TITLES AND ABSTRACTS
Some Realism about Legal and Political Philosophy
“Realists” are committed to theses like the following: (1) human beings, throughout history and across cultures, are motivated primarily by their passions and desires (not by “reason”), many of which exhibit strong anti-social or irrational tendencies (people are, for example, frequently cruel, self-aggrandizing, avaricious, self-deceived, envious, etc.); (2) given what human being are like, theories devoted to articulating and discursively justifying people’s (supposed rational) moral obligations and duties, are generally irrelevant to changing people’s behavior; (3) theories of society, politics, and law should try to help us understand what is really going on, and never presuppose that the best theoretical accounts of society or law show them to be morally appealing or justified.
Moralists, by contrast, concern themselves with discursive theories about how individuals and institutions ought to act in order be morally defensible. Often those in the moralist tradition scold people and institutions for their bad behavior, for their failure to honor their “real” obligations and duties, the “real” demands of justice and so on, even though such scolding is irrelevant to what happens.
Of course, moralists do not always sit in judgment, wagging their finger at the failure of leaders and citizens to live up to the moralist’s arguments for what is morally right and obligatory: sometimes, as with Hegel, they are engaged in elaborate rationalizations of the existing state of affairs (or, more precisely, of the interests of the dominant class in the existing state of affairs). Hegel’s observation that philosophy is the “owl of Minerva” which only flies at dusk when an era is ending is an appropriate metaphor not only for Hegel’s spectacular rationalizations of the Prussian state, but for much moralist philosophy since. Think, for example, of John Rawls’s theoretical edifice in defense of the welfare state in the capitalist democracies, or Ronald Dworkin’s jurisprudential defense of the idea that the progressive Warren Court in the U.S. in the 1960s was really just applying the law.
I explore and defend realism against moralism in this lecture.
To be delivered
João Maurício Leitão Adeodato
Rhetoric as Philosophy
To name those theses, I was inspired by the Hellenistic philosopher Sextus Empiricus, whose writings always have the word “against” in their title.
First thesis: against ontological philosophers. When they respect rhetoric, they reduce it to a mere embellishment of the discourse; when they do not like it, they reduce it to anti-ethical strategies to fool the unwary. Those functions of seducing with words and of winning at all costs sure are important, but rhetoric goes far beyond them, and includes sincere persuasion, empirical demonstration, simulation, bluffing and all ways of human language to construct and impose the dominant narrative.
Second thesis: against Aristotelian rhetoricians. Rhetoric does not only consist of persuasion, of the study and the means of sincerely convincing through discourse, it reaches far beyond that. Not even the strategic rhetoric – that is only one of its species –, in which persuasion sure plays the most significant role, may be restricted to the persuasive methodologies. Among other means, which are strategic but not persuasive, rhetoric takes hold of authority, seduction, lies, enticement, threats of harm and all paths within the scope of eristics.
Third thesis: against ontological philosophers and Aristotelian rhetoricians. Rhetoric is a form of philosophy which is opposed to the dominant ontological trend but not to philosophy as a whole. Ontological philosophers took over philosophy, up to the point that even rhetoricians came to believe that philosophy consists in the search for truth and thus that rhetoric must be separated from it. Etymology shows that philosophy consists in the love of wisdom. If we abandon the concept of truth, rhetoric may well be seen as a form of philosophy.
To support these three theses, I will also suggest three meanings for the word “rhetoric”, that may contribute to diminish misunderstandings. The material rhetoric refers to that level which ontological philosophies call “reality”, the dominant narratives that people tell themselves and other people and in which they believe as “real” – the name from the Latin res, “thing”, shows the ontological objectification of language, just like “object” and “fact”. Describing this process, the realist rhetoric intends to be a kind of philosophy and to go beyond the idealistic Aristotelian understanding of rhetoric as the art of persuasion. The strategic rhetoric are the discourses that aim to become the material rhetoric, the versions about the environment that compete to be considered “real facts”. The analytic rhetoric is what our research group does: the study of the ways by which the dominant versions emerge out of those different strategies, shown through statutes, judicial decisions, mediation, contracts.
Anita L. Allen
Privacy, Race and Legal Governance
Gender, Law and Equal Freedom: Ambitious Theory, Ambivalent Practice
In Praise of Human Rights Courts
Human rights law, however, is not an instrument for achieving some state of affairs. It is a set of moral principles that seek to legitimize the use of coercive force by states. The function of human rights as legal norms is not peripheral or optional, but a constitutive part of their moral character. This normative function of human rights forms a central part of the Rule of Law, rather than being a political programme, like socialism or free-market capitalism. It is no accident that the first target of any populist or authoritarian government is constitutional courts, which typically execute this function really well. Instrumental accounts, left and right of the political spectrum, seek to make institutional protection of human rights a contingent matter, whose justification depends on empirical outcomes. By doing so, they undermine the value of the Rule of Law and serve as a breeding ground for authoritarianism.
To be delivered
Climatizing Rights: Human Rights Theory and Practice for the Anthropocene
Can Reflective Inclusiveness Mitigate the Cultural Confrontation Caused by International Migration?
In this presentation, I explore the meaning of this serious dilemma and seek an appropriate way of dealing with the normative predicaments shared by these societies. More specifically, I would argue that it is critically important for both immigrants and host societies to share the ideals of reflective inclusiveness in order to reconcile the conflicting values of nationalistic attachment and human rights. In other words, it is essential for both sides of political and cultural boundaries to be reflectively inclusive of other cultures if we want to appease the cultural and moral confrontations we are facing, particularly in host societies.