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1. Situating Dewey’s Political Philosophy

The kind of normative totalisation which is characteristic of the legal category brings it to the verge of philosophy. Additionally, we should not lose sight of the fact that the very origins of philosophy in Greece were closely tied to discussions of all sorts of problems —logical, moral, political, etc. Because it is institutionalised, the law is a collective practice, an aggregate of extraordinarily complex and highly internal specialised sub-institutions —at least where legislative, executive and judicial functions can be minimally differentiated— which operate according to decisions of diverse subjects through extensive periods of time.

This multiple diversity of functional parts means that unity and coherence of purposes within legal practice are only possible if it incorporates specific devices of reflective rationalisation to carry out its functions of producing and applying norms. Legal practice depends on a complex conceptual and theoretical instrumentarium in which we can discern two different genres.

PHIL103: Moral and Political Philosophy

The second genre contains the material theories which supply overarching conceptions of the substantive normative contents , the purposes and values which the legal system is geared towards achieving via the aforementioned techniques and methods e. I am referring to the fact that it has a dialectical constituent nature; that is, it is structurally associated with conflict, deviation, incompatibility, contradiction, incommensurability and controversy. Therefore, its rationality essentially consists of deploying strategies aimed at using discourse and argumentation to manage and disentangle these conflicts and incommensurabilities.

There is no need to belabour the fact that this is also true of both producing laws legislative, constitutional and applying them judicial, administrative. The logical construction of kinds or types of action and the individualisation and specification of the particular practical situations arising from them are a form of totalisation, and the same holds true of the finalistic reasoning composition of interests and objectives and balancing deliberation composition of values from which legal norms and decisions result.

In both cases, the practical problems that are addressed by the law are therefore very similar to philosophical problems. Furthermore, this systematisation cannot merely be logical or formal. Given that the law is a second-order system, these elements cannot be anything other than the overarching purposes and values that the legal system strives to materialise in the first-order social practices, purposes and values that the law itself does not create but rather recreates and shapes in practical terms.

Theoretical conceptions usually considered to belong to academic philosophy of law legal positivism, formalism, natural law, constitutionalism, realism, etc. Therefore, the point of contact between legal philosophy as a discipline and law itself is to be found here: philosophical conceptions of law are an internal part of its practice, and the theories that shape legal practice partly overlap with the philosophy of law. This contrast distorts the fact that any philosophy of law, no matter whose it is, has always consisted in applying more or less systematic philosophical schemes to law and it is impossible to see how it could be otherwise.

On the one hand, Bobbio does not pay enough attention to the fact that law is a historical-cultural institution which poses general philosophical problems for any philosophy. However, this in no way guarantees complete immunity from metaphysics or dogmatism. In any historical period, jurists have appropriated general philosophies when devising their doctrines indeed, the very category of legal has always needed a covering of philosophy with which to build its internal meta-theory.

These conceptions are unquestionably the best available philosophical entryway into the law, in that they supply the basic repertoire of legal-philosophical ideas and, in this sense, must be capable of being incorporated by any philosophy of law that does not seek to be metaphysical or disconnected from legal experience.

Yet they must also be the target of criticism and reframing in general or transcendental philosophical terms, rather than being viewed as inherent to a purely endo-legal or intra-categorical discourse. And that criticism means that legal philosophy must necessarily interweave with moral philosophy and political philosophy; that is, it must be constructed within the framework of some practical general conception of philosophy viewed in a transcendental perspective. Below we shall very schematically examine some of the main arguments upholding this claim.

They are essentially justificative totalisations. Given that the law is a practical, normative category, legal concepts are doctrinal concepts. Legal concepts are linked to the practice of arguing and providing reasons in regard to legal decisions, of justifying action ex post and ex ante. Hence, it is essential to gain some conception of the principles which are the normative expression of values and to wholesale reconstruct the law involved in the resolution of each case in legal practice, even if this may only seem particularly visible in difficult cases or in legal issues that typically spark moral disagreements abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage, surrogate motherhood, etc.

All legal issues, including easy cases, are questions of principle in this sense, that is, questions of value. That is, it is resolved in what, we have called since Aristotle, 25 justice as a basic schema to articulate ideas around what is good and right in distribution and reparation in both the public and private matters that make up the territorium of human praxis. In this way, the justificative dimension of law connects it internally , from its own practice, to philosophical-moral and philosophical-political conceptions. It leads to general or omni-comprehensive systems of practical philosophy with an orientation that can be liberal, utilitarian, communitarian, deontological, social, etc.

