Tuesday, August 11, 2015

work, work, work
Democracy can seem to empower the masses without regard for the quality of the political decisions that will result. Concern for the quality of decisions can seem to lead in an antidemocratic direction, toward identifying and empowering those who know best. Partly for these reasons, philosophical treatments of democracy’s value have often tried to explain why politics should be democratic even though democracy has no particular tendency to produce good decisions. I believe these ac- counts are weak, and I want to put democratic convictions on more secure footing. My goal is to show how a concern for the quality of political decisions, properly constrained by other principles, supports democratic political arrangements. 
...Before turning to democracy, I begin with the idea of a philosophical framework. Political philosophy, as with some areas of ethics, is easily distorted by the ever-present thought that it might be of practical importance. Practical applications of philosophical ideas require engagement with a lot of nonphilosophy, and the danger is not just that philosophers are not normally especially good at the relevant nonphilosophical areas of inquiry. Even if they were, there are risks involved in trying to treat both kinds of questions in the same work. In the hurry to make a practical proposal it is easy to lose sight of the philosophical problems, and so to lose sight of whether and how they have been solved. Since even long-standing problems have, so often, not been solved (philosophy seems to be harder than science in this way), the idea that something is gained if political philosophers explain how to put their ideas into practice is hard to understand. 
...There is a second aspect to the limitation I have in mind by providing only a philosophical framework: detailed factual information, while occasionally useful, is far from the center of our concerns.
The second section of the chapter is titled “Making Truth Safe for Democracy”, but without recourse to facts.

All the examples I’ve given of engaged participation in debate, over art, and politics, and social life and sex, -“I love you”, “No you don’t”- has been the documentation of game playing and reciprocal adversarial exchange. Every example of pedantry and gross error has been predicated on the refusal to participate, the claim to be above in the cloistered realm of collaborative, private reason, free of the possibility of subtexts or contexts beyond the elite, individual or collective, imagination. The indifference to subtext and context is the first rule, the raison d'être of political philosophy, predicated on the formalism of mathematics. The result is the formalism of the Nouveau roman and dime store science fiction: anti-politics as style. The end is as artifact. That a student of Rawls and Cohen claims now to have put democracy on a firm foundation has less cultural and historical significance than Saint Laurent’s, Le Smoking, the first dress suit for women, in 1966.

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