requiem for certainty

Posts Tagged ‘pluralism

Dewey on Society (from 1888 to 1916)

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Contemporary political theory is haunted by a pair of interwoven ambiguities between pluralism and monism on the one hand and proceduralism and moralism on the other.  I find a valuable early example of these ambiguities in the work of democratic theorist and pragmatist philosopher John Dewey.  What follows is a historical redescription of this ambiguity in Dewey as we chart the chronology of his democratic theory from his early Hegelian phase (in 1888) to his later explicitly pragmatist (but still ambiguous) philosophy (in 1916).

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Written by Colin Koopman

April 19, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Dewey on Publics and States (in 1920)

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One of John Dewey’s lifelong obsessions with respect to political theory concerned issues of the democratic qualities in virtue of which some publics become capable of self-regulation or, to put it differently, become capable of growth (which for Dewey is always a self-directed process).  This theme emerges most clearly in his 1927 The Public and Its Problems, a text that has obsessed many commentators.  Another location where we find anticipations of that discussion is in chapter 8 of his 1920 Reconstruction In Philosophy.  One can follow the thread of that text through three themes in order to shed some light on Dewey’s conception of the democratic organization of publics, a conception which arguably is the very center of his entire philosophic vision.

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Written by Colin Koopman

April 11, 2011 at 11:39 pm

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

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

There is no such thing as The Internet

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The common tendency to refer to ‘the internet’ as a singular noun is entirely mistaken: there is no such thing as the internet, and there is only internetworking. There are billions of little boxes which use electromagnetic waves and extraordinarily complex mazes of cables of all variety to link together various other plastic boxes of indescribable diversity by means of a plurality of layered protocols operating on a wide range of hardware and software platforms, and all this for the sake of an immense array of purposes, programs, and projects whose complexity is so great that the merest glimpse at just a portion of it would spin the head of even the most learned polymaths. There is no such thing as the public sphere in internetworking, because there is a plurality of public spaces, evolving and expanding every single day by means of the thunderous energy of the trillions of keystrokes which we collectively depress over the course of a single rotation of our beloved earth on its axis… Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Colin Koopman

January 11, 2008 at 3:57 am

DeLanda on Assemblages

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I’ve been reading some recent work by Manuel DeLanda lately and I think I may have found in it something useful for the sort of inquiry into contemporary social and political (i.e., cultural) forms I am involved in. My hunch, at this point, is that what DeLanda describes as ‘assemblages’ are in fact quite similar to what Dewey describes as ‘publics’ (on which see point below). Rather than spelling out this comparative hunch, though, I’ll simply offer a brief description of what I take assemblage theory to be all about. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Colin Koopman

October 23, 2007 at 2:03 am

Posted in dewey, pluralism

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