These normative functions essentially correspond to the academic philosophy of law, the natural middle ground between law and practical philosophy, which is then shown to be a practical undertaking. The philosophy of law is a practical philosophy that follows the law, like its shadow. The values it encompasses, as both transcendental underpinnings and ideas from practical philosophy simultaneously, serve as a bridge, allowing a back and forth movement between the two.

After all, law is not only a place where political-moral values are realised and embodied a decisively effective embodiment due to the fact that legal institutionalisation manages public coercion and where these values thus gain a definitive justification, but also the place where moral philosophy and political philosophy converge on equal terms from their own transcendental perspectives.

Indeed, legal-practical institutions appear to be their necessary landing place. They can play the role of a historical-cultural mesh necessary to make morality and political society possible, without which their values would simply disintegrate. It essentially has to do with the justificative purpose of law, which operates on the basis of practical values. The point is not only the prevalence of this justificative dimension of law over its technical or directive dimension, since the problems it deals with encompass conflicts and disagreements that are ultimately axiological and need to be resolved on equal terms.

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The point is also, and above all, that this requires going beyond the legal category to reveal law as a precisely political-moral technique. Legal technique as a whole and each of the decisions made within it throughout its constant development in this second reflective level on social practices must appear as a justified practice that serves the values of justice and morality. The essentially totalising and conflicting nature of the practical values involved in the legal institution —the values of justice or, more accurately, the demands of injustice 28 — are what make the concept of law draw from philosophy, and what makes legal philosophy a practical philosophy.

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Parts of law interfere with parts of morality and with parts of politics in different ways, at different levels, and not always if ever harmoniously. This includes the tensions that exist between the efficacy of power or authority and substantive validity; between justice and legal security; between dura lex, sed lex and summum ius, summa iniuria ; between the political limits of law and the aspirations of universal rights; between the sociocultural, idiosyncratic uniqueness of each legal community and the demands of universal critical morality; between the institutional values of legal technique associated with the continuity of past operations, formal equality, specific interpretative patterns, etc.

This is the result of interpretations that entail questioning the legal category as a whole in light of values, while it also leads to the restoration of the unity of practical reason around these values. This need to evaluatively interpret the legal category in terms of totality based on the entire practical realm explains that the doctrinal concept of law has epistemological priority over all other concepts sociological, economic, logical, etc.

And ultimately, this is also the reason there must be an uninterrupted, substantial continuity between the two. This would precisely be a philosophy in which the values that concern law are not considered as transcendental. That is, they are viewed either as values purely external to legal rationality belonging to moral or political philosophy but not to legal philosophy or as values that are purely internal to the legal institution not connected to morality and politics, that is, not transcendental.

In other words, as long as it is concerned with values, philosophy of law would no longer refer to law. Hart even considers this the nuclear positivist thesis.

Political philosophy

Both assumptions entail the liquidation of the philosophy of law, the former because it would not be properly a legal philosophy but a moral or political philosophy, and the latter because its study would no longer be philosophical but rather scientific or technical , as legal concepts could be reconstructed, it is said, away from any justificative value judgement. The values that make law a normative and justificative institution are only transferred theoretical or epistemological values, but not necessarily practical values either shared or rejected. On the one hand, this criticism must show that the philosophical attempt of conceptually reconstructing legal validity as stripped of value is based on an erroneous understanding of the epistemology of the legal-normative discourse and its conditions of scientific validity.

Any metalinguistic or metatheoretical discourse that deals with the legal concepts in which these values are captured performs functions internally to the object language of legal practice as it belongs to the grammar of this praxis. These are functions of legitimation or criticism that make it more a meta-language of law i.


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Is such an evaluatively committed character of legal rationality what determines then that, despite its categoricity, it is neither scientific nor can it be qua tale scientifically reconstructed. They involve practical engagement in substantive conceptions of justice articulated through different combinations and specifications of those principles. Only in this way do they allow for the ethical-political criticism of established law, a kind of criticism that is then both internal and external, that is, transcendental or philosophical. The pragmatics of legal theory is yet another dimension of legal practice: legal theory is not a theoretical discipline according to any minimally rigorous definition of the term, 40 and this is the fundamental meaning behind the statement that legal philosophy is a practical philosophy.

