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Fr. 677

September 30, 2015

4. Even in diversifying discursive practices and public justification, we, like Stout, maintain certain principles which effectively cannot be up for discussion and thus show the theoretical advances or condensations stemming from the process in question.

The call for diversifying discursive practices and public justification does not entail a relativism as regards practices and justification. Even if certain practices and justifications become newly available to participants in public discourse, there are conclusions on which these practices and justifications can neither come back nor renege. Stout enumerates a number of these in his presentation of democratic discourse in Democracy and Tradition and Ethics after Babel when he defends the notion of equal voice in the public sphere and the immorality of slavery. In other words, allowing participants to voice their real reasons for holding this or that position does not amount to justifying or accepting those reasons, which must nonetheless respect certain norms that participants to discourse instantiate in their reason-giving.

More specifically, diverse discursive practices and public justification themselves gave rise to advances of the kind above; this shows that such practices and justification are capable of achieving real progress to which we can point as democratic successes. Moreover, it is precisely the confrontation and (at least partial) convergence of diversity that gave rise thereto. Although some might be tempted to attribute these advances to a set of pragmatic-formal conditions at the base of and following from democratic discourse itself, i.e. democratic discourse cannot proceed without the independence of persons and equal opportunity of advantage, such structural conditions are not an object of consensus in the same way as these principles. Likewise, a historical approach belies such an assertion. In short, from bringing nuance to positions and broadening practices and justification there emerged a set of concrete practical principles which form the basis of a large consensus today.

This proves the crux of our contention: nuance can lead to solid, concrete principles. This remains the case even if we concede that the instantiation of these principles remains subject to environmental relativity, i.e. variations in the institutional and cultural structures in which principles are embedded. Additionally, these principles remain in need of elaboration and nuance, for the precise terms of justice and equal opportunity must be fixed by each society for itself.

In the end, we can observe, at the very least, that the call for greater nuance does not represent a call for relativism nor for institutional and discursive anomie.

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