Skip to content

Fr. 792

April 5, 2018

If we suppose that something’s being a reason implies that it carries some normative weight for a person, what makes it carry normative weight for a given person as opposed to another? Put another way, what makes a reason a reason for me? Presumably, the fact of carrying normative weight means that it aligns in some way with the facts, principles, etc. constitutive of normative authority for a person. The facts, principles, etc. which are constitutive of normative author may well be bound up with aspects of the person’s personal or social identity. Consequently, successfully presenting someone with a claim bearing normative weight – that is, a reason – may require appeal to those same aspects of her personal or social identity rather than to that which all persons may reasonably be thought to share.


Fr. 791

April 4, 2018

Is political identity a subspecies of practical identity? If we understand practical identity as being the collection of facts about or principles held by a person which determine which claims will carry normative authority (and hence accede to the status of reasons) and subsequently guide her action, then political identity seems likely to be a subspecies thereof. This because political identity would collect those facts about the person’s personal or social identity and associated principles which determines which claims carry normative authority and guide her action in the political sphere. To take an example, whereas being a homeowner or a cousin may prove an important part of a person’s practical identity in determining her day-to-day actions, it may prove less vital than being an underprivileged minority or Muslim in determining her stance vis à vis certain governmental institutions or social policies. Certainly, these may at times overlap as the political is a subset of and is constrained by the practical. Yet at others they may diverge and open a gap worth exploring as an identity kind of its own.


April 3, 2018

With a friend, I spent the weekend divvying myself up between boxes, or rather, tallying the boxes into which I might sort romantic others as something less than whole, boxes wherein to break them down and make them fit, neatly tagged, taxonomied and stocked to await nothing more than my pleasure.


April 2, 2018


In P-town, the living and the dead cram in beneath streets passing overhead and thank their lucky stars for the semblance of shelter which the concrete wastes afford.


March 28, 2018

Seeing no likelihood of a livelihood, nor even the livelihood of a likelihood, we stove in the heads of state with limbs torn from the few trees left alive on the square. At last, spring was sprung.

Fr. 790

March 27, 2018

One takeaway from Hélène Landemore’s 2017 article “Beyond the Fact of Disagreement? The Epistemic Turn in Deliberative Democracy” is that Rawls’s policy of epistemic abstinence regarding the truth of reasonable comprehensive doctrines of the good within society was, to put it mildly, ineffective. The effort to limit oneself to claims about a doctrine’s “reasonableness” alone fail for one of several reasons. Following Cohen, truth can be minimal and political rather than metaphysical. For Estlund, reasonableness alone proves insufficient and unnecessary, respectively, for the distinct tasks of justification and legitimation undertaken in political deliberation.

Moreover, if we accept Landemore’s claim that “it seems impossible to resist that there is something of an objective, epistemic nature that we aim to figure out when we vote or deliberate with each other about politics” (2017, 285), then truth inevitably seeps back into political discursive exchanges in one form or another. It is then merely a question of which shape that truth will take, pluralized, tolerant, etc. This leads us to the observation that her choice of words was rather felicitous: after all, Rawlsian epistemic abstinence has proven about as effective as abstinence-only sex education. In the end, “reasonable-claims” about or from comprehensive doctrines are not enough alone. No abstention need be made.

Fr. 789

March 26, 2018

Writing of the commitment to truth-talk shared by epistemic democrats, Hélène Landemore (2017) contends:

…all these authors accept that the procedure-independent standard of correctness in the moral sphere can have an epistemic or cognitive dimension. On such views, therefore, ‘truth’ (whether it is called that or something else) thus forms the unavoidable normative horizon of human discursive exchanges. It is a concept without which we could not make sense of ourselves as dialogical and rational creatures. (“Beyond the Fact of Disagreement? The Epistemic Turn in Deliberative Democracy”, p. 285)

Indeed, democrats of all stripes (or, more broadly still, all humans engaged in discursive exchange) are led to accept this point on the basis of one forceful argument: we have the intuition that there exist answers of differing quality which we can come to know, an intuition validated by the very “fact that there would be no point in reasoning about politics if it wasn’t the case” (284). The possibility of discursive exchanges is bound up with the (posited) existence of a procedure-independent standard. This leads Landemore to further suppose that the theses of political objectivism (“the view that there must be some kind of procedure-independent standard of correctness in politics”) and political cognitivism (“the related view that this standard can be known”) are thus true (284).

If we take seriously the parallel with positions familiar from the meta-ethics literature, a possible explanation which Landemore does not seem to entertain is a political error theory, that is, the view that the idea of reasoned political deliberation appealing to procedure-independent standards of correctness is fundamentally mistaken on one important account. Political error theory would still be broadly cognitivist: political judgments may be beliefs captured in political  sentences which deploy political predicates such as “just”, “legitimate”, “coercive”, etc., are representational in meaning and have truth conditions and properties (adapted from van Roojen 2014, 76). Yet they need not be political objectivists in that political judgments would misrepresent reality on a deep level, there being no political “truths” or “facts”. Accordingly, either all political judgments may be seen as false or merely the subset of positive political judgments (idem.).

Thus, there is at least a prima facie conceptual possibility that Landemore does not cover and which may serve to push back on her claim that, from our intuition that there are better and worse answers, there must be a procedure-independent standard of correctness. Undoubtedly, the author partially anticipates this argumentative move when she points out that our engaging in political discursive exchange would be pointless and contrary to our self-reports, were there no such standard. Yet the fact that something flies in the fact of our self-reports is not enough to make it false, and Landemore would do well to heed the thorny problems posed by moral error theory when transposing notions from metaethics into the political domain.