Thursday, July 09, 2009

No Reason Not To Try

Trying to do a careful analytical unpicking and undermining of Glen Newey's recent LRB piece on Raymond Geuss' new book would be mostly pretty tedious and anyway miss the point, which is its polemical character; I'm assuming, for example, that Newey doesn't really think that taking moralised stances about political arrangements makes one a supporter of the present Iranian state. More briefly, I note that even Bernard Williams, hardly friendly to Kantian-inspired liberalism, understood that the point of that liberalism is that it is about the conditions of the legitimate exercise of political power, so it can hardly be that it ignores the fact of the exercise of political power, since it is premised on it; that the presence of disagreement does not mean there is no right answer, and certainly not that there are not better and worse answers; and that if the problem is that ignoring the fact of political power generates undesirable results, then we better have something to say about the terms on which those results are undesirable. When one wants to say what political philosophy properly is, standards by which that properly can be assessed are necessary, and that pitches us right back into making evaluations of some sort or other; maybe not moral(ised) ones, but evaluations of some sort, and so the possibility of disagreement.


Phil said...

and certainly not that there are better and worse answers

Missing 'not', I think.

Coming at it from a liberal legal theory perspective (as I do these days), I found his account of Why We Can't Trust The Law incredibly unsatisfactory. It's a drum he's banged before, and all it ever seems to boil down to is "some important decisions which judges have made are bad, political or both". And?

Rob Jubb said...

Indeed. Thanks.

Presumably what comes after the 'and' is "... they'd be better made through political processes", to which the obvious reply is, which processes are these then, and, what makes it better to make them like that? The attempted flight from normativity is very frustrating, and made more so in a certain way when you have a lot of sympathy with the general tenor of the critiques, as I do (not about Rawls, but about lots of contemporary Anglo-American political theory, yes).