Sometimes Always True: Undogmatic Pluralism in Politics, Metaphysics, and Epistemology

Sometimes Always True: Undogmatic Pluralism in Politics, Metaphysics, and Epistemology

Sometimes Always True: Undogmatic Pluralism in Politics, Metaphysics, and Epistemology

Sometimes Always True: Undogmatic Pluralism in Politics, Metaphysics, and Epistemology

Synopsis

Sometimes Always True aims to resolve three connected problems. First, we need an undogmatic pluralist standpoint in political theory, metaphysics, and epistemology. But genuine pluralism suffers from the contradiction that making room for fundamental differences in outlook means making room for outlooks that exclude pluralism.

Second, philosophy involves reflecting on the world and meaning as a whole, yet this means adopting a vantage point in some way outside of meaning.

Third, our lived experience of the sense of our lives similarly undermines its own sense, as it involves having a vantage point in some way wholly outside ourselves.

In detailed engagement with, among others, Davidson, Rorty, Heidegger, Foucault, Wilde, and gender and sexuality theory, the book argues that these contradictions are so thoroughgoing that, like the liar's paradox, they cancel the bases of their own meaning. Consequently, it argues, they resolve themselves and do so in a way that produces a vantage point on these issues that is not dogmatically circular because it is, workably, both within and outside these issues' sense. The solution to a genuinely undogmatic pluralism, then, is to enter into these contradictions and the process of their self-resolution.

Excerpt

The essays in this book explore three themes that are really different expressions of the same set of fundamental concerns. First, the essays identify and try to resolve a particular contemporary problem connected with pluralism. Second, they develop an approach to the “big questions” of philosophy, in the context of understanding this kind of questioning to be (as they argue) an essential dimension of human life. By the “big questions” I mean questions like “What is reality?,” “What is it to be a good person?,” and “How is knowledge possible?” While the essays explore this approach to fundamental questions in its own right, they also try to show that the contemporary problem is itself rooted in and an of shoot of the big philosophical questions. Third, the essays discuss the concrete, intimate texture of our experience of existence and of the meaning and value of our conduct. This intimate experience of existence and value, as the essays show, is really the other side of the same coin as the concerns of the apparently more impersonal “big question” philosophy, together with those of the contemporary problem that is its of shoot.

Some elements of this aspect of our experience directly comprise both the intimate and the impersonal sides of this coin. Among these, for example, are our moral and political values and the connected, appropriate self- approval or shame we feel in living or not living up to the standards those values embody. In our deeply pluralist contemporary context, successfully living out our moral and political values presents a particularly difficult problem. These essays suggest that the roots themselves of this and related difficulties also offer a morally livable and even, in some respects, morally happy resolution.

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