Brettschneider Reading Group: Chapter Two: Publicly Justifiable Privacy and Reflective Revision by Citizens

The Determination of Privacy:

This is a provocative, original book, and Chapter Two is typical in arguing rationally for radical revisions in our ways of thinking.

In order to convince us of that the state is allowed—indeed, is obliged—to persuade us to have appropriate democratic views, Brettschneider needs to convince us that this won’t intrude on a private realm that should be free from intrusion by the state. He realizes that the very people who support democracy tend to want a space in which individuals are immune to government intervention, a space in which to develop their own values and live according to those. Democracy, after all, is supposed to empower the citizens within the democratic state, not the government, and so we resist even efforts aimed at our improvement when those seem too intrusive. There is a reason that George Orwell’s specter of Big Brother has been a vivid image for millions of people who have never read 1984. Even if Brettschneider is right that support for democracy requires an attitude of respect for fellow citizens, for believing in their rights to equal participation in civic life, he needs to convince us that there is there is an obligation for us to have this attitude when that is contrary to other beliefs that we have.

First, Brettschneider argues that privacy is a normative notion. That is, we do not discover a realm in which public interference is impermissible, so much as we decide what that realm should be. What is private is not a function of space (as in, the home) or personal attachment (the family, or other close relationships.) Rather, what is private depends on how one’s actions affect other people. If something you do has a sufficiently negative effect on other people, it is no longer private, no matter where it takes place, or the relationship you hold to those you are affecting:

On my view, the boundaries between public and private should not be determined in a manner that automatically considers all practices and beliefs in the family or civil society to be beyond criticism. Instead, the boundaries should be drawn by reference to what practices and beliefs are relevant to the ideal of free and equal citizenship.” (52)

Thought Itself as Public:

In itself, the idea that the state can legitimately intrude into the domestic (or whatever) sphere is not, for most of us, shocking. That actions in the home or family can be “potentially matters of public concern– regardless of what ‘spaces’ they occupy” (52) seems straightforward in a time when governmental intervention into spousal or child abuse in the home is seen as not only permissible but obligatory. And, the sorts of changes that Brettschneider supports in support of democratic values are not, as he stresses, to be brought about through coercion, as interventions to prevent child or spousal abuse are: no one is forced to take up appropriate democratic values. Indeed, Brettschneider stresses in this chapter that ideally, no government action whatsoever would be taken to instill proper democratic values: rather, it should be the individual citizen who voluntarily engages in reflective revision to order his beliefs in a way that is compatible with democratic values. Given all this, his suggestions about the necessary acceptance of democratic values may initially seem less than radical.

The reverse, though, is true. While laws today allow government intervention in the physical sphere of the home and the interpersonal sphere of the family, Brettschneider wants access to our minds. The objects of change here are not the citizen’s actions but his very thoughts. The citizen has an obligation, for Brettschneider, to change his way of thinking, to accord with the political philosophy espoused by the democratic state. This, certainly, is radical. One might think that the last bastion of privacy would be one’s own mind: that at least in his mental life a person would be free from obligations to others, not to mention the possibility of government intrusion. On the contrary, writes Brettschneider:

I defend the view that citizens in liberal democracy should engage in “reflective revision.” Citizens engage in reflective revision when they endorse the ideal of free and equal citizenship and appeal to it to evaluate more general beliefs. In some instances, if there is conflict between democratic values and a set of beliefs held by citizens, they should find a way to reflectively revise their beliefs in order to incorporate the ideal of free and equal citizenship. To the extent that public values might conflict with the existing worldview held by citizens, a political conception of free and equal citizenship requires reforming and changing existing beliefs. (52)

Brettschneider’s major task, then, and the thrust of both this chapter and the rest of the book, is to convince us that even thoughts can be publicly relevant; that this in turn means they are rightfully subject to evaluation as to how they do or don’t accord with public goals; and that we are justifiably held to be obligated to change our ideas when they don’t so accord. There is a caveat here: he does at one point (60-61) say that there are really two alternatives as to how reflective revision can work: complete revision of one’s values in accordance with what is entailed by democracy, and a partial revision, in which, in one’s heart of hearts, one may still oppose citizen equality, as long as all one’s actions (including speech) support those values. Even as he makes this concession, though, he argues that the person who goes through ‘partial” revision will have a hard row to hoe: living in a way where actions are constantly at variance with privately held values puts one in a position of “cognitive dissonance,” where one is, whether willingly or not, aware of a deep split in one’s life that is at best unnerving, and at worst fundamentally destructive of psychological integrity. So, here and elsewhere, the emphasis is on changing one’s ideas, the fact that we have an obligation to do that, and the fact that the government should use persuasion (but not coercion) to do that if it isn’t achieved through an individual’s own efforts.

