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Paul Voice

Political philosophy has been under the sway of a certain picture since Rawls’s A Theory of Justice was published in 1971. This picture combines the idea that the problem of justice should be approached from the direction of ideal normative theory, and that there are some anchoring ideas that secure the justificatory role of a hypothetical agreement. I think this picture and the hold it has over political philosophy is beginning to fragment. This fragmentation I think is most evident in the skepticism that has become a routine response to the Kantian idea that ‘we’ can ‘discover’ the terms of an agreement that has both a categorical force and a universal scope. But as the picture fragments we are still left with the framework and vocabulary of Rawls’s difficult and elaborate theory. The major difficulty confronting the Rawlsian project (the problem of pluralism as I will argue below) is itself defined in terms of Rawls’s conceptual language. And this serves only to obscure the real challenge and keep us ‘bewitched’ by Rawls’s narrow way of seeing issues. In being bewitched in this way we do not see that the problem of pluralism confronts Rawls’s project as a whole, rather than requiring adjustments and accommodations.