1. Justice: Mapping the Concept

This not only renders philosophically inconsistent any axiological scepticism or radical criticism which strives to deny the objectivity or validity of the evaluative reasons of law by reducing values to facts e. This entails a normative conception of legal theory and therefore an understanding of this as practical philosophy. This would be nothing other than an inherited prejudice from the positivistic view of law, and not only a prejudice but also a hindrance.

The conception that is most coherent with the true position that law occupies within the political-moral space —precisely because values are so central to it—, that is, the post-positivistic conception which we call constitutionalism or the argumentative view of law, means transcending this methodical view of free-value positivism and instead envisioning the philosophy of law as a practical philosophy integrated in moral and political philosophy.

The categoricity of legal institutions and norms is contextual, always fragmented into idiographic and idiorhythmic regional circles national states, legal families, cultural traditions, etc. Only values would be susceptible to true universalisation, as they play their justificatory role in objective terms and so become the genuine ideas that make legal practice a rational, universalisable practice. Law will lose what actually makes it rational if these ideas cease to be present.

Seoane et al.

John Locke - a 5-minute summary of his philosophy

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Oxford: Clarendon Press. The Ideals of Greek Culture []. I: Archaic Greece. The Mind of Athens. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Madrid: Centro de Estudios Constitucionales. Kants Werke Akademie-Textausgabe. Archives de Philosophie du Droit 7 Princeton: Princeton University Press. New York: Oxford University Press. Barcelona: Ariel. Legal Theory 4 Virginia Law Review 4. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc. New York: Columbia University Press. Essays in the Morality of Law and Politics. On the Theory of Law and Practical Reason.

Debates range over many dimensions. In a notable paper on moral realism, Peter Railton finds 13 with very little trouble — arguments cover cognitivism, truth, logic, objectivity, reductionism, naturalism, empiricism, determinateness, categoricity, universality, relativism, pluralism and the evaluation of existing moral norms Railton, , pp. There are debates about realism in ethics, in philosophy of science, and in philosophical logic, and realism defines more or less distinctive positions in disciplines such as international relations, political thought and sociology. Realism is not a clearly delineated position in Geuss or Williams; nor are they very clear about what reality claims they make, or why.

Nevertheless, some themes are visible enough. They both argue that political philosophy must attend to the real motivations and reasons of real individuals in real settings, and the real effects of their actions Geuss, pp. Both are thus realist about politics itself, in a twofold sense. First, they deny that politics is merely epiphenomenal, an effect or distortion of something else.

The major target here is moralism, the idea that politics is the application or misapplication of ethics Geuss, pp.

Justice (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

But the target could equally be the view that politics and political action are simply one class of economic exchanges and interactions. Second, they both characterise politics in terms of the causal operation of power Geuss, pp. As with the emphasis on real reasons and motivations, this amounts to a kind of explanatory realism, a commitment to the view that to explain or to come to an understanding of something must involve grasping the particular detail of an event or circumstance, and not constructing a formal model, nor coming up with a universal law.

Also relevant here is that, third, both focus on the importance of historical circumstance: what is possible at one time would not have been possible at an earlier time. An implication drawn by both is that if liberal values have any significance in the world, the explanation for this lies in a concatenation of historical circumstance Geuss, p.

Again, this meshes with explanatory realism. However, it also conduces to realism in the different sense of a kind of clear-sighted, no nonsense attitude to how the world really is. This realism is a particular moral and cognitive attitude, eschewing fantasy about how the world might be Geuss, p. However, this does not mean that the position is wholly descriptive or normatively neutral. In both works realism is connected with normativity of the critical kind.

Geuss particularly emphasises the combat against ideological illusion Geuss, p. These similarities between the two books are of course accompanied, and perhaps, from a general political philosophy point of view, outweighed by, significant differences — in intellectual sources and antecedents, in philosophical and disciplinary preoccupations. Geuss professes to be indebted here mainly to Lenin, while in this work Williams references Weber and positions himself in relation to Habermas Geuss, pp. But both, and this is significant for the realism here, begin their books with Hobbes Geuss, p.

These similarities and differences will be revisited in what follows. Realism generally signals a particular philosophical analysis of existence — where existence is not a matter of our or anyone's including, for instance, a deity's ideas or perspectives. Realism is not synonymous with materialism — ideas or mathematical entities might be treated as real by a realist. Independence from beliefs or imaginings is quite consistent with some things being either dependent on us in the sense that their continuing existence and independence depends on the acts or omissions of someone or even of humanity collectively, or in the sense that they were made by some individual or individuals.

