Public Unreason: Essays on Political Disagreement

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2017

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Abstract

Why is political disagreement such a persistent and pervasive feature of contemporary societies? Many political philosophers answer by pointing to moral pluralism and the complexity of relevant non-moral facts. In Chapter 1, I argue that this answer is seriously inadequate. Drawing on work from psychology, political science, and evolutionary anthropology, I argue that an adequate explanation of political disagreement must emphasize two features of human psychology: tribalism and motivated reasoning.

It is often assumed that disagreements rooted in bias and irrationality can be ignored or idealized away by philosophers developing ideal theories, that is, theories that aim to sketch the normative outlines of an ideal society. In Chapters 2 and 3, I argue that this assumption is mistaken because even ideal theories are subject to constraints, and idealizing away disagreements rooted in certain kinds of bias and irrationality violates these constraints.

In Chapter 4, I turn to the ethics of political compromise, focusing specifically on compromises that involve making serious concessions to injustice. I consider and attempt to reconcile two seemingly inconsistent approaches to evaluating such compromises: one that emphasizes fundamental moral principles versus one that emphasizes pragmatic considerations.

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Ancell, Aaron James (2017). Public Unreason: Essays on Political Disagreement. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/16353.

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