A new understanding of political philosophy from one of its leading thinkers What is political philosophy? What are its fundamental problems? And how should it be distinguished from moral philosophy? In this book, Charles Larmore redefines the distinctive aims of political philosophy, reformulating in this light the basis of a liberal understanding of politics. Because political life is characterized by deep and enduring conflict between rival interests and differing moral ideals, the core problems of political philosophy are the regulation of (...) conflict and the conditions under which the members of society may thus be made subject to political authority. We cannot assume that reason will lead to unanimity about these matters because individuals hold different moral convictions. Larmore therefore analyzes the concept of reasonable disagreement and investigates the ways we can adjudicate conflicts among people who reasonably disagree about the nature of the human good and the proper basis of political society. Challenging both the classical liberalism of Locke, Kant, and Mill, and more recent theories of political realism proposed by Bernard Williams and others, Larmore argues for a version of political liberalism that is centered on political legitimacy rather than on social justice, and that aims to be well suited to our times rather than universally valid. Forceful and thorough yet concise, What Is Political Philosophy? proposes a new definition of political philosophy and demonstrates the profound implications of that definition. The result is a compelling and distinctive intervention from a major political philosopher. (shrink)
Larmore aims to recover three forms of moral complexity that have often been neglected by moral and political philosophers. First, he argues that virtue is not simply the conscientious adherence to principle. Rather, the exercise of virtue apply. He argues - and this is the second pattern of complexity - that recognizing the value of constitutive ties with shared forms of life does not undermine the liberal ideal of political neutrality toward differing ideals of the good life. Finally Larmore agrues (...) for what he calls the heterogeneity of morality. Moral thinking need not be exclusively deontological or consequentialist, and we should recognize that the ultimate sources of moral value are diverse. The arguments presented here do not attack the possibility of moral theory. But in addressing some of the central issues of moral and political thinking today thay attempt to restore to that thinking greater flexibility and a necessary sensitivity to our common experience. (shrink)
The essays collected in this volume all explore the problem of the relation between moral philosophy and modernity. Charles Larmore addresses this problem by attempting to define the way distinctive forms of modern experience should orientate our moral thinking. Charles Larmore wonders whether the dominant forms of modern philosophy have not become blind to important dimensions of the moral life. The book argues against recent attempts to return to the virtue-centered perspective of ancient Greek ethics. As well as exploring the (...) differences between ancient and modern ethics, the author examines such topics as the roles of reason and history in our moral understanding, the inadequacy of philsophical naturalism, and the foundations of modern liberalism. There are also extended discussions of a number of leading contemporary philosophers: Rawls, Habermas, Williams and Rorty. (shrink)
In The Autonomy of Morality Charles Larmore challenges two ideas that have shaped the modern mind. The world, he argues, is not a realm of value-neutral fact, nor does human freedom consist in imposing principles of our own devising on an alien reality. Rather, reason consists in being responsive to reasons for thought and action that arise from the world itself. Larmore shows that the moral good has an authority that speaks for itself. Only in this light does the true (...) basis of a liberal political order come into view, as well as the role of unexpected goods in the makeup of a life lived well. (shrink)
What is political philosophy’s relation to moral philosophy? Does it simply form part of moral philosophy, focusing on the proper application of certain moral truths to political reality? Or must it instead form a more autonomous discipline, drawing its bearings from the specifically political problem of determining the bounds of legitimate coercion? In this essay I work out an answer to these questions by examining both some of the classical views on the nature of political philosophy and, more particularly, some (...) recently published writings by Bernard Williams and G.A. Cohen. (shrink)