Debates about realism are often couched in global or universal terms, where what is at issue is the philosophical validity of understandings of reality itself — the point is to vindicate or condemn the philosophical coherence of the category reality, or the predicate real. A global realist position in philosophy is in contest with alternative positions, such as that talk of reality at all is irrelevant because philosophical analysis is a matter of the logical analysis of propositions and arguments, or that it is a matter above all of epistemology.

More modestly, philosophers concede or presuppose that we can make sense of the idea of reality, and then engage in arguments about some subset of things such as moral values, scientifically knowable objects, social institutions, or mathematical or abstract entities. Arguments for realism, whether of the global or the modest kind, include reference to the best explanation, and arguments from the analysis of meaning, from the analysis of cause and from the analysis of truth. What is the relationship between such philosophical analyses of reality and realism and the two contributions to realist political theory reviewed here?

In contrast to these, alternative methodological principles are canvassed — for example, attention to context, or to facts, or a sociological rather than mathematical approach to power. These, it is argued, do not entail realist commitments in the sense of endorsement of the independent existence of anything. This is consistent with the view that the realism at issue in political theory is commonsense realism — which on closer analysis proves to be a hotchpotch of no-nonsense attitudes, including impatience with abstraction and utopianism, a straightforward commitment to a basic kind of materialism, and so forth.

Rhetorically, both Williams and Geuss rely on a robust scorn for the positions they reject. In the current work he insists on platitudes that must be respected Williams, , pp. It's pleasingly witty and amusing for his readers, but from the perspective of this essay the point is that it also delivers the message that there is nothing heavily metaphysical going on here. Geuss's rejection of abstraction, formalism, utopianism and other sins of recent political philosophy also, in some places, carefully but in a lighthearted way disavows metaphysics and ontology.

https://kessai-payment.com/hukusyuu/localiser/zasy-comment-installer.php Rather than thinking of politics as a sphere or a domain, with the attendant risk of reification, we should think of speaking about politics as answering or asking distinctive kinds of question Geuss, p. Who does what to whom for whose benefit? What forms of power — coercion, persuasion, ideological illusion — are deployed in pursuit of domination or advantage?

How are structures of inequality legitimated over time? For Geuss the answers to these questions are not to be couched in the abstractions of rational actor theory; even less should we have recourse to the idealisations of abstract systems of rights or justice. Rather, the answers have to be historically accurate.

Our explanations of why matters are the way they are, similarly, have to make reference to prior states of affairs and historical transitions. Chronos — order, sequence — must be at the heart of explanation and understanding. But so too must be kairos: our understanding of the time, the historical juncture, that allows or disallows decisive intervention, or a process of transformation.

At the heart of political action is the political agent who can judge the moment to act and make a difference Geuss, pp. Williams insists that political convictions and ideals, on the basis of which actors might act, should be understood as the upshot of causes. Among these, of course, as we appreciate from his wider work, are established ways of life that, among other things, support and validate particular interpretations, particular instances in which things make sense or not, particular judgements of rightness or rationality Williams, pp.

Again, in our political philosophy, there is no point engaging in wishful thinking about reasons, events and effects, nor in applying an abstract grid-like contract theory, or Habermasian discourse ethics, which can only misrepresent reality Williams, p. The political aspect of this analysis is not spelled out in Moral Luck but in the volume in hand, continuous with this thought, Williams insists that application of principles or norms to action is likely to pose a political problem Williams, p.

The exact nature of this problem, and ethically and philosophically acceptable solutions to it, are not elaborated very clearly in what we might think of as political theoretic terms. We can infer that decisions are always in tension with principles; the rightness of decisions is only judgeable post hoc. Furthermore, politics enters with the thought that the fact that, for us, now and around here, as he is inclined to put it, the process of the autonomous taking on of reasons that are integral with one's personality and considered cultural life, and hence that finesse this tense relationship between principled reasons and the quality of decisions, will be subject to criteria that are recognisably liberal in character.

Williams emphasises that this is not because liberal values transcend history or have abstract, universal, validity. It is rather, following Weber, because there is a concatenation of circumstances in history in which states are required, on pain of illegitimacy, to justify themselves to each and every individual who comes under their authority. It's not that these justifications found liberal states: liberal states have been produced by the same historical forces that produce the circumstances in which legitimation has to have this liberal character following Weber: of universal rights, a degree of bureaucratic equality in treatment of persons, protections from state power and so on Williams, pp.