Arguments:

In later chapters, Brettschneider will develop in detail the claim that it is permissible for the state to persuade us to change our ideas. First, however, he wants to use Chapter Two to pave the way for such intervention, by arguing that there is a an obligation on the part of the individual citizen to change his own ideas, if they are incompatible with democratic values. Arguing for the permissibility of state intrusion later will presumably be easier if we have already accepted that we have an obligation as citizens to change, and that the state is simply making us do what we already have an obligation to do.

The arguments for this obligation on the part of the individual to think appropriately, though, are not entirely easy to follow. Brettschneider lists three reasons why the citizen ought to have views that are congruent with democracy:

1) The argument from democratic congruence: He gives the example of a father, who, in his role as public official, endorses equal funding for boys’ and girls’ sports, but in his domestic role as father, prevents his daughter from engaging in sports because he thinks she should concentrate exclusively on domestic chores. He questions “whether the father has sincerely endorsed the decision he is willing to make in public.” Given his failure to embrace these principles at home,

he denies in his personal decision the same values and arguments that he has endorsed publicly. If these are the right values to guide policy, and if they require equal funding because of the importance of sports to girls’ future citizenship, the father should also and endorse these principles at home. (56-57)

This seems to be an argument simply for rational consistency. The public official ought to hold only logically congruent beliefs (at least, when it comes to democratic values.) If it is the right thing to do generally, it is the right thing to do in his home as well.

2. The argument from interconnection: The second reason he condemns the father’s belief is apparently that it is harmful: “decisions by non-state actors have the potential to undermine their fellow citizens’ chances to attain real-life equal citizenship.” (57) The father’s decision, even in this sphere traditionally considered private, will have a serious impact on his daughter’s ability to attain equal citizenship. This harm is not only caused by public officials, but by private citizens: “A private citizen, for instance, would be wrong to vote for a similar ballot initiative guaranteeing equal access to sports on grounds of equal citizenship and then to deny his daughter the right to play out of a belief that she should be confined to domestic tasks.” (57)

3. The argument from public trust: Public officials need to follow through on their public commitments and pronouncements. They won’t be as effective in implementing a policy in which they don’t sincerely believe. The father in the imagined case, for example, “will not be able to write a sincerely persuasive letter as a school board member to the parents” to encourage them to sign their daughters up for sports., since he doesn’t really see a reason to follow them.

Questions:

There is something of a problem with these arguments, in that they seem fairly limited in whom they address. Two of them ((1) and (3)) are addressed to public officials who privately act in ways that are at variance with their public stance. While there is certainly a particular problem with public officials who, as it were, say one thing but mean another, Brettschneider’s argument for the acceptance of democratic values is surely intended to apply more widely, to citizens as a whole, not just public officials. Having argued that the boundaries of privacy must be subject to public justification, he goes on to say

Public justification requires that citizens in a democratic state should be committed to transforming these beliefs through reflective revision to make them consistent with public reason’s demand for equality. Although freedom of conscience is essential to value democracy, it should not cordon off the family as a protected “private” space exempt from the requirements of public reason. Beliefs and actions in the family can be publicly relevant, given that they can disempower women and girls to an extent that is inconsistent with the idea of equal citizenship” (62)

Citizens generally need to transform beliefs that do not accord the demand for equality. If the state is to be effective in teaching the values of democracy, it needs to reach the ordinary citizen as well as those few who serve in public office.

Argument (2), it is true, does not address only public officials. Rather, it speaks specifically to private citizens. Even there, though, there is some question as to whom the argument is supposed to be relevant. The example is one of a private citizen who has conflicting commitments: he votes for a ballot initiative in favor of equal access in sports, but prevents his daughter from taking advantage of this. The justification for his change to the preferred values of equal citizenship again seems to based on the need to erase a conflict. Indeed, Brettschneider says that “[c]oherent endorsement of democratic values requires that we revise our personal commitments to make them consistent with an ideal of free and equal citizenship.” (54) That is fine as far as it goes: reason does cry out against holding two conflicting values at the same time. The trouble is that many of the hate groups Brettschneider wants to address—the KKK, for example, which he uses (rightly) as an example of a group whose values clearly are contrary to equal citizenship—don’t seem to have this sort of internal conflict. The worst of the hate groups are perfectly consistent: they hate the idea of equal citizenship, and are not shy about saying so. Even on the minimal view where democracy means “one man one vote,” they’re against it, and certainly they’re against any view of democracy that would entail equal respect for all citizens. So, it will be hard to convict of them of any inconsistency in their beliefs.

