Berlin, value pluralism and the common good: A reply to Brian Trainor

Philosophy and Social Criticism 34 (8):925-939 (2008)
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Brian Trainor argues that the current hostility of political theorists towards the idea of the common good is in part due to the influence of Isaiah Berlin's concept of `value pluralism', or the incommensurability of basic human values. I agree with Trainor's opposition to the `agonistic' interpretation of pluralism, associated with thinkers like Chantal Mouffe. However, it is not the case that the only alternative to the pluralism— agonism thesis is the monist defence of a thick common good advocated by Trainor. Between these extremes there is a middle way that accepts the deep plurality of values in Berlin's sense, but recognizes a case for a thin conception of the common good — that is, a liberal political framework



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