Sunday, June 28, 2020

Pluralism in public life

Consider this formulation of the central problem of a pluralist democracy:

  1. How to have a democracy where there is a broad plurality of sets of values?

Assuming realism about the correct set of values, this is roughly equivalent to:

  1. How to have a democracy where most people are wrong in different ways about the values?

But when we think about (1) and (2), we are led to thinking about the problem in different ways. Formulation (1) leads us to think the problem is with the state, which should somehow accommodate itself to the plurality of values. Formulation (2) points us, however, to the idea that the problem is with the people (including perhaps ourselves) who have the wrong set of values.

My own view is that there is partial but incomplete realism about values. Specifically, there is such a thing as the correct set of values. But there is a legitimate plurality of rankings between the values, though even there not everything goes—some rankings violate human nature. As a result, the problem is both with us, in that most of us have the wrong set of values and have some prioritizations that violate human nature, and with the state which needs to accommodate a legitimate plurality of prioritizations.

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