I don’t think this is much of a problem. It’s fine with me if we say people have an obligation to change their beliefs just because their beliefs are wrong and harmful, and that in particular the state is justified in persuading them to change their views because their views are harmful to democracy. It does, though, mean there is a less of an internal motivation on the part of the citizen with anti-democratic views to change his ways. People do like to be consistent, since it eliminates the cognitive dissonance Brettschneider mentions—which should simply make them feel better– and perhaps because it insulates them from a certain sort of criticism. If their racist, sexist, etc. views are consistent, though, we lose one source of motivation for them to change. We cannot say “One must believe this if one accepts democracy, because it is entailed by the belief in democracy. If you think you have an idea of democracy that doesn’t entail this—that holds that only the competent should vote, and only white men are competent, for example—you haven’t really accepted democracy.” We will need other reasons to persuade them. For myself, I would be happy enough to change people’s minds through the use of non-rational means, through propaganda or whatever it may be called. Brettschneider, though, wants to respect their rationality, and engage them in argument. I don’t doubt that there are other arguments available to use to persuade the consistent racist he is wrong, but those are not as yet fully explained here. Since at the end of the chapter he does say that the ideal situation, where a citizen voluntarily revises his own ideas, is not likely to occur, and that we will thus need the state to use its persuasive powers to make this transformation happen, we will hope that the state is armed with arguments that will make this work on the groups whose ideas are most at odds with the standards of equal citizenship.

This entry was posted in Books, Posts, Reading Group and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Brettschneider Reading Group: Chapter Two: Publicly Justifiable Privacy and Reflective Revision by Citizens

  1. Peter Stone says:

    Two points. First, I guess I’m much less shocked than you are that the state needs to be concerned with beliefs. What people believe determines what they will do–including whether or not they will support the state when the chips are down, or try actively to undermine it. Anyone who wants to maintain a political system must therefore care about what people believe. To deny that isn’t Orwellian; it simply means abandoning the project of maintaining a particular kind of political system.

    Second, I agree with your concerns regarding reflective revision. They don’t seem to reach very far, as you point out. They seem to speak only to someone who is already mostly a Rawlsian liberal. And it doesn’t strike me as very shocking that someone who is mostly a Rawlsian liberal (like the dad with the sports-playing daughters) should try to be more consistently Rawlsian. The hard question, I would think, is whether Corey has anything to say to someone who isn’t really sold on Rawlsian liberalism at the start. Is there any reason for thinking such a person would recognize the obligations Corey describes? I doubt it, but that radically limits the results generated here. (I suspect the next chapter will do more work.)

  2. Kevin McGravey says:

    I have two comments about the post and Peter Stone’s comments. First, I too am less concerned, though for different reasons, that Brettschneider’s requirement of reflective revision impinges too greatly on citizens’ liberty. In particular, I wonder about the degree to which the worry holds given the separation of the state’s coercive and expressive powers. While it certainly is right to say that when the state speaks it transforms from a merely procedural agent to an expressive agent with values, in so far as the state consistently maintains the distinction between its expressive and coercive capabilities I am not sure that this is much of a problem. Moreover, we might ask: does considering the idea of reflective revision as a normative ideal of citizenship rather than as the kind of legal requirement that results in punishment when violated alleviate some of the worry?

    Second, both the post and the previous comment rightly highlight a concern about the requirement’s efficacy. While I think we’ll get more answers later in the book as we find out about the particular ways in which the state can speak (I am thinking of state subsidies in particular — a point which may raise a different set of concerns), I think we can offer some preliminary answers based on the view’s framework. With respect to arguments 1 and 3, one might assert that by requiring officials to adopt democratic values more completely, the state can express through example its view. In so doing, it presents an embodiment of the values it supports that might be compelling to members of the KKK in part because it is backed by the state’s credibility on such matters. Additionally, we might separate this obligation from the practical need to persuade other members of society. In short, the duty holds and has value even if it does nothing to persuade other members of society.

