A Civil Tongue: Justice, Dialogue, and the Politics of Pluralism

A Civil Tongue: Justice, Dialogue, and the Politics of Pluralism

A Civil Tongue: Justice, Dialogue, and the Politics of Pluralism

A Civil Tongue: Justice, Dialogue, and the Politics of Pluralism

Synopsis

This book is about a simple but elusive goal: a vigorous public debate about how a pluralistic society should be organized. Can we address, and possibly settle, our disagreements about abortion, gender equality, public welfare programs, and taxation?

Excerpt

This chapter examines the externally constrained dialogue of liberalism, particularly as defended by Bruce Ackerman, and its reliance on a cogent defense of the priority of right. While we may indeed find that such a defense is plausible, and see that there are strong pragmatic motivations for citizens to draw a right/good distinction, Ackerman's solution to the problem of justice and dialogue must be criticized for the degree of abstraction employed in its theoretical devices. As a result, the constraints generated in this model possess only a dubious justifiability.

Ackerman can also be challenged for having succumbed to a tendency, perhaps more marked among liberals than among other theorists of justice, to overdetermine the decision-making of justice. That is, instead of stopping short with a defensible clearing of dialogic space, and letting the citizens themselves decide what rules are just, Ackerman (like Rawls, Nozick, and others) wants to work out, in some detail, a set of justified rules. I suggest that a late revision of his general theory is effective in overcoming some of these shortcomings, in particular by outlining a more voluntaristic view of the moral . . .

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