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Fr. 611

April 7, 2015

If we have previously maintained that Stout’s account of contextualist justification supposes, implies or otherwise draws on an individuality which his work fails to make fully explicit, we have not yet established whether this explicitation is itself necessary for that account to bear fruit. More simply, if we can see the outlines of individuality (in our strict sense) in Stout’s work, is this more important or salient than justification and why?

To frame their relation in somewhat reductive fashion, there are three possible ways to connect justification and individuality. If justification is prior to individuality (logically, causally, or otherwise), then we must establish what purpose the extension of justification serves, if one at all. What new tools for approaching political discourse does individuality afford us? Our difficulty here is then to determine whether individuality serves a function different enough to warrant distinction and elaboration apart from justification.

If individuality is prior, in whatever relevant sense, to justification, our difficulty is then twofold. We must first demonstrate the reasons why Stout remained unaware of this priority in his work and then show how individuality fulfills the promise on which justification alone failed to deliver. This approach would thus consist in establishing the extent to which the notion of individuality completes justification in virtue of the former’s priority. The difficulty inherent to this approach is securing the relevant notion of “implicit” and providing a better framework or dramatic narrative for Stout’s story than Stout himself.

The third option lies in maintaining their reciprocity as concomitant formations. In other words, neither is prior to the other; each is an complete and independent entity to itself which nonetheless contains a reference to the other. In this way, they would arise at the same time, and we avoid both the problem of 1.) explicating an implicit while providing a narrative and 2.) outlining a logical dependence which resists reduction and secures a distinct function. If this option manages to split the difference and accrue the advantages of both, it remains to be seen how helpful it is to any given presentation of justification and individuality to present their relation as strictly concomitant. For this might seem to require establishing potentially dubious lines of logical reciprocity.

How are we to present the relation between individuality and justification in Stout’s work while avoiding the pitfalls above? Without a doubt, the three ways presented are overly reductive and schematic in that they fail to do justice to the variety of relations that may obtain at different times and under different historical conditions between any given pair of notions. If we take care to specify the function in each case or, less strongly, salient kinds of cases, we can reasonably hope to secure a range of cases wherein individuality takes the lead over justification and thereby possesses a distinct function without positing the need to establish priority across all cases, a tall order undoubtedly.

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