Value Pluralism and Public Ethics
At the core of the value pluralist thesis lies what Isaiah Berlin called the erschreckend or terrifying proposition that moral conflicts are ineliminable, both in theory and in practice: ‘that ends equally ultimate, equally sacred, may contradict each other, that entire systems of value may come into collision without possibility of rational arbitration, and that not merely in exceptional circumstances, as a result of abnormality or accident or error … but … as part of the normal human situation (Berlin, 1980).
Value pluralism has potentially dramatic implications for the way in which we approach and address a range of ethical problems in contemporary democratic politics. The recognition that it may be impossible to reconcile some of the core values upon which liberal democracies depend – such as liberty and security, free speech and civility, justice and toleration – unsettles a range of basic suppositions of modern liberal thought. For example, it casts doubt on the priority of justice, and on the possibility of consensus on moral and political principles, values and aspirations. Value pluralism also raises crucial questions for our understanding of the ethics of political action – specifically, the ethics of political leadership and democratic citizenship. For, if the moral ends of politics are plural and incommensurable, what then ought the moral politician or democratic citizen to do? What sorts of qualities and dispositions are integral to good political leadership or to democratic citizenship? Can we even make sense of the idea of the moral politician or of the good citizen in such morally messy conditions? How can we make sense of justice and injustice or of questions of collective responsibility in a morally complex, pluralistic world?
This workshop seeks, first, to deepen our understanding of value pluralism, especially by consideration of those authors who have done most to explore its political significance and implications, such as Isaiah Berlin, Stuart Hampshire, Bernard Williams, and John Gray; and, secondly, to use value pluralism to shed new light on problems of contemporary public ethics.
We welcome papers from established scholars, early career scholars, and postgraduate researchers which focus on the aforementioned, non-exhaustive range of issues and questions. Scholars interested in presenting a paper are invited to send an abstract before the 22nd May 2017 to Derek Edyvane (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Demetris Tillyris (email@example.com).