    In regard to the three arguments in concert, we might say that even if the state is not always (or even rarely) able to convince members of internally consistent groups like the KKK to change their minds, it still should express its values in the hope that it will be effective. It may be the case, on these lines, that maintaining and acting on this hope is the best the state can do while balancing its desire to persuade citizens to engage in reflective revision with the respect, embedded in its own viewpoint, for the democratic value of allowing each citizen to craft and offer his or her own views.

  3. Minh Ly says:

    I’d like to respond to the insightful concerns that Sarah Conly raises about the arguments for reflective revision. Sarah is concerned that the arguments are of limited relevance because two of them — public trust and democratic congruence — appear to apply only to public officials.

    In response to this worry, I would suggest that the arguments for reflective revision are broadly relevant to citizens for two reasons. First, democratic congruence applies whenever there is a conflict between citizens’ public commitment to free and equal citizenship, and their actions in the family or associations. Citizens can express their public commitment to democratic values when they are not serving in public office. For example, they might endorse democratic values in a newspaper column, in a petition, or in an open meeting with city officials. Since ordinary citizens can express a public commitment to democratic values, the argument from democratic congruence applies to them more generally and not just to public officials. Citizens should reflectively revise their private beliefs and actions to make them congruent with their public democratic commitments.

    Second, the argument from public trust differs from democratic congruence and interconnection in that it does focus largely on officials. But public trust is still broadly relevant because of the power that officials exercise. The freedom and equality of citizens will not be secure if powerful judges believe that minority defendants are inferior. Even if they publicly proclaim democratic values, we should still be skeptical of their upholding these values in their official capacity when they personally deny them. We should be especially skeptical, since official acts cannot always be monitored or legally regulated. For the status of all citizens as free and equal to be protected, officials should reflectively revise their beliefs.

    Another important worry that both Sarah and Peter Stone raise is that the arguments for reflective revision seem to appeal only to citizens who are already partially committed to democratic values. This may seem to describe only a small group of citizens. But this group of citizens who are inconsistently committed to democratic values may be larger than expected once we recognize how values are spread. They are not adopted all at once but are accepted more gradually. Consider the right of religious freedom. Rawls argues that historically, most citizens followed the right out of self-interest, as a modus vivendi, and only slowly accepted the right of religious freedom for the right reasons. Similarly, Kathryn Sikkink and Thomas Risse write that human rights norms are adopted in a gradual process that typically begins with states following those rights imperfectly, out of strategic or reputational reasons, before developing a more principled commitment to them. In the long period before the principled commitment is firmly established, it is common for there to be conflict between public acceptance compared to private belief and action. In these cases, the arguments for reflective revision can be broadly relevant to many citizens whose beliefs are not yet consistent with the values of freedom and equality. The arguments for reflective revision explain why these citizens should change their private beliefs and actions in families and associations to be consistent with their public acceptance of democratic values.

  4. Sarah Conly says:

    I’m grateful for all these comments and the good points they make, but (naturally) want to raise a few questions. To Peter Stone and Kevin McGravey, I would say, first, that in drawing attention to the fact that the state will be justified, on Brettschneider’s account, in making you change your ideas,not just your behavior, I did not mean to object to the state’s doing that. I am myself an unrepentant utilitarian, and as far as I’m concerned, we are justified in doing whatever we need to do produce right actions. I jusr wanted to draw attention to the fact that it is a fairly radical idea for a liberal to accept. I think, too, that it is more radical than Kevin McGravey does. He points out that CB argues consistently that the state can use only its expressive powers, not its coercive ones. What, however, does this expressive power consist in? We know from later chapters that for him, extending or denying financial incentives fall within the realm of the mere “expressive” powers of the government. CB is correct that technically, revoking or extending a privilege, such as having a tax exempt status, is not coercive: making an “offer,” or revoking an “offer,” on the basis of an organization’s political credo is not construed as a sanction. Coercion involves the threat of a sanction, so telling the KKK or Bob Jones University or whoever that they will lose their tax exempt status if they continue their racist policies does not coerce them. However, it may nonetheless place a pressure they cannot reasonably resist, so it may have the same force as a sanction. On CB’s view, the state won’t limit itself to simply saying that we should respect other citizens–it will make it harder for you to exist as an organization. Second, even when the state is simply expressing its opinions, what will that entail? Although he cites USSC opinions as good expressions of the values of democracy, very few people read those. Thus, if we actually want to reach those who have racist or sexist opinions, the preferred method might be billboards, public service messages, public service messages every hour, etc. The mere expression of a message can be quite invasive.

