Taking pluralism seriously: Arguing for an institutional turn in political philosophy

Philosophy and Social Criticism 29 (4):375-406 (2003)
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Abstract

Department of Geography and Planning, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands There is a growing sense of dissatisfaction among political philosophers with the practical sterility and empirical inadequacy of the discipline. Post-Rawlsian philosophy is wrestling with the need to construct a ‘contextualized morality’ that is sensitive to the particularities and complexities of actual moral reasoning but does not succumb to the temptations of relativism. We argue that this predicament is due to its inability to take the pluralism of our moral universe, the multi-layeredness of our social reality, the indeterminacy of our normative principles and the complexity of our practical reasoning seriously. To incorporate these properties of the ‘human condition’ we have constructed a complex evaluative framework, balancing moral, ethico-political, prudential and realist criteria. We argue that political philosophy new style is well advised to adopt such a framework and to position itself, as a true ‘art’, between political philosophy old style and the social sciences. Thus political philosophy is better equipped to deal with the big tradeoffs of today, rekindle our utopian hopes and regain political bite. Key Words: comparative institutionalism • evaluation studies • political philosophy • political theory.

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