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October 19, 2008

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Mike

Oh my, this is an incredible post. Raymond Geuss is an incredibly provocative and insightful political thinker, as seen especially in his book Outside Ethics. Thanks for providing this!

Mike

There's another comment to be made that might be relevant. It seems that here in the United States, mainstream academic philosophy is for the most part is a very bad state. Basically the problem, in its general form, seems to be that philosophers here talk about issues as pieces, when in fact they are moments (to borrow Husserl's terminology). Look at political philosophy. Rawls especially is an example of trying to talk about politics as if it were a piece, separable from other areas of human activity, as opposed to talking of politics as a moment, ie., in the larger context of human action. What Rawls wants to do is try to solve our political problems by introducing an idealized, hypothetical procedure for conducting political discourse behind a "veil of ignorance," assuming that such a constraint will lead to an acceptable, "democratic" outcome. What continental philosophers like Geuss do is re-connect politics to the larger framework of contingent human action, focusing on such notions as exclusion, meaningful action, and the fact that politics exists to deal with conflict, rather than completely eradicate it in the fulfillment of some utopian vision.

Arguably, Anglo-American philosophy of mind is another area that doesn't get very far towards a real understanding of mind, body, embodiment, or consciousness, because discussions of such issues are generally conducted on a purely abstract, logical level, where (for instance) philosophers discuss thought experiments and responses to them, forgetting that "consciousness" in any pregnant sense of the word is a moment, and can only be talked about in the larger context of human subjectivity and embodiment. Insofar as phenomenology is even mentioned, it is introduced as a deeply problematic method of "introspecting" and reaching some dubious essences through solipsistic meditation. The point of all this is that it makes little sense for philosophers to try to say anything definitive about things which only make sense within a larger horizon of significance, and this is something that Geuss seems to be committed to.

James

Re: Mike's second post.

Actually, there are plenty of analytic political philosophers who attack Rawls on many of the same points you've raised. See e.g. the work of Jeremy Waldron.

Moreover, your description of analytic philosophy of mind is inaccurate too. "[H]uman subjectivity and embodiment" are common topics in analytical philosophy, and, equally, phenomenology is very much discussed, not just in connection with introspection but in all sorts of connections, in Anglo-American philosophy departments.

So your critique is unwarranted because based on false assumptions.

Jed

This is the best podcast posted on the site in several weeks. I find myself being of a similar mindset to that of Geuss much of the time. I found it refreshing to hear a more postmodern minded take on politics, ethics, and history.

Derek

Also, Re: Mike, it's highly misleading to characterize Rawls's veil of ignorance as a place for "conducting political discourse." It is a modeling device for generating principles of justice for the basic structure of society. Rawls explicitly leaves ample room for genuine politics in negotiating both the constitutional framework governed by those principles, and the particular policy matters that arise within that framework.

Mike

I'll concede James's point. As to Derek's point:

"[The veil of ignorance] is a modeling device for generating principles of justice for the basic structure of society. Rawls explicitly leaves ample room for genuine politics in negotiating both the constitutional framework governed by those principles, and the particular policy matters that arise within that framework."

Yes, we're not arguing about what it is. Okay, it's not a place for negotiating political discourse, but a way of "generating principles of justice". What IS in question is the relevance of this procedure, ie., the question of the political relevance of this kind of idealized discussion. What I think Geuss is trying to argue is the truly important level of political discourse is at the level of concrete, real politics. As important as Rawls's discussion may be for making explicit certain intuitions about justice we may have (which we can subsequently debate the relevance of), we still haven't reached anything substantively political in his notion of the "veil of ignorance".

Justin

Contrary to earlier posts, I felt like I was drowning until some rebuttals by Warburton were made towards the end of discussion.

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