The dissertation project intends to delineate why and how justice
theory can make use of the “pragmatic turn” (Bernstein)
in epistemology and provide a blueprint of the physiognomy of a
theory of justice that does just that. As a first step, it
demonstrates that the methods and concepts of theories of justice
are to a high degree shaped by insights in epistemology. This will
be shown, inter alia, by making explicit the analogy of Quine's
concept of ontological relativity and John Rawls's idea of a
After having outlined that epistemology matters for justice theories the logical second step is to take a look at the current state of epistemology with the intent of improving justice theory. The dissertation hereby argues that our time’s dominating epistemological paradigm is a pragmatic one, consisting of two lines which both draw on the work of the early C.S. Peirce. The first line leads from Peirce via James and Mead to Joas’s theory of creative action, the second from Peirce to Sellars and Davidson. It will be pointed out that , if used for theories of justice, each line provides significant innovations. The former in that it emphasizes the social embeddedness of individuals, the latter in that it goes hand in hand with a common-sensist method that is married to a commitment to falsificationism. When these ideas are applied to theories of justice they call, so will be argued, for a historic method that starts with real societies in the here and now and tries to improve the same by questioning existing practices and the beliefs behind them.
In the third step the dissertation makes explicit that a theory of justice that intends to rely on the innovations suggested by a pragmatic epistemology does not need to start from scratch. The recent publications on justice by Amartya Sen and Axel Honneth already make use of these innovations, albeit without being aware of the extent of their similarity to pragmatism. Their approaches share, so will be made explicit, three main characteristics that are in line with core-doctrines of the pragmatic epistemology: an aversion for efforts to deduce the principles of a perfectly just society from thought experiments, a commitment to find possibilities for improving the justice of real societies, and a high trust in the deliberations between citizens.
The dissertation’s fourth step is devoted to building on the work done by Sen and Honneth to construct a theory of justice that makes full use of the potentials brought to the fore by a pragmatic epistemology. To do that, the dissertation turns to the practical philosophy of John Dewey. Concepts in Dewey’s philosophy that are relevant for improving justice theory are the following: 1) a ‘creative democracy’ which provides its citizens with numerous possibilities to voice complaints, 2) a concept refered to as ‘historic experimentalism’ which looks for richer descriptions of societal problems by regarding history as a laboratory for experiments in justice, 3) a concept dubbed an ‘instrumental applied ethics’ which intends to deliver tentative solutions to societal problems that can enrich public discourse by being, among other things, sensitive to various, maybe even conflicting, perceptions of problems with a bearing upon justice, and 4) a concept that will be called a ‘forward-looking identity politics’ which is devoted to look out for possibilities to tighten bonds between individuals.
Gerechtigkeitstheorie, Erkenntnistheorie, Honneth, Dewey, Pragmatismus
|start of project||2012|
|end of project||2013|
Ein Forschungsaufenthalt an der University of Chicago wird
Philosophie, Gerechtigkeitstheorie, Erkenntnistheorie
Auseinandersetzung mit Literatur, Begriffliche Arbeit.