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Stout and individual I

February 29, 2016

Stout and individual

1.) Setting the stage

Jeffrey Stout’s work often gives pride of place to the elliptical, that which has for shape a beginning on which the end circles ever back. This holds not just for the dialectical form of reasoning which he privileges, the movement between example and doctrine, between law, application and precedent. Indeed, it proves all the more important for understanding just how important the question of justification has been in his work and the manner in which this question translates itself into various fields. Accordingly, justification provides a central throughline for Stout’s readers. (This distances us all the same from any interpretation on which justification is the throughline par excellence and to the exclusion of all others, which amount to wishful reductionism in a work as varied as his own.)

We set ourselves in this chapter the task of following this throughline in each book-length work and, hence, its translation into new contexts and questions. To each of the former will we devote a section. To note, a careful examination of The Flight from Authority (hereafter, abbreviated as FA) will set the stage for this development and provide clues as to how justification proceeds in the absence of the appeal to authority. This epistemological undertaking shall unearth a notion of individual as a corollary to justification.

The second section will take seriously the claims in Ethics after Babel (hereafter, EB) to secure ethical justification in the face of nihilism, skepticism and relativism . Again, a notion of individual will prove important to the notion of moral and ethical languages which Stout takes pains to expose therein. This transition from the epistemological to the practical will extend to the third section in which Stout’s attempt in Democracy and Tradition (hereafter, DT) to make sense of how public justification proceeds in democratic community, as diverse in politics as in religion. To the individual as justification and as language shall join a twofold third facet, that of expression and resistance.

Of the book-length works, Democracy and Tradition and Blessed are the Organized (hereafter, BO) mirror one another the most closely in that the latter provides a concrete description of the more abstract procedures highlighted in the former. In this way, Blessed are the Organized completes, in some broad sense, the project begun in Democracy and Tradition by concretizing the notions of justification and individual in detailed case studies. In these portrayals of citizenship and broad-based democratic organizing do the shifting senses of justification and individual become more than strung-together notions and betray a practical continuity for the person in democracy. To this translation between fields shall we now turn.

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