“The Fact of Diversity and Reasonable Pluralism,” Journal of Moral Philosophy 6 (2009), 70 – 93.
Contemporary society involves a number of diﬀerent persons, groups, and ways of life that are deeply divided and very often opposed on fundamental matters of deep concern. Today, many contemporary philosophers regard this ‘fact of diversity’ as a problem that needs to be addressed when assessing the principles employed to organize society. In this paper, I discuss the fact of diversity, as it is understood by the notion of reasonable pluralism, and explain why it is thought by some to challenge the stability of a society’s political morality. I examine the leading attempt to oﬀer an account of the stability of a political morality and I argue that John Rawls’s attempt to account for the stability of Justice as Fairness fails for reasons applicable to all political moralities because the very notion of a stable political morality is implausible. Diversity, as reasonable pluralism understands it, is not a problem that can be solved either by identifying a stable political morality or by modifying a political morality in some way that will make it more stable. Instead, the fact of diversity indicates only that disagreements on all aspects of society’s organization, including its organizing principles and matters of value, is a permanent feature of social life that cannot be ignored, wished away, or solved.
“Romantic Longings, Moral Ideals, and Democratic Priorities: On Richard Rorty’s Use of the Distinction Between the Private and the Public,” International Journal of Philosophical Studies 15 (2007), 97 – 120.
The heart of Richard Rorty’s philosophy is his distinction between the private and the public. In the first part of this paper, I highlight the profound influence that the inherited vocabularies of Romanticism and Moralism have had on Rorty’s understanding of both the distinction and the problems he intends to solve with it. I also suggest that Rorty shares with Plato, Kant, and Nietzsche philosophical habits that cause him to treat two importantly different problems as one. Once the moral problem is disentangled from the political, it
becomes clear that Rorty’s distinction is unnecessary to the former and inadequate for the latter. In the second part of the paper, I argue that Rorty’s non-foundationalist pragmatism supports the view that the political problem is best resolved by what I call a democratic mechanism of arbitration. It is the lingering influence of Romanticism and Moralism, I suggest, that is the cause of Rorty’s reluctance to embrace fully the political priority of democratic consensus. Finally, I discuss why this analysis of Rorty’s liberalism may have implications for the general question of how best to resolve political disputes in pluralist societies.