Meta-Ethics.5.1: Charles Ess Tue, 08 Oct 1996 09:56:03 EDT (30 lines)
Thomas McCarthy (see our document, "Notes on the contrast between Habermas and Rawls," Part II) points out a crucial distinction between Habermas and Rawls regarding "public reason." Briefly, for Rawls, "public reason" _excludes_ the sort of "unofficial" venues of discourse - including discourse within religious communities and organizations - which Habermas _includes_ as part of "the nervous system of the political public sphere." (50) This contrast regarding conceptions of public reason will become especially significant for our discussion of abortion next Spring - as that discussion will be framed precisely within _religious_ perspectives. Given this contrast with Habermas - would it be fair to say that Rawl's conception of "public reason" _by definition_ would force a Rawlsian to ignore such a discussion (via religious perspectives) of abortion - while a Habermasian conception of public reason must incorporate precisely this sort of discussion? Given this contrast with Habermas - would it be fair to say that Rawl's conception of "public reason" _by definition_ would force a Rawlsian to ignore such a discussion (via religious perspectives) of abortion - while a Habermasian conception of public reason must incorporate precisely this sort of discussion? If so - what does this say about the relative power of each theory to operate in the _praxis_ of political discussion, including discussion framed, as it so often is in the U.S., from religious perspectives? -- Charles Ess
Meta-Ethics.5.2: Robert Cavalier Sun, 13 Oct 1996 11:53:32
EDT (69 lines)
As if to appreciate the concerns that Charlie raises, Rawls says
on page li of the Introduction to the Paperback Edition of PL (1995): "I...hereby revise VI:8." He now allows that "reasonable comprehensive doctrines" (those religious or non-religious worldviews that form part of our background culture) "be introduced in public reason" with the following *proviso*: that citizens *in due course* rest their case regarding "constitutional essentials" and "questions of basic justice" on 'political values' and argue analogously to the kind of reasoning we find in Supreme Court decisions. ("To check whether we are following public reason we might ask: how would our argument strike us presented in the form of a supreme court decision? Reasonable? Outrageous?" PL p. 254). It is interesting to note that Putnam uses the Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade as a paradigm example of the adjudication process that moral argument should follow. Putnam also agrees with Ken's comment (1.10) that the argumentative process itself might provide its own insight, without necessarily 'solving the problem.' Below is Habermas's perspective on the abortion debate: "Is there only one correct answer to the abortion question, for example? At this stage of the debate, both sides in this dispute appear to have good, perhaps even equally good, arguments. For the time being, therefore, the issue remains undecided. But insofar as what is at issue is in fact a moral matter in the strict sense, we must proceed from the assumption that in the long run it could be decided one way or the other on the basis of good reasons. However, a forteriori the possibility cannot be excluded that abortion is a problem that cannot be resolved from the moral point of view at all. From this point of view, what we seek is a way of regulating our communal life that is equally good for all. But it might transpire that descriptions of the problem of abortion are always inextricably interwoven with individual self-descriptions of persons and groups, and thus with their identities and life projects. Where an internal connection of this sort exists, the question must be formulated differently, specifically, in ethical terms. Then it would be answered differently depending on context, tradition, and ideals of life. It follows, therefore, that the moral question, properly speaking, would first arise at the more general level of the legitimate ordering of coexisting forms of life. Then the question would be how the integrity and the coexistence of ways of life and worldviews that generate different ethical conceptions of abortion can be secured under conditions of equal rights. In other cases, it is possible to deduce from the inconclusive outcome of practical discourses that the problems under consideration and the issues in need of regulation do not involve generalizable interests at all; then one should not look for moral solutions but instead for fair compromises (Justification and Application, pp. 59 - 60). In meta-ethical terms, how might Habermas's position(s) on abortion be reconciled with Rawls's public reason in ways that might or might not differ from the essentials of the Roe v. Wade decision? What is the relationship between Habermas's richer communicative process (the background culture) and those reasons that move upward toward Rawls's more narrow criteria? From another perspective, does the anti-anti-pornography movement provide a Habermasian "background" check on anti-pornography's attempt to move the pornography debate into the sphere of public reason vis a vis civil rights? And, to put it more positively and in line with Ken's comments in 1.10, how has that background 'conversation' affected the very way in which we now discuss the issue of pronography (e.g., Drucilla Cornell).
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