The causal processes, the motivations in relation to actions, the circumstances and distributions of power, and the histories of transitions and transformations that are adverted to in these philosophical strictures are treated by Williams and Geuss as real — they exist or existed, and their existence is or was independent of what any agent thought or believed, wished or fantasised, about it. This independent existence of circumstances, forces and motivations was a constraint on what actually happened: liberal institutions can come imperfectly into existence only because definite agents have certain motivations, only because certain technologies interact with certain social formations to enable laws and legal judgement, bureaucracies and rational procedures, autonomous choice among options in markets and so on.

It is tempting to say here, as a number of philosophers who contribute to the debates about realism in political philosophy are inclined to, that the point is that our norms are or must be constrained by the facts or not, in the case of critics of realism Cohen, ; Estlund, ; Miller, ; Swift and White It is notable that neither Williams nor Geuss is inclined to invoke facts, and in my interpretation this is because they both endorse some version of critical theory — and critical theorists are notoriously suspicious of any assertion or, rather, allegation of facts.

The relationship between facts and reality is notably difficult to specify. In some philosophical traditions facts are linguistic entities, typically taking a propositional form, and with a particular truth value true. Most philosophers, though, now treat them as non-linguistic, and as mind-independent, distinct from propositions that are the bearers of truth value. Other formulations define facts as what make propositions true, or not, or facts as states of affairs things done, circumstances.

For some philosophers all facts are contingent: they might have been otherwise. For others, facts can be either contingent or necessary. My account here is based on Hume, Sec iv pt1 ; Frege, [, ] ; Russell, esp. Factuality is relevant to realism by way of the matter of givenness and its implications.

That something is given, cannot be changed and must be accepted as factual is consistent with its contingency, and it is consistent with the thought that the future need not be like the past. Givenness is not equivalent to necessity. But this quality of independence, and to-be-facedness, meshes with the realism of theorists like Weber. A number of philosophers explicitly couch analyses of reality and realism in terms of truth for example, Sainsbury, , p.

On the other hand, factuality can also be understood to be either orthoganal to or antithetical to realism. Orthoganal because analyses of facts and truths can be quite free of the concepts of independence and existence that I began with, and conversely philosophical analysis of independent existence can be quite free of consideration of truth or facuality. A fact is a fact is a fact: facts about the dream I had last night have exactly the same philosophical status as facts about the distribution among some population of a dream of justice, or facts about the causes of the end of armed conflict in Ireland.

Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle of which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir! Further, it is plausible to say that both Dickens and Woolf disparage facts in comparison with focus on what is real.

For Woolf, death and horror in war, differences in income between men and women really matter; for Dickens, the Gradgrinds of the world are a reality and a dangerous one. Some of the same lines of reasoning apply I think to Williams. There are facts about legitimacy. There are facts about attributions of thick concepts like courage, and there are facts that stem from such attributions.

There are facts about causes, and about the conditions of causes. It does not help to run these all together — to homogenise them, flatten them out, formalise them. It might well be a fact that a certain proportion of people accept as factual the description of rational economic man. The critical issue is the historical process by which this comes about both the proportion and the acceptance. Certainly Geuss would always want to pay attention to the power processes by which such facts are constructed.

For both of them the critical theory principle does the work in properly determining our attitude to facts, and realities. For Williams and Geuss realism seems to consist, in part, in the rejection of moralism, by which they both mean first, the idea that political philosophy is no more than a branch of moral philosophy or ethics, and second, the idea that political philosophy consists in the application of moral principles to political questions, whatever they are.

This negative position suggests several things. The implication is that political theory should be the domain of realism, and we can leave the people in the ethics department to get on with something else — idealism or utopianism, abstraction or formalism, normativity as opposed to prescription, or ideal prescription as opposed to theoretical description. The distinction echoes the commonplace that politicians are or must be realists; the philosophers, poets, ethicists and artists can be dreamers.

There are clearly a number of problems with this scheme, and a question as to whether Williams or Geuss would concur with it. In this article, I am using the terms political theory and political philosophy interchangeably. For some thinkers, by contrast, a good deal turns on the distinction between these two.

