By John Kekes
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II. Democratic Commitments Presuppose Institutional Embodiment Posner and Rorty attempt in implausible ways to sequester politics from philosophy and vice versa. One reason their approach has attracted a degree of notoriety is that it departs from the “radical democratic” views that many other pragmatists presume follow from their own philosophical stance. Richard Bernstein is a prominent proponent of this latter position. ”34 Whereas the latter constitute the “mechanism,” “forms,” “devices,” or “machinery” that embody the democratic idea, Bernstein and other contemporary pragmatists plausibly assert that Dewey accords priority to how the “idea” of democracy animates such institutional arrangements.
This causal effect not only dampens the prospects that collective decision making will generate cyclical outcomes, it thereby reduces the opportunities for strategic manipulation that such instability presents. In this fashion, we show how the effects of argument, under the proper conditions, can significantly diminish the challenge that social choice theory commonly is held to pose for any robust normative commitment to democracy. In the process, we change the subject of democratic theory from showing that democracy can induce agreement to recognizing that when it operates effectively, it serves to structure disagreement.
This unruliness has prompted one pragmatist philosopher to assert that “the wholesale appeals to, or defenses and criticisms of, ‘pragmatism’ that are in currency today are misplaced. There is no pragmatism per se or in general. An appeal to the term should be accompanied by a suitably nuanced qualification indicating broadly the kind of commitment one takes pragmatism to be” (Talisse 2007, 21). That is the task we take up here. 3 Dewey (1920/1948, 163). 1 2 C h ap te r 2 conception of pragmatism, we are especially concerned with highlighting its consequences for thinking about political institutions in general and democratic political arrangements in particular.
Against Liberalism by John Kekes