Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The post below is wrong. I didn't read more than a few sentences of Lance's post; I judged it mostly from its title, which is a misnomer. His argument isn't against the fetishizing of procedures but the fetishizing of design. cf. the absurdity of Rawsliana, and Sandy Levinson's obsessions (and here).

There is, of course, an enormous literature - in philosophy, economics, political science, decision theory, etc. - on the rationality of voting procedures. And while focus on procedural matters is not universal in any of these disciplines, it is surely fair to say that such considerations dominate the intellectual discourse. But such a focus requires ignoring one very simple, uncontroversial, and devastating fact: No voting procedure, nor any other definable procedure for arriving at a group decision is guaranteed to be rational.
No shit.
The fundamental point here is that these things are not to be fixed by obsessing on procedures. Procedures are merely tools, and in the hands of vicious craftsmen - to steal a phrase from Ani Difranco - every tool is a weapon if you hold it right. If philosophers and others want to contribute to more rational deliberative bodies, they need to stop obsessing with problems that can be formalized, and turn to messier issues of moral education, the socialization of habits of rationality, even, dare I say it, the cultivation of care and perhaps a beloved community (to steal from another social visionary.) Again, I am aware that there is literature in this area, but I don't think anyone will claim that the cultivation of Aristotelian civic virtue is a dominant thread in the academic discussion of collective rationality.
Rather than spending our time designing 9 string guitars and new varieties of sousaphone, we should learn to play the instruments we have. If all the world's a stage, maybe we should become better, more aware, more intelligent actors. But the focus on rationality is still there, and that undermines his argument. We need structures to manage irrationality, which is in itself inevitable. But Lance is too in love with himself to imagine his own irrationality as something that would ever need management.

Virtue ethics means the end to "technical" philosophy, a move away from the "creation of concepts", and outgrowing dungeons and dragons.  Better craftsmen and better critics, better citizens thus better politicians, better lawyers, fewer philosophers and fewer "visionaries".

The original post:

Leiter and Mark Lance: Against Democracy.

There's no other way to describe it. Justice in a democracy is procedural: if the cops bust down your door on a whim and find evidence of a crime, the evidence is inadmissible in court. It doesn't matter if the evidence is a dime bag or a dead body. That's procedure. "Truth", as it pertains to any single case, is irrelevant.
The "nuclear option" is a term of art referring to a tradition; no more, no less. And the change in rules also followed rules of procedure.

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