Taking Politics Seriously - But Not Too Seriously
Philosophy 94, no. 2 (April 2019): 271–94
32 Pages Posted: 21 May 2019 Last revised: 17 Oct 2022
Date Written: August 25, 2021
John Rawls’ gamification of justice leads him – along with many other monist political philosophers, not least Ronald Dworkin – to fail to take politics seriously enough. I begin with why we consider games frivolous and then show how Rawls’ theory of justice 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 political practice in two ways: one as regards the citizens who participate directly in it, and the other as regards those who 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: Political Philosophy, Ethics, Meta-Ethics, Political Theory, Play, Dialogue, Negotiation, Democracy, John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, Conversation, Monism, Games
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