    I found Minh Ly’s post quite interesting. It is true that I have taken CB’s reasoning to apply only to those who are antecedently liberal, and thus to those who are , in my view, least in need of it. Minh Ly says that the range of those inconsistently committed to democratic values may be larger than it first appears, and that acceptance of appropriate values often starts by engagement in practices out of self-interest. I am not entirely sure how this works, but it may mean that even those who expressly reject democratic values (the KKK) are on their way to accepting them , whether they know it or not, because they are under democratic laws and have to accept those laws for fear of punishment. Their ideas will be shaped by practice and so they will come to accept the values of democracy. I am not entirely sure how this change from practice to theory is linked to CB’s view–it might suggest that with proper practices in place, we don’t even need the state’s expressive messages. But the idea may be that these anti-liberals are on their way, despite themselves, to believing democratic values, merely by being forced to act accordingly, and so hearing these state messages will speed them to full acceptance, and lessen their time in the unhappy state of conflicted transition. This may be true! It is, however, taking a while–groups and individuals with racist, sexist, etc. views about who should have rights in the democratic state have not withered away over the past couple of hundred years. Sadly, I’m inclined to think that new anti-liberals arise all the time, however democratic the country they live in, and that they will be unmoved by CB’s arguments. Even if what Minh Ly says is correct, though, I am struck by how non-rational the process seems to be–if the idea is that we will accept whatever values we are forced to live according to, none of this relies on what one would really call an evaluation of the values in question, nor on rational argument on any sort. We may as well resort to the coercion CB rejects to get people in line, or at the very least, engage in full-fledged non-rational propaganda. That’s okay with me–I’m a utilitarian. But I would think for liberals this would be an unpalatable position.

    Thank you all for sharing your thoughts!

    • Minh Ly says:

      Thanks so much Sarah for taking the time to write such a clear and helpful response. I’d like to take the opportunity to ask about the purpose of Corey’s three arguments for reflective revision.

      On one reading, reflective revision is only a requirement for internal consistency. We might call this the “internal consistency model” of reflective revision: citizens should change their private beliefs and actions to be consistent with their own public commitments. The difficulty with the internal consistency model, as you and Peter rightly explain, is that it cannot appeal to citizens who reject democratic values both publicly and privately. These citizens are already internally consistent in holding values that oppose free and equal citizenship.

      On another reading, reflective revision requires what I would call “external congruence.” According to this model, citizens should change both their public commitments and private beliefs to adopt democratic values. The advantage of the external congruence model is that it applies to citizens who consistently reject democratic values both publicly and privately. These citizens have a duty, not simply to be internally consistent, but to respect the values of free and equal citizenship.

      I believe that Corey takes the external congruence model of reflective revision. But why does he focus on examples like the school board member, who is committed to freedom and equality publicly, while rejecting it privately in his own family? Why does he discuss at length cases of internal conflict?

      I think it is because he has a particular aim in mind when offering the three arguments for reflective revision. It is to explain why it is not enough for citizens to respect free and equal citizenship only publicly, such as when they contribute to a town hall meeting, make a speech, or serve in public office. Corey wants to show that citizens should also respect democratic values in what are traditionally considered “private” spaces, such as the family and associations. That is why he focuses so much on cases of internal conflict. He is responding to the objection that citizens only need to respect democratic values publicly. At the same time, he is also arguing that citizens should reflectively revise their beliefs if they consistently reject democratic values. This is in line with the “external congruence model” of reflective revision.

      Now it might be said that reflective revision would not be very effective in these cases. If people consistently reject the values of free and equal citizenship, how can there be any foothold for them to change their minds?

      I think there are three possibilities here. First, democratic persuasion can make strong arguments based on the reasons for rights. These arguments can persuade citizens to change their minds. This might seem far-fetched. But consider the growing acceptance for interracial marriage. Democratic persuasion, pursued both by the state and its citizens, can convince people to become more tolerant. We’ve seen it work, imperfectly but powerfully, in our lifetimes.

      Second, even if democratic persuasion does not at first directly convince the people who hold discriminatory viewpoints, it might persuade their friends, families, and neighbors. People who hold discriminatory viewpoints can be more open to being gradually persuaded by those they trust (as a large literature in social psychology shows). For instance, Ted Olsen, President Bush’s former solicitor general, changed his previous opposition to the right of gays to marry, and even became a leading legal advocate for the right of gay marriage. He attributed his revising his view to being convinced by friends who were gay, or who had gay family members.

