Managing Radical Disputes: Public Reason, the American Dream, and the Case of Same-Sex Marriage

41 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2008  

Keith J. Bybee

Syracuse University - College of Law; Syracuse University - Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs

Cyril Ghosh

Syracuse University

Date Written: August 22, 2008

Abstract

This paper proposes that ambiguous arguments play a crucial role in the management of radical disputes in democratic deliberation. Lofty though it might be, public reason is an impoverished ideal, and its celebrated role in democratic deliberation is vastly overrated, particularly among liberal theorists. In the courts of law and in the larger world, radical disputes unfold as messy, incomplete, ambiguous arguments are proposed by parties. This does not mean that all communication between parties must break down because parties do not abide by the rules of argumentation and evidentiary reasoning. It only implies that the language of ambiguity offers possibilities for democratic deliberation that are different from those presented in the discourse on public reason. Ordinary people have strong opinions but their arguments are, more often than not, incompletely theorized - a fact that by no means indicates that such arguments are failures. We illustrate our argument by examining the ambiguous, fragmented use of American Dream talk in the debate over same-sex marriage.

Keywords: Legal Reason, Public Reason, Same-Sex Marriage, American Dream

Suggested Citation

Bybee, Keith J. and Ghosh, Cyril, Managing Radical Disputes: Public Reason, the American Dream, and the Case of Same-Sex Marriage (August 22, 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1247302 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1247302

Keith James Bybee (Contact Author)

Syracuse University - College of Law ( email )

321 Eggers Hall
Syracuse University
Syracuse, NY 13244-1030
United States
315-443-9743 (Phone)

Syracuse University - Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs ( email )

400 Eggers Hall
Syracuse, NY 13244
United States

Cyril Ghosh

Syracuse University ( email )

900 S. Crouse Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2130
United States

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