the Ideal of Justice
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G. A. Cohen is well known within contemporary political philosophy for claiming that the scope of principles of justice extends beyond the design of institutions to citizens’ personal choices. More recently, he’s also received attention for claiming that principles of justice are normatively ultimate, i.e., that they’re necessary for the justification of action guiding principles (regulatory rules) but are unsuitable to guide political practice themselves. The purpose of this paper is to explore the relationship between these claims as they’re applied in criticism of John Rawls. It argues that ascribing normative ultimacy to justice entails its application to personal choice. However, it also argues that if Cohen is right about Rawls’s difference principle being regulatory rather than ultimate, then his earlier claim that Rawls must extend it to personal choice on pain of inconsistency is refuted.
17. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 29
Melissa A. Mosko Democracy, Deliberation, and the (So-called) War on Women
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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.
18. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 30
Jeff Gauthier Introduction
19. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 30
Shane J. Ralston The Pragmatic Pyramid: John Dewey on Gardening and Food Security
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Despite the minimal attention paid by philosophers to gardening, the activity has a myriad of philosophical implications—aesthetic, ethical, political, and even edible. The same could be said of community food security and struggles for food justice. Two of gardening’s most significant practical benefits are that it generates communal solidarity and provides sustenance for the needy and undernourished during periods of crisis. In the twentieth century, large-scale community gardening in the U.S. and Canada coincided with relief projects during war-time and economic downturn. More recently, small-scale gardening projects have emerged in schools, blighted urban areas, and communities of activists committed to increasing food security and resisting neo-liberal city planning policies. It is therefore surprising that pragmatist philosophers, who typically work at the nexus of theory and practice, have remained relatively silent about the relationship between gardening and food security. If more were to take up the challenge, they would find considerable guidance from several contemporary scholars working in diverse disciplines, from cultural geography to community studies, who explore the topic in a number of non-philosophical, though equally effective and imaginative, ways (e.g., ethnographic and action research). In this paper, I propose a tentative pragmatist model for understanding how gardens make our food system more secure—a model inspired by John Dewey’s writings on school gardening, which I call the pragmatic pyramid.
20. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 30
Sally J. Scholz Orcid-ID Women and Whiskey: Conspiratorial Vices
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The pairing of “whiskey” and “women” may at times be seen as an instance of what I call conspiratorial vices. Conspiratorial vices, I argue, are phenomena that, when working together, inform each other in a way that sets their content. Taken individually, the elements of the conspiracy are, at best, ambiguous with regard to their moral status. The conjoining of the concepts yields the status as “vice” and points to something deemed a threat to the social fabric. Through the use of two cases, I examine possible ways that this instance of conspiratorial vice might be seen as a multifaceted political tool that both contributes to oppression and creates a site for resistance.