      Third, democratic persuasion can help to establish a general social expectation and norm of support for free and equal citizenship. What emerges is an increasing social and reputational cost to opposing interracial marriage or other rights. In these cases, it becomes more common for people to profess a commitment to a right in public, while rejecting it in their private beliefs or behavior. But once people make a public commitment, there is now a foothold for them to reflectively revise their private beliefs and actions to be congruent with democratic values.

  5. Peter Stone says:

    And thank you for your thoughtful reply. I must, say, however, that I remain unconvinced that Corey is offering a radical principle here. If anything, I would think the contrary position would be the radical one–that being a liberal means taking no public interest whatsoever in what anyone else believes, even when those beliefs affect the ability of the liberal state to function. One might say that Corey is simply starting from the point that the liberal constitution is not a suicide pact, and pursuing what the implications of that position might be.

    I would think that Mill is very helpful here. After all, Mill says that I am in no way justified in trying to compel someone else to live a better life. But I can certainly try to persuade that person, and tell him what I think of his way of life. And more importantly for Corey’s argument, I am fully justified in refusing to associate with that person, or in warning other people away from him. (I cannot perform those actions for the sake of sanctioning the individual, however–a complicating factor that is exactly analogous to the problem for Corey of what counts as coercion.) Now these actions on my part might generate extreme costs for the person, and he might as a result hide his views and/or change them. But the only alternative would be for me to be compelled to continue associating with this person whose way of life I detest. And if the first option poses some problems, surely the second cannot be right.

    In fact, I wonder if one could press the analogy, and argue that when the state is speaking out against and/or withholding funds from those who perform anti-liberal actions, it is acting like I do when I speak out against and/or withhold my company from that individual. The liberal state would in effect be acting like an agent exercising its own right to respond to those whose actions it opposes. Part of that response might be a willingness to withhold its society (in the form of tax benefits, subsidies, etc.) from that individual. Now, there are lots of things the liberal state cannot withhold–it must still protect the individual’s rights as a citizen, etc. This is analogous to the fact that I must (presumably) throw a life preserver to a drowning man even if I detest his lifestyle. The primary difference between the liberal state and me, on this analogy, would be the range of actions relevant to judgment. I am entitled to withdraw my company from you because you spend all our days on the couch drinking malt liquor and watching Jersey Shore reruns. But the state must not do this; it must only remonstrate with and/or withhold benefits selectively from those whose actions are contrary to democratic values. But otherwise, the analogy strikes me as promising.

  6. Sarah Conly says:

    Well, I think Mill, on the contrary, would be very afraid of government expression of political values–that is, beyond the necessary expression in laws that protect us from one another. After all, he was extremely worried about the monolithic conservatism that would suppress the “free development of individuality” (OL ch. 3), and while it is true that he saw paternalistic laws as the primary way of suppressing such development, I should think that the (even non-coercive) uniform expression of a particular political value by a pervasive state voice would have the same effect. It is one thing for a single individual to persuade another (ideally through rational discourse) that his opinion is incorrect. It is another for a very powerful state to repeatedly tell all the people within its purview that there is one correct way to think of their fellow-citizens. I grant you, Mill had more faith in individual rationality than I do, and may have thought we can more easily differentiate between rational argument and propaganda than I’m inclined to. Even he, though, was worried about the effect of social (as opposed to governmental) sanctions on our ability to develop our own values.

    In a personal note, when I first read your post I read it as saying you were entitled to withdraw your company from “me” because I spend all my days on the couch drinking single malt, and I thought “who on earth could object to that?'” Upon re-reading I saw it was a more comprehensible object of derision.

  7. Peter Stone says:

    Well, in some respects Mill was obviously not a fan of plurality. I can’t believe, for example, that he’d object if everyone in our society decided that utilitarianism was correct. If he did object to that, then he truly would be the liberal who cannot take his own side in an argument. The desire for everyone to share one or more liberal values is not the same as the desire to have everyone have the exact same comprehensive worldview. I think that’s the most valuable contribution by Rawls to this debate–the explicit distinction between a conception of justice and a conception of the good. One can wish for everyone to share the first without demanding any uniformity regarding the second, except for the minimal demand that the latter all be consistent with the former.

    I’m more into blends myself–with Christopher Hitchens, I would regard Johnny Walker Black Label as the breakfast of champions–but I am perfectly prepared to believe the world is a better place due to a plurality of opinions on the subject.

Leave a Reply