Did Rawls Restore Political Philosophy?

David Corey’s excellent and well-balanced discussion of, and tribute to, Rawls on the anniversary of the publication of Rawls’ Theory of Justice [TJ] possibly suffers just from not being enough. It’s not simply true to say that TJ was the most important job in political philosophy in the 20th century but in many respects it continues to be, even if just because a generator of new types of governmental philosophizing. Let us begin with why the job became so significant (taking for granted the effect of Rawls’ academic pedigree and also his being at Harvard). We use the expression”political philosophy” carefully here. Political theory in political science sections might have been more diverse, but such wasn’t the case in philosophy.
Furthermore, Rawls’ conclusions were amenable to the”liberal” ideology of their academy while at exactly the same time not precluding concerns of”conservatives.” He was, as an instance, buddies with James Buchanan who loathed Rawls'”social host” approach to theory, even if their last conclusions differed. The confluence of academic standing with newness of approach both opened the floodgates to criticism which may come from a variety of perspectives as well as liberating political philosophy in the shackles of Marxism and utilitarianism. Corey is certainly right to catalogue the criticisms of TJ, but we should recognize that Nozick wasn’t only a politician, however an offspring of the climate created by Rawls.
Today, reflection on Rawls has resulted in alternative schools or methods of political philosophy, like one finds at the now huge body of criticism about”ideal theory” and the school of”public reason” often correlated with Jerry Gaus. The rights method of liberalism we ourselves could urge might have preceded Rawls, however it came out of hiding due to Rawls and Nozick as well. So, whatever one thinks of Rawls’ specific doctrines and arguments, so he should be renowned for helping to create a universe where diverse approaches to political philosophy may thrive.
As Corey also notes, Rawls’ liberalism encourages us to reflect upon the character of liberalism itself. Noting what one regards as flaws in Rawls does indicate to “build on the ruins” The ruins here are the desired political requirements on the one hand (serenity, order, legitimacy) and also the prerequisites Rawls enforced upon these states –namely, individual liberty, formal equality, and also”moderate” pluralism–about the contrary side . But why not leave the ruins as ruins to be seen perhaps on intellectual vacations? One could respond by stating that if a person wants to become liberal, or to theorize as you personally, these are the parameters in which you has to do the job. That, obviously, is definitely a way to go. It only leaves the door open to going everywhere. Why then honor the constraining conditions Rawls believed we should impose upon this desired order?
In one regard, Rawls might have been uninterested in this last question. He might have only wanted to speak with liberals about how better to look at liberal theory, similar to Nozick attempting to look at the consequences of a rights-based accounts of libertarianism without messing using a theory of faith. However limited one might regard such a project, it surely does have value as we have seen from the various accounts of liberalism Rawls’ work has spawned. On the other hand, the walls may have tumbled leaving these ruins for another reason–the foundations were shaky. The approach of fretting about foundations, or”comprehensive philosophy,” is something Rawls explicitly rejected.
Foundationalism here is your opinion that we have to pay attention to non-political concerns so as to ground properly the governmental. Such concerns would contain theories of human character, ethical theory generally, as well as topics of metaphysics and epistemology. Although we have argued elsewhere which foundational concerns tend to be implied, even though not specifically addressed, Rawls seems convinced that foundational difficulties are both unnecessary for constructing excellent theory and irresolvable to any useful level. However if Corey is appropriate that there are ruins, possibly building upon them demands digging farther into the foundations.
Building on the ruins throughout foundations does not imply that the emerging architecture should look like the older or that new rooms cannot be added.The other bit of construction Corey asks of us is to embrace collaboration as a basic tenet of liberalism. Corey asserts that Rawls desires this and indicates that a better approach to get there is to restrict the range of the coercive condition, rather than extend it. We’d certainly agree. Unless we need to conflate collaboration and conformity, nevertheless, collaboration needs to be on something. One candidate is self-interest because we might find it exhibited in markets. Yet markets might need a structure within which the alliance to be found there can occur. When we continue to follow Corey on the need for collaboration, another candidate for grounding collaboration is sharing a frequent acceptance of certain principles. Basics have foundations, and to ignore or eliminate those foundations reduces principles to opinions, and thus of little structural value. We do not mean to suggest that other things, such as tradition, culture, societal institutions, and the like should be disregarded when thinking about collaboration. However, such elements contributing to collaboration would be best ensured by adherence to relevant principles. In this regard we return to the demand for foundations, and therefore foundationalism.
Building on the ruins throughout foundations does not imply that the emerging architecture must look as the older or that new rooms cannot be added. The intellectual pluralism made by the TJ has been to the good. A lot of useful and interesting theory and approaches to social science have been the outcome. In the end, though, the”pluribus” needs an”unum,” suggesting we need to fix to deeper foundations than simply the governmental.
In this regard, and particularly at this time, it is critical to be aware that a number of the philosophical fashions that led Rawls to reject broader philosophical theorizing are no longer as prominent as they once were. The logical positivist comprehension of ethics, metaphysics, theology, and science, that was practically dead in the time of TJ’s publication but throw its own anti-metaphysical shadow upon philosophy, is now dead and gone. More importantly, Rawls’ claim that one can leave or prevent metaphysics in developing a political philosophy has been exposed by Michael Sandel and Alasdair MacIntyre to withering criticism. In integrity, while there are still those who defend versions of ethical noncognitivism and allure to the so-called pragmatic fallacy, they no longer monopolize integrity. There’s nothing in the present philosophical scene which requires confining integrity to moral constructivism and avoiding ethical realism. And though these strategies to integrity have a long intellectual history, which really ought to be seen as something positive, they also reveal great vitality and relevance today.
More widely considered, there are surely variants of so-called Postmodern thought afoot, which vary from crude versions of relativism to highly complex types of neo-Kantian and neo-pragmatic epistemic constructivism, but again they do not dominate. There are strong arguments in defense of metaphysical realism and what might be loosely called”Aristotelian essentialism.” Further, there is a profound understanding that our thinking about metaphysics, epistemology, and in fact the sciences, needs to exceed many of these of metaphysical and epistemological assumptions which characterized a lot of Modern philosophical thought. In other words, there is an increasing understanding that there needs to be a truly post Modern approach to our extensive thinking. We are speaking very frequently here, but merely to illustrate briefly the sort of thing we find happening: For instance, a really post Modern approach can find common ground between these apparently diverse thinkers as Wittgenstein and Aquinas–through a rejection of certain Cartesian epistemological starting points (we discuss in chapter 7 of the Realist Turn).
Our purpose is simply that the philosophical landscape is not as gloomy and monolithic because it is often believed to be. We’d insist that rather than wringing our hands about not needing solved lots of the amazing philosophical dilemmas and consequently”finishing” that we cannot find answers, as is the case with people in relation to forays into detailed doctrines, or instead of assuming that we are awash in an ideological sea that’s an acid which may ruin any claim to be aware of the world, which we simply take on the job of developing accounts of human character and human goodness that may support an integrity and political philosophy. The hope here is that such an endeavor might offer a foundation for both ethical and political freedom. This task in itself will not offer philosophical unity, but if we come to view it as our task, that might just suffice.