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Fr. 606

March 24, 2015

Why is the concrete, historical individual central to Stout’s project? If a view of differentiation like Kant’s promotes radical separation of subjectivity from individuality and of procedures for justification from concrete, socio-historic context, then this attempt must issue in something like an “epistemological impossibility” (Ethics After Babel, p. 34). For the close link between justification and concrete, socio-historic context permits Stout to dissolve those moral incertitudes which prompt the masses to moral indifference or relativism, and this by keeping justification independent of truth (as per certain coherentist-contextualist accounts of epistemology). In short, there can be no justification and, by extension, truth criteria without a concrete, historical individual to whom a proposition can be ascribed and in relation to whom a cognitive context can be determined (ibid., p. 30). Thus, Kant’s “epistemological impossibility” stems from his thoroughgoing differentiation of public and private usages of reason, and, as the “father” of differentiation, this legacy stands as Kant’s principal shortcoming.

This is not to suggest that Stout emerges entirely unscathed from the encounter with Kant. Insofar as Stout maintains the possibility of maintaining a critical distance with regards to one’s own context against the impossibility of transcendence of that same context, some level of differentiation continues to be stipulated between justification and truth, subject and individual. In other words, if public and private do not come apart on Kant’s view in the way he envisions, there remains an articulation between the two. (In fairness, Stout is likely to concede or even welcome this point.) At some level, Stout’s own account remains incomplete in that the presentation of this “concrete, historical individual” remains underdeveloped in his work.

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