requiem for certainty

Archive for the ‘liberalism’ Category

Pluralism via Williams

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The first few draft paragraphs of a piece on Bernard Williams I am working on are below.  Also (just to self-advertise) my piece “Bernard Williams on Philosophy’s Need for History” just came out in the last issue of Review of Metaphysics (v64n1, Sept. 2010).

On pluralism and liberalism.  One of the most important, and indeed also most interesting, features of twentieth-century philosophical thinking about politics and morals concerns the increasing centrality of value pluralism for political philosophers working across a range of traditions: analytical, phenomenological, pragmatist, genealogical.  It is not entirely clear why value pluralism should have emerged as a topic of such concern at this time.  Of course, concern over pluralism had always been a feature of modern political philosophy.  But whereas canonical political philosophy in past centuries tends to sublimate pluralism in favor of a given philosophical conception of order or justice, the problem of pluralism itself became canonical over the course of the twentieth century, such that no serious political philosopher can today afford to ignore the problem, brush it aside, or dismiss it as either trivial or easily addressed as a purely practical matter.  But pluralism itself, deep conflict over values or ideals or interests as characteristic of both intercultural political life and intrapersonal moral life, has always been a feature of modern moral life.

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Written by Colin Koopman

November 7, 2010 at 4:00 am

(Preliminary) Response to Lessig

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A number of political theorists have concluded that the new set of technologies and practices known as the internet undermines some of the core epistemic, civic, and moral conditions for democratic culture.  See, for instance, my post on Cass Sunstein’s Republic.com 2.o.  I disagree with Sunstein et. al. but I find their arguments worth addressing.

One way of addressing these arguments is to take them seriously but to offer some kind of response, perhaps provisional, as to how the challenges contained therein might be met.  This is how I have been reading the work of cultural critic and Stanford Law Professor Lawrence Lessig (at least this is how I have been reading it this week).  Lessig’s work is probably the most important of that which tries to respond to the problems laid out by Sunstein and others.  It is the most important not only because the most influential, but also because the most radical. Lessig’s work is also usefully representative insofar as it aims to respond to the problems posed by seeking to restore the familiar equilibria of liberal democracy as we have known it for quite some time now.

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Written by Colin Koopman

February 27, 2009 at 8:33 pm

A Pragmatist Response to the Current Economic Turmoil

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The following is based on a piece entitled “Morals and Markets” which will likely be published sometime in 2009 in the Journal of Speculative Philosophy.  I was asked by editors of the journal to conclude this piece with some reflections on the practical upshot of my discussion.  I took their useful advice of considering the current economic turmoil in light of my Dewey and Hayek inspired account of reconsidering the relations between morals and markets.  What follows, then, is drawn from the final pages of that piece.  The whole thing, in a previous iteration, is availble here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1226437.  There is still time for small revisions to this part of the paper so I appreciate any comments readers may have.

The thought with which the discussion excerpted here begins is the following:  Market-based opportunities for ethical innovation have been consistently ignored throughout the history of liberal democratic political theory and they are only just  now being taken seriously in contemporary liberal democratic practice.  Now is an ideal time for taking these opportunities seriously. The paper continues as follows (with slight modifications):

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Written by Colin Koopman

December 13, 2008 at 10:33 pm

New Publication on Rorty

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I have a piece on Richard Rorty and liberalism in the latest issue of Contemporary Pragmatism (v4n2, Dec. 07, pp. 45-64).  This issue also contains a quite inspiring piece on Rorty (both a tribute and a criticism) by Fordham philosopher Judith Green whose new book on pragmatism and social hope is due out with Columbia UP rather soon.  Though I am very critical of Rorty’s public/private distinction in my article  I emphasize there (and I will do so again here) that I also take Rorty’s articulation of this distinction to be quite worthy of criticism insofar as it intelligently and provocatively captures the moral sensibility of much of contemporary liberal democratic culture.  Following is an abstract of my piece: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Colin Koopman

June 2, 2008 at 6:43 pm

Dewey on Publics

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In his 1927 The Public and Its Problems John Dewey offered an argument concerning the relationship between publics and the state which is useful for thinking about the changing forms of public space and practice today, especially in the context of my current research on emerging internet practices. Although Dewey’s book is in my opinion needlessly difficult to follow (a common stylistic feature of Dewey’s labored prose), the core of the argument runs as follows. Dewey argues that public associations conceptually precede state associations such that states impress coherence upon publics. This, however, leads to a seeming paradox about contemporary political reality insofar as the state in Dewey’s day seemed very strong and efficient but the public it was supposed to organize was hardly perceptible. Had the state outgrown the public, thus becoming an empty husk of a political form? Dewey suggests that in response to this difficult problem we must work to reorganize the new public forms in which we find ourselves. Such reorganization, however, may require that we abandon the terms according to which the old public forms were organized. These terms were: organization shall take primarily on the basis of a liberal state which will proceed by way of instituting a distinction between public and private spheres. Dewey is not clear what new alternative terms are required but he does at least say this much: the new political organization shall be democratic and is likely to invoke democracy through a plurality of means including states, corporations, civic associations, and other public forms. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Colin Koopman

October 13, 2007 at 2:43 pm

Emerging Digital Practices

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Another angle I have been looking at in recent work is a sort of half applied-philosophy half theoretical-ethnography project concerning contemporary digital/internet practices. I am only just now kicking this work off. And I certainly have many more questions than answers. I’m in need of collaborators of all sorts in this so please post comments or email me your thoughts. The basic idea of the research project is an inquiry into the new forms of public and private space that are emerging around and within contemporary digital practices. This is currently shaping up as… Read the rest of this entry »