This book continues and revises the ideas of justice as fairness that John Rawls presented in A Theory of Justice but changes its philosophical interpretation in a fundamental way. That previous work assumed what Rawls calls a "well-ordered society," one that is stable and relatively homogenous in its basic moral beliefs and in which there is broad agreement about what constitutes the good life. Yet in modern democratic society a plurality of incompatible and irreconcilable doctrines -- religious, philosophical, and moral (...) -- coexist within the framework of democratic institutions. Recognizing this as a permanent condition of democracy, Rawls asks how a stable and just society of free and equal citizens can live in concord when divided by reasonable but incompatible doctrines? This edition includes the essay "The Idea of Public Reason Revisited," which outlines Rawls' plans to revise Political Liberalism, which were cut short by his death. "An extraordinary well-reasoned commentary on A Theory of Justice...a decisive turn towards political philosophy." -- Times Literary Supplement. (shrink)
In this book, Charles Larmore develops an account of morality, freedom, and reason that rejects the naturalistic metaphysics shaping much of modern thought. Reason, Larmore argues, is responsiveness to reasons, and reasons themselves are essentially normative in character, consisting in the way that physical and psychological facts - facts about the world of nature - count in favor of possibilities of thought and action that we can take up. Moral judgments are true or false in virtue of the moral reasons (...) there are. We need therefore a more comprehensive metaphysics that recognizes a normative dimension to reality as well. Though taking its point of departure in the analysis of moral judgment, this book branches widely into related topics such as freedom and the causal order of the world, textual interpretation, the nature of the self, self-knowledge, and the concept of duties to ourselves. (shrink)
Liberalism is a distinctively modern political conception. Only in modern times do we find, as the object of both systematic reflection and widespread allegiance and institutionalization, the idea that the principles of political association, being coercive, should be justifiable to all whom they are to bind. And so only here do we find the idea that these principles should rest, so far as possible, on a core, minimal morality which reasonable people can share, given their expectably divergent religious convictions and (...) conceptions of the meaning of life. No longer does it seem evident—as it did, let us say, before the seventeenth century—that the aim of political association must be to bring man into harmony with God's purposes or to serve some comprehensive vision of the good life. The causes of this transformation are various, and not all of them lie at the level of moral principle. But a change in moral consciousness has certainly been one of the factors involved. As Hegel observed, modern culture is inherently a reflective one: notions of principle are essential to our self-understanding and thus to the stability of the social forms in which we participate. Modern culture has no room for a dichotomy between “in principle” and “in practice.” It is worth determining, then, what new moral conceptions have been responsible for the emergence of modern liberalism. Not only will we thereby better understand how we have become who we are, we will also have a surer grasp of the principles that sustain our political life. (shrink)
Freedom has a number of different senses. One of them is the absence of domination, which neo-republican thinkers have helped us to understand better. This notion of freedom does not, however, provide an alternative to political liberalism, since its proper articulation depends on distinctly liberal principles.
In this carefully crafted volume, Michael Kort describes the wartime circumstances and thinking that form the context for the decision to use these weapons, surveys the major debates related to that decision, and provides a comprehensive ...
When philosophers undertake to say what it is that makes life worth living, they generally display a procrustean habit of thought which the practice of philosophy itself does much to encourage. As a result, they arrive at an image of the human good that is far more controversial than they suspect. The canonical view among philosophers ancient and modern has been, in essence, that the life lived well is the life lived in accord with a rational plan. To me this (...) conception of the human good seems manifestly wrong. The idea that life should be the object of a plan is false to the human condition. It misses the important truth which Proust, by contrast, discerned and made into one of the organizing themes of his great meditation on disappointment and revelation, A la recherche du temps perdu : The happiness that life affords is less often the good we have reason to pursue than the good that befalls us unexpectedly. (shrink)
ALTHOUGH I shall be attempting to examine the function of judgment, or what Aristotle called φρόνησις, in moral deliberation, I shall begin by discussing some previous opinions about what kind of importance examples have in moral experience. This strategy is only apparently circuitous. The role which one assigns to examples is symptomatic of the conception one has of judgment in moral decision-making, because the use of examples forms one way in which judgment is exercised. Indirectly, then, I shall be trying (...) to rehabilitate the significance of examples in moral deliberation. But the chief aim of this paper will be to determine both what is the function of judgment in moral deliberation and how we are to understand the activity of exercising it. (shrink)