For instance, Hannah Arendt rejected the term political philosophy in application to her own work because she associated it with ontology, and she favoured a focus on action. More recently, those who favour the term political theory often do so in order to distance themselves from what is known as analytic philosophy. The indeterminacy of this term notwithstanding ask any three analytic philosophers what they analyse and what they analyse it into, and you will likely get three different answers if any at all , it is quite clear that analytic philosophy is a target for both Williams and Geuss.

Within political theory, there is a debate between ideal and non-ideal theory. Non-ideal theory covers a range of positions. Theory of the second best emphasises that in case the best or ideal solution is not attainable, fallback positions can be worse than the status quo. Non-ideal theory can involve responding to the question of what we should do or aim for, all things considered. It can involve considering what is permissible to do or aim for, rather than what we ought.

It can also involve considering the gap between what we ought to aim for and what we can do. And so on Swift, ; Swift and White, Neither Geuss nor Williams says anything that lends significance to these particular distinctions. Sometimes it is made between the analysis of fact-independent principles and the application or realisation of those principles, given the facts Miller, , p.

All these ways of drawing the distinctions can conduce to a view of an acceptably handy division of labour in which each sticks to his last if not his current university department, and a world in which there is room both for theories that have a good chance of being realised, and in that sense are realist, and those that have zero chance but are valid nonetheless Estlund, , pp.

However, realism implies scepticism about the image of either ethics or idealist political philosophy as independent of reality, facts or contexts. So any laissez-faire principle is not without implied censure. It is not simply that they deny that abstract moral philosophy is sufficient for the analysis of political philosophy questions. It is that they consider abstract moral philosophy to be insufficient qua ethics too.

One realistic strand of political philosophy centres on the criterion of realisability. The idea is that realist theorists take prescription seriously. This involves, first, that theory should be prescriptive, not simply normative. The contrast here is that theory can be normative in the sense of reasoning about what ought to be the case, without prescribing that anything in particular be done.

The philosopher is focussing only on ought, and not on what is, or is possible, or is probable Estlund, pp. The realist riposte of prescriptivism ties political theory to action and intervention. It gives full weight to the role of political theory itself, and attention to political power and institutions, in specifying what values might be pursued and realised, rather than simply giving to political actors and institutions the task of realising values that are justified independent of the political process Frazer, , p.

It implies, second and accordingly, that prescription should be based on valid analysis of how things are — structures, norms, motivations, causal connections. Prescription involves strategy. This point relates realisability to descriptivism. It implies that a valid line of criticism of normative, prescriptive, or even simply formal, political theory might be aimed at the implied descriptive theory of the human condition, or subjectivity and agency, or social structure and economy.

The theme of realisability is present, in rather different ways, in Geuss and in Williams. In both cases it is connected with descriptivism and with pessimism and these three are the subject of this section. Geuss is very clear. The difficulty with abstract and formal political philosophy is that its significance for real life can lie only in its playing an ideological part in the world Geuss, , p. By this, he means that its role will be connected with the fostering of illusions.


  1. Philosophy.
  2. On Human Nature: A Gathering While Everything Flows, 1967-1984.
  3. Daughters of the poor.
  4. Realist political analysis, however, which pays proper attention to what actually motivates people, to the workings of power, and which aligns its evaluative vocabulary with history, can certainly aim at conceptual innovation, or at the dismantling of illusion Geuss, , pp. Rather, he seems to ask for a more realistic consideration of causes and consequences. Of course, understanding of likelihoods regarding other people's actions, reliable knowledge of who the relevant other people are, and how they are situated, certainly can decrease the level of uncertainty.

    But these are not matters for philosophy as such. These emphases on realisability, involving realistic consideration of causes and consequences, obviously presuppose a good description and characterisation of how things are. It is important to insert some clarifications and caveats here. First, of course, description does not have to be of things that are real — it is perfectly possible to describe an ideal, or a figment of the imagination, or any number of other things from which one would wish to withhold the predicate real.

    Second, description itself, even if it is of something indubitably real, can consist in part of idealisation; it can be particularised or include an element of abstraction; it can have the quality of Proustian detail, Woolfian impressionism, or Dickensian caricature. Third, we can add here that description can be critical and constructive — critical redescriptions of existing phenomena can reconstruct them as something new, or new descriptions of new phenomena can institutionalise those phenomena under that description.

    The theme of construction reintroduces to our analysis the idea of independence discussed earlier. First, his distinction between philosophical conceptions of reasons as internal or external.