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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

John Gray on Rawls and Buchanan

"Given such manifold singularities, what is the justification for modelling the person in a way that will inevitably screen out much of the variety of personal life? The answer, of course, is that unless the variety of personhood is ironed out, there will be no agreement on principles and so no upshot of contractarian deliberation. On the other hand, any abstraction from the particularities of persons already begs every important question in favour of liberalism. Behind the veil of ignorance, we are no longer ourselves, but ciphers, constructed expressly for the purpose of grounding liberal society. The derivation of liberal principles is then circular, since it works with the artificial persons of liberal theory and not with the varieties of personhood we find in the real world… The fact that an abstract or artificial person, screened by an imaginary veil of ignorance from that knowledge of his own life that is constitutive of any real person. Would choose a specific set of moral or political principles, if he were able to choose anything at all, has no force for any real person. For any real person, only the values he in fact upholds, the projects and attachments he actually harbours, can generate reasons for action." -- Liberalisms

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