A Critical Study of Liberalism
Robert Basil Talisse
Advisor: Peter Simpson
Source: DAI, 61, no. 12A (2001): p. 4809
Standard No: ISBN: 0-493-05366-2
There is a fundamental problem confronting theorists of democracy. Can a democratic society propose a philosophical account of its practices and Institutions that is at once adequately robust to answer antidemocrats and sufficiently inclusive to win the assent of citizens who disagree about philosophical, moral, and religious essentials? A robust theory will have to draw upon some complex and controversial philosophical premises, and will thereby fail to be neutral about the content of these premises. Hence it seems it must fail to respect the deep pluralism characteristic of a free society. Anything less than a robust philosophical theory, however, will raise questions of why anyone should prefer democracy to mild oligarchy or peaceful tyranny. This is the challenge.
This dissertation critically evaluates liberalism, the dominant attempt in the tradition of political philosophy to provide a philosophical foundation for democracy. Arguing that both the traditional varieties of liberal theory (as found in the works of John Locke, Immanuel Kant, and J. S. Mill) and also more recent formulations (as found in the works of John Rawls and Richard Rorty) founder on the challenge presented above, the author concludes that there is a need for a "post-liberal" account of democracy, one which can answer the arguments of opponents of democracy and respect pluralism at the same time.
Drawing upon the work of C. S. Peirce and in particular upon the idea of a "community of inquiry," the author argues for a discursive theory of democracy to meet this need. The discursive theory proposes an epistemic argument for democracy against tyranny and other antidemocratic regimes, but at the same time acknowledges fallibilism and thus can accommodate deep pluralism. Although the resulting democratic theory is not a liberal one insofar as it rejects the liberal doctrine of official state neutrality, it eschews the problems confronting communitarian forms of antiliberalism by insisting that the formative role of the state is epistemological and not moral.
POLITICAL SCIENCE, GENERAL
Accession No: AAI9997126