Monthly Archives: October 2008

Brettschneider Reading Group, Chapter 4

According to the value theory advanced so far, democracy is best understood in terms of three core values: equality of interests, political autonomy, and reciprocity. These values ground democratic rights of citizens, most obviously rights associated with the rule of law, on the one hand, and familiar freedoms of conscience and expression on the other. These rights, and the values they express, take seriously our status as free citizens who are, in equal measure, the willing authors and subjects of the laws.

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PPPS: “Coercion as Enforcement”

I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate in this forum, and thank Simon May and Public Reason for the work in organizing this symposium.

My paper provides a positive account of coercion that responds to difficulties I have found in many recent writings about coercion.  It enters these debates through what seems a bit of an off-hand distinction that some have made, between coercion via threat, and uses of direct force or violence for similar purposes (such as to constrain an agent from being able to act).  Some philosophers have made a big deal of the claim that coercion has to go “through the will” of the coercee, and thus direct force is not coercive.  By and large, though, most recent writers have simply assumed this to be so, as though it were obvious. This seems to me quite at variance with older notions of coercion, so this change is worth remarking upon.

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Call For Papers: Equality of Opportunity 2009

Conference: Whose Opportunities? A Critique of Equality 

When? 29, 30, 31 October 2009

Where? Lisbon

Organization

Centre for Humanistic Studies, University of Minho (CEHUM)

Centre for the History of Culture, New University of Lisbon (CHC)

Call For Papers: Equality of Opportunity 2009. Submission Deadline: 1st of March 2009

The Centre for Humanistic Studies of the University of Minho (CEHUM) and the Centre for the History of Culture of the New University of Lisbon (CHC) are sponsoring an international conference on the ideal of equality of opportunity which will take place in Lisbon the 29th, 30th and 31st of October 2009. Participants to the conference include: Richard Arneson (University of California, San Diego), Vincent Bourdeau (University of Besançon), Matthew Clayton (University of Warwick ), Marc Fleurbaey (Cerses, CNRS), Axel Gosseries (Hoover Chair, University of Louvain-la-Neuve), Cécile Laborde (University College London), Ruwen Ogien (Cerses, CNRS), Martin O’Neill (MANCEPT, University of Manchester), Patrick Savidan (Sorbonne-Paris IV University), Adam Swift (Centre for Social Justice, University of Oxford), Bertil Tungodden (Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration), Daniel Weinstock (CRÉUM, University of Montreal), Jonathan Wolff (University College London).

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Experimental Philosophy of Freedom

Consider the following case:

Tanya lives in a small, newly created country in Eastern Europe. Perhaps the most important issue in the region is the treatment of a disenfranchised minority that lives throughout the country. Tanya truly dislikes the minority and wants to further damage them if she can. While public opinion concerning the minority varies greatly, the government has taken the side of the minority. Consequently, a ban has been placed on any action or public speech that is intended to hurt the disenfranchised minority. In other words, the government has made laws against hurting the minority, but Tanya wishes she could hurt them.

Now ask yourself: ‘To what extent do these laws diminish Tanya’s freedom?’

Once you have thought of an answer to this question, consider a case that is exactly the same except that Tanya wants to help the disenfranchised minority:

Tanya lives in a small, newly created country in Eastern Europe. Perhaps the most important issue in the region is the treatment of a disenfranchised minority that lives throughout the country. Tanya truly cares about the minority and really wants to help them if she can. While public opinion concerning the minority varies greatly, the government has sided against the minority. Consequently, a ban has been placed on any action or public speech that is intended to help the disenfranchised minority. In other words, the government has made laws against helping the minority, but Tanya wishes she could help them.

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Brettschneider Reading Group, Chapter 3

So far Democratic Rights has forced a choice for theorists developing a conception of democracy. We can accept an austere procedural ideal or an expansive basket of substantive rights. Positions that fall in between are prone to instability. Ronald Dworkin famously exploited this instability in his criticism of proceduralism in Law’s Empire. He thinks that we misconstrue the concept of democracy when we identify it with the mere presence of majoritarian institutions. To make good on this claim, he treats democracy as an interpretive concept. We can get at its inner structure by constructively interpreting the practice where the concept “lives.” What follows is a method for resolving disputes about the content of the concept of democracy. We identify that values that make democracy worthwhile. The interpretation that casts democracy in its best light will yield its concept.

I hope this sets the stage for Chapter 3 of Democratic Rights. It is here that the distinctiveness and ambition of the Brettschneider’s view is fully on display. The chapter aims to put into place the pieces for a position that is considerably more expansionist than Dworkin’s. The idea is that democratic citizens – given their liability to coercion from a system of law – are owed much more than the rights traditionally associated with democracy. It is not enough to extract freedoms of speech and the rule of law from a concept of democracy. We can extend this approach to yield a package of substantive claims normally associated with a theory of distributive justice. The rights defended in Chapters 4 – 7 – including rights to privacy, basic assistance, and not to be executed by one’s state – aren’t understood to follow from ordinary usages of the bare idea of democracy.

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Brettschneider response to comments on Chapter 2 of Democratic Rights

Many thanks to Anna for another very careful summary and an important set of questions.  In Chapter One and our discussion about it I emphasized why the value theory forces proceduralists to make a choice: Either they can acknowledge that there are values and outcomes that constrain procedures or they must give up on the idea that there are democratic rights that cannot be jettisoned.  It strikes me that Habermas tries to avoid this dilemma in his repeated insistence that his is a procedural account of democracy at the same time that he proclaims the importance of rights of addressees. Anna suggests that Habermas’ notion that “legal form” and the “discourse principle” are co-original might suggest that he is close to my own view that democratic procedures are at times constrained by some democratic outcomes.  On such a reading Habermas would have to give up on procedure as the normative grounding of democracy.  I think that this is likely the best reconstructed reading of Habermas, but it is a concession that many Habermasians do not want to make. On such a reading, procedure has a role in but it cannot serve as the fundamental normative grounding of a theory of democracy. Charles Larmore’s piece “The Foundations of Modern Democracy: Reflections on Jurgen Habermas,” is on point here and suggestive of why Habermas himself tries to resist such a move. I would be interested in hearing from others whether they read Habermas as endorsing something like the value theory or whether he might go the kind of route that Jordon Dodd was suggesting in our discussion of the previous chapter.

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