Skip to main content

Objectivity and Justice

Image result for circular reasoning definition

Just a brief quote today, from John Rawls.

"To say that a political conviction is objective is to say that there are reasons, specified by a reasonable and mutually recognizable political conception (satisfying those essentials) sufficient to convince all reasonable persons that it is reasonable."

Yes, in context Rawls had also listed the "essentials" to which he makes reference here. But we don't need them for today's point. I think this illustrates the sort of circular reasoning to which constructivists in moral philosophy often fall prey.

This is part of the argument behind his theory of justice as a matter of the principles that would be adopted behind a veil of ignorance by, yes, reasonable people.

The problem is that such work ends up presuming in a word like "reasonable" the whole of its eventual conclusions. So ... my theory is in accord with reason because it is the one with which reasonable people would agree. The people who do agree with it are known to be the reasonable ones because ... obviously ... they agree with my theory!

Comments

  1. I see no basis for your statement that the people who agree with the political conviction to which Rawls refers are known to be reasonable because they agree with the conviction. (I use Rawls' term, "conviction," rather than yours, "theory.") I think that we should not impute such a gross error to Rawls, but rather should assume that he would apply an independent standard of reasonableness. Presumably, he would first use this independent standard to identify "all reasonable persons" (quite a task, admittedly) and then ask them whether the political conviction convinces them.

    I am troubled, however, by the phrase, "specified by a reasonable and mutually recognizable political conception." I don't know what it means for reasons to be specified by a political conception; this notion is too abstract for me to understand. And Rawls doesn't say how he determines that the political conception is "reasonable." But perhaps if I read the paragraph you quote in context, it would be less problematic.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

A Story About Coleridge

This is a quote from a memoir by Dorothy Wordsworth, reflecting on a trip she took with two famous poets, her brother, William Wordsworth, and their similarly gifted companion, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.



We sat upon a bench, placed for the sake of one of these views, whence we looked down upon the waterfall, and over the open country ... A lady and gentleman, more expeditious tourists than ourselves, came to the spot; they left us at the seat, and we found them again at another station above the Falls. Coleridge, who is always good-natured enough to enter into conversation with anybody whom he meets in his way, began to talk with the gentleman, who observed that it was a majestic waterfall. Coleridge was delighted with the accuracy of the epithet, particularly as he had been settling in his own mind the precise meaning of the words grand, majestic, sublime, etc., and had discussed the subject with William at some length the day before. “Yes, sir,” says Coleridge, “it is a majestic wate…

Hume's Cutlery

David Hume is renowned for two pieces of cutlery, the guillotine and the fork.

Hume's guillotine is the sharp cut he makes between "is" statements and "ought" statements, to make the point that the former never ground the latter.

His "fork" is the division between what later came to be called "analytic" and "synthetic" statements, with the ominous observation that any books containing statements that cannot be assigned to one or the other prong should be burnt.

Actually, I should acknowledge that there is some dispute as to how well or poorly the dichotomy Hume outlines really maps onto the analytic/synthetic dichotomy. Some writers maintain that Hume meant something quite different and has been hijacked. Personally, I've never seen the alleged difference however hard they've worked to point it out to me.

The guillotine makes for a more dramatic graphic than a mere fork, hence the bit of clip art above.

I'm curious whe…