Political Philosophy (PHIL 870): Practical Reason

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Instructor: Gerald Postema. This seminar meets on Wednesdays from 1:00-3:30.

We will consider the relationship between three very general ideas regarding the nature and possibility of practical reason in the political domain: public (vs. private) reason, common (vs. individual) reason, and authority. There are two ways to explore these idea in the context of this seminar.

The first focuses on largely contemporary literature (with some consideration of a few historical figures to set the problems and background). For this purpose, we would read—for public reason—a little of Hobbes, Kant, Bentham, Rawls, Gauthier, Korsgaard, (and others) and some work of mine; for common reason—a little of Hume, some Skyrms, some game theory, and recent work by Sugden and myself on “team” (Sugden) or “common” (GJP) reason; and for authority—Raz, and possibly Darwall and a bit of Brandom.

The second way to address all these topics is to look directly at Hegel, who takes a unique perspective on the above nexus of issues and develops a view that is unrepresented in contemporary literature. (Here’s one way to read him: social/public reason is possible and necessary due to a deep need for recognition which can only be satisfied if it is truly mutual. This calls for concrete social and political practices and institutions through which one can acknowledge status of others (on condition they do the same); however, this is possible only when parties recognize failure and the need for forgiveness. Moreover, for mutual recognition acknowledgement of commonality is not enough; recognition of deep and abiding difference is essential and only with both is mutuality possible. Out of such mutuality public reason and distinctive notion of authority emerge.) If we choose this route, we would read substantial portions of his Phenomenology of Spiritand Philosophy of Right.

Gerald Postema’s webpage