Sartre as guide -- Bad faith and sincerity -- The example of Stendhal -- Reflection and being like another -- Being natural -- The ubiquity of convention -- Being like another -- Authenticity and the democratic age -- Mimetism and equality -- Being oneself amid conventions -- Authenticity and the nature of the self -- Foundations of a theory of cognitive reflection -- Psychological interpretation -- The structure of cognitive self-reflection -- The self in cognitive reflection -- Representing and reasoning (...) -- A critique of autonomy -- Obligations and avowals -- A defense of first-person authority -- The persistence of the cartesian model -- The key to the mystery -- A final problem -- Ways of being oneself -- The domain of authenticity -- The instability of practical reflection -- Authenticity and conversion -- How to be virtuous -- The ends of reflection -- Reflection and its problems -- The self and time -- The importance of unexpected goods -- Socrates' mistake -- The limits of prudence -- Wisdom. (shrink)
Our capacity for impersonal reflection, for looking at our own perspective from without, as part of a world that exists independently of us, is our most distinctive trait as human beings. It finds its most striking expression in our moral thinking. For we are moral beings insofar as we stand back from our individual concerns and see in the good of others, in and of itself, a reason for action on our part. It is not, to be sure, in morality (...) alone that we exercise this power of impersonal reflection. We do so too, whenever we set about weighing the evidence for some belief without regard for what we would like to be true or for what common opinion would say. Yet nowhere does this self-transcendence show forth more vividly than when we turn our attention from our own happiness to that of another, taking the same immediate interest in that person's goodas we naturally harbor for our own. In this essay, I explore the way that the moral point of view is shaped by the nature of impersonal reflection and thus constitutes a signal expression of our humanity. (shrink)
As several historical examples are adduced to show, different theories of self-knowledge take shape in response to different conceptions of the sort of beings we are. This leads to the question of what underlying notion of the self motivates, in particular, the dominant modern idea that self-knowledge consists primarily in grasping whatever beliefs, desires, thoughts, and feelings make up our mental life. The answer is that the self-constitutive relation to itself has been conceived as one of an intimate, pre-reflective acquaintance (...) with our own minds and that only so can we be understood as being responsible for whatever we think or do. Against this view it is then argued that all our self-knowledge really rests on reflection of an essentially third-person kind, since the self's constitutive relation to itself consists instead in our guiding ourselves by what we take to be reasons in all that we think and do and in thereby counting as responsible for our thought and action, whatever may be the extent of our knowledge of our own minds. This alternative account implies, contrary to the modern view and in company with certain ancient views, that self-knowledge can prove to be the most difficult kind of knowledge to acquire. (shrink)
Nel suo libro Le jardin imparfait Tzvetan Todorov difende una visione dell’umanesimo modesta e plurale. Ai detrattori, in particolare francesi, degli ideali umanistici egli rimprovera una concezione della modernità troppo semplicistica e incapace di comprendere quanto l’enfasi sull’individuo e sulla sua volontà sia bilanciata in essa da un’analoga enfasi sulla socievolezza umana e sulla natura relazionale dell’identità personale. L’umanesimo moderno, a ben vedere, non è una religione, non aspira cioè a porre l’uomo al posto di Dio. Il suo obiettivo è (...) piuttosto preservare la dignità umana senza l’illusione di poter appagare completamente il nostro bisogno di senso.In his book Le jardin imparfait, Tzvetan Todorov argues for a view both modest and plural of humanism. He reproaches the detractors of the humanist ideals, especially the french ones, for entertaining a too simplistic idea of modernity and for not understanding how the emphasis upon the individual is counterbalanced, here, by an analogous emphasis upon human sociability and the social nature of personal identity. Indeed, modern humanism is not a religion, it does not aim at substituting God with man. Its goal is rather to safeguard human dignity without dreaming of fulfilling all our demands of meaning. (shrink)
Professeur à l'Université Columbia de New-York pendant 20 ans, puis à celle de Brown (Providence), Charles Larmore a développé dans son ouvrage Les pratiques du moi (2004) une réflexion sur la subjectivité qui a profondément marqué l'histoire de la philosophie analytique. Il est l'une des voix les plus originales et les plus radicales de la théorie morale contemporaine, et propose ici la synthèse de son itinéraire intellectuel."--Page 4 of cover.