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Debating Democracy's DiscontentEssays on American Politics, Law, and Public Philosophy$
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Anita L. Allen and Milton C. Regan

Print publication date: 1998

Print ISBN-13: 9780198294962

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198294964.001.0001

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Living With Difference

Living With Difference

Chapter:
(p.212) 17 Living With Difference
Source:
Debating Democracy's Discontent
Author(s):

Charles Taylor

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0198294964.003.0018

There is a way of going about arbitrating a difference, not by finding a procedural principle, which will adjudicate it once and for all, but by confronting the identity needs and the demands of faith and principle that are here in confrontation, and trying to come to some defensible accommodation. One can say that, if the proponents of school prayer had had the sense to stop being Christians, and to redefine themselves as agnostic Kantians, they would have seen that they were being equally respected, qua rational agents, or life-plan choosers–but to take that as a modality of respect in a plural society sounds more like a bad joke than like good political philosophy. There are deep reasons in epistemology, and a theory of human agency and freedom, to go for a procedural ethics and politics, but the nature of the debate, in which the second Rawls is a key figure, was meant to bypass metaphysics and to bracket the deep theories of epistemology and anthropology. A subgroup which is not listened to, is in some respects excluded from the “nation,” but by this same token, it is no longer bound by the will of that nation. What Foucault defined as the only really healthy mode of identity formation, the definition of self in the aesthetic dimension, was a completely solo operation, the achievement of lone virtuosi, who could learn from each other, but did not need to associate with each other; one could not be farther removed from the Herder–Humboldt perspective, which may be the only perspective from which one can distinguish destructive from creative modes of multiculturalism.

Keywords:   accommodation, bound, deep, difference, excluded, Herder, Humboldt, Kantian, multiculturalism, respect

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