Prolegomenon to the social philosophy of John Dewey

John Dewey has long recognized as one of America’s greatest philosophers. Yet his social philosophy has been underappreciated, especially as it has served to influence much of contemporary Communitarian thought. The purpose of this essay is to revisit aspects of Dewey’s alleged liberalism, specifically with respect to questions of human nature, social norms, morality, rights, social control, the role of institutions, and the place of the State. One sees that Dewey over time altered his perception of man as a fundamentally communal being and, in so doing, allowed a place for State control in shaping conduct to desired social ends, apparently unconcerned that such a program would lead in the end to the loss of individuality he so sought to protect.

Le partage des raisons

The most serious charge against a theory of justice concerned with equality is to accuse it of resting on normative principles which express inegalitarian sentiments. A common criticism of Rawls’s list of primary goods in A Theory of Justice is that it fails in precisely this way. Nagel complains that Rawls’s theory presupposes a liberal bias in its premisses which is reflected in the conception of primary goods to be distributed. The aim of this paper is to explore the Rawlsian response to this critique and thereby to explain the import of the shift from comprehensive to political liberalism. Where many commentators have seen this shift in Rawls’s theory as a retreat in the face of multiculturalism and the fragmentation of value, it is more accurate to see the shift as underscoring the original liberal intentions of paying due respect to individuals and individual differences. Political liberalism sets out from the reasons that we can all share, regardless of our particular conceptions of the good life, in order to construct a common framework of justice within which all can thrive. It thus seeks to reconcile the attractions of egalitarianism with proper respect for persons by making the root egalitarian concern equal regard of all people in the demand to justify principles of justice.

Rawls a-t-il une conception de la citoyenneté ?

The « juste » institutions of a liberal democracy are not enought to guarantee its stability at a time of growing cultural diversity. They have to gain citizens’ allegiances in the long term in spite of their conflicting comprehensive doctrines. This can only be achieved, according to Rawls, by founding political consensus not on one single conception of the good, as was the case in « classical » liberalism, which would alienate and disregard the other competing views, but by « neutral » principles of justice derived from a political conception of the person. The paper will show that, far from weakening citizens’ participation, a Rawlsian conception of citizenship can be reconstructed. The strength of Rawls’ position as examined through his debate with Habermas, is to provide us with a view of the self and of citizenship that parallels, within the self, the pluralist nature of post-modern society.

Adam Smith, précurseur des philosophies de l’histoire

Smith designed a philosophical system whose different éléments (Moral Phylosophy, Jurisprudence and political Economy) where to be linked by epistemic principles. They reveal that Smith saw the world as the Design of the Deity where every element of the system, especially mankind, are naturally led to meet Deity’s ends. This teleological outlook is applied to a philosophical inquiry to history in a way that would echo in Kant and Hegel’s writtings concerning the cunning of Reason. Connecting economics and history makes it possible to determine an ideal progress towards improvement and understand historical cycles in the slow and gradual actual process towards Progress. Tensions between the ideal and the actual historical course prompts one to reinterpret Smith’s vision of natural and actual orders of modern society and his views on the place of the State in that society.

Comment peut-on être parétien ? L’économie du bien-être de l’utilitarisme au libéralisme

Paretian welfare economics is generally understood as a mere variant of classical utilitarianism which rests on a specific set of assumptions about the information which is available to decision makers. But it is shown here that a deeper alteration of the meaning of the theory results from these assumptions when they are properly taken into account by means of an implicit but insufficiently recognized principle of “informational validity”. If this principle is duly applied, Paretian prescriptions coincide with liberal judgments and Paretian welfare economics can basically be viewed as a way to give a consequentialist content to deontological liberalism.

Kolm and the dismemberment of self-ownership. A “liberal” justification for income redistribution

The concept of self-ownership is central in debates on philosophical groundings of liberal theories of social justice. This article discusses the relevance, the originality, and the scope of Serge-Christophe Kolm’s original position (2005) regarding this key concept. Indeed, dismemberment of self-ownership is one of Kolm’s major proposals, which has far-reaching consequences in terms of income redistribution, and of individual freedoms of choice equalization.

Hayek in Japan: The reception of a neoliberal thought

The modernization of Japan has been taking place since the last half of the nineteenth century: paradoxically enough, elements of Japan’s geography and culture may explain this evolution. Even though very few Japanese economists would call themselves “liberal,” Hayek’s writings had a large audience. The heir to the Austrian school of economic thought, who was pro-free trade and a supporter of individual liberties has been fully translated (twice in fact, see references of Complete Works, at the end of this essay) thus illustrating his influence in academia, public service, and politics (on economic policies). Hayek anchored his views in those of the early Marginalist Austrian founder Menger (1840-1921), whose archives are also to be found in Japan. The encounter of Austrian thought and the far-away land may create a stir. In order to understand the extraordinary impact that the thought of Friedrich Hayek had, philosophical and epistemological traits are examined in this paper, along with attempts to make sense of this striking occurrence.

The “food weapon”: The foundations for the history of a concept (seventeenth–nineteenth centuries)

Abstract Access to food is humankind’s most basic need, and the “food weapon” refers to all the means employed to voluntarily starve a population. When a country has an export monopoly on an essential agricultural commodity or a dominant position on the market of such a foodstuff, it can use its management and storage resources … Continue reading The “food weapon”: The foundations for the history of a concept (seventeenth–nineteenth centuries)

Nietzsche and work: This “vice” of our time

This paper seeks to reexamine Nietzsche’s views on work as an activity. Instead of explaining Nietzsche’s positions on work through his philosophy, we shed light on his philosophy—particularly his rejection of both liberalism and socialism—based on his criticism of work. This methodological approach allows us to fully take into account both aspects of his criticism of work and his abhorrence of modernity and its political ideologies, which are its byproducts.