Taking Politics Seriously – But Not Too Seriously
30 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2010 Last revised: 5 May 2016
Date Written: August 4, 2015
Monist political philosophers such as John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin fail to take politics seriously enough. This is because they treat it as if it were a game. I begin by showing why we consider games frivolous and then show that Rawls’ theory of justice, in particular, is not merely analogous to a game, as he himself seems to claim, but is in fact a kind of game. As such, it is harmful to politics both as regards the citizens who would participate directly in it and those who would do no more than follow it. Similar harms, I then argue, come from taking politics too seriously, which is the attitude I ascribe to pluralist political philosophers such as Isaiah Berlin, Stuart Hampshire, and Bernard Williams. To them, the plural, incommensurable nature of values means that they cannot be reconciled and so that politics must be a matter of negotiating dirty, and often tragic, compromises. What we need instead, I conclude, is a third way, one that is neither monist nor pluralist but in-between the two extremes.
Keywords: Monism, Pluralism, John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, Isaiah Berlin, Stuart Hampshire, Bernard Williams, Games, Gamification,Tragedy, Comedy, Ethics for/against Adversaries
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