Pluralism and Liberal Politics

Jethro Butler reviews Pluralism and Liberal Politics by Robert B. Tallise, in Plurilogue:

TalisseRTalisse devotes chapter 1 to an analysis of a range of supposedly pluralist claims, separating out genuine pluralist claims from merely apparent ones which turn out to be either vacuous or claims that monists could happily endorse. The problem, as Talisse discerns it, is that in diverse and tolerant societies, the term ‘pluralism’ is what he calls a ‘halo term’ with generally positive connotations whereas ‘monism’ carries with it connotations which are generally negative. This being so, there is a rhetorical motivation to want to borrow pluralism’s good name whether or not one’s doctrine is committed to genuine and substantial ‘manyism’. Talisse’s claim – and he makes a persuasive case for it – is that all sorts of doctrines that claim to be committed to pluralism are committed to nothing of the sort and that many monisms are perfectly capable of supporting a commitment to diversity and toleration. Talisse proposes the following test for any doctrine that has a genuine commitment to pluralism: since consistent utilitarians are unequivocal monists the test of a genuine pluralism is that the candidate doctrine must be one to which a consistent utilitarian would object. From the set of thus tested pluralisms he distinguishes four types of genuine pluralism: strong and weak versions of metaphysical pluralism and strong and weak versions of epistemological pluralism. Talisse claims that Berlin and his followers fall into the strong metaphysically pluralist category (as does William James) and that Dewey falls into the strong epistemological pluralist category. Pierce, on the other hand, can be reconstructed in such a way as to make him a weak epistemological pluralist.

More here. [Photo shows Robert B. Talisse.]