I’m interested in why we disagree about moral and political values and how theories of disagreement affect positive political theory. I also work on the methods of political theory and the relationship between moral philosophy and political philosophy. My current research explores the possibility of being both realistic about the limits of politics and critical of existing political orders by analysing concepts of political obligation and political legitimacy in relation to resistance.
‘Instability and Modus Vivendi‘, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy
Abstract: Political theories of modus vivendi start from an assumption of deep and permanent disagreement about conceptions of the good and conceptions of justice. In response to this disagreement, modus vivendi provides an account of legitimacy as a result of a minimally restricted bargaining process. This account of legitimacy faces three major criticisms. Firstly, that the political arrangement will be unstable, secondly that a modus vivendi will institutionalise injustice, and thirdly, that it will institutionalise the status quo. I concede the objection that a modus vivendi is unstable in order to address the more serious objections that it institutionalises injustice or the status quo. Through its acceptance of instability, modus vivendi theory is no more likely than liberal theory to institutionalise injustice. Far from the conservatism it is often associated with, modus vivendi permits radical political doctrines and radical political action in a way that is precluded by mainstream liberal theory.
Moral Pluralism and Political Disagreement
Abstract: This thesis addresses two crucial questions of contemporary political theory: why do we disagree about value and how should we respond politically to that disagreement? I make three major arguments that correspond to each of the three sections. I outline and analyse two theories of moral pluralism in Section I, value pluralism and epistemic pluralism, which offer explanations of disagreement about value. Value pluralism is a widely held metaphysical doctrine that makes a claim about the plural nature of value. Epistemic pluralism is a less widely known theory that makes a claim about the difficulty of reasoning about value. I argue that epistemic pluralism is the appropriate form of moral pluralism for political theory because, unlike value pluralism, it does not rely on controversial metaphysical ideas. In Section II I analyse two theories of public reason liberalism, John Rawls’s political liberalism and Gerald Gaus’s justificatory liberalism, both of which develop an account of political legitimacy in light of epistemic pluralism. I reject both theories on the basis that they are incompatible with a commitment to epistemic pluralism. In Section III I develop a political theory of modus vivendi which accords with my account of epistemic pluralism. Building on the work of other modus vivendi theorists I outline a theory of legitimacy that depends on two political conditions, peace and acceptance. In the final chapter I defend my conception of modus vivendi from various criticisms in order to show that a theory of modus vivendi is not a counsel of despair.