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Becoming Who We ArePolitics and Practical Philosophy in the Work of Stanley Cavell$
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Andrew Norris

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190673949

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190673949.001.0001

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Community and Voice

Community and Voice

(p.95) Chapter 3 Community and Voice
Becoming Who We Are

Andrew Norris

Oxford University Press

This chapter analyzes Cavell’s reception of Rousseau’s theory of the general will and the manner in which he uses it to counter dominant conceptions of democracy, freedom, rhetoric, and public reason. Central here is Rousseau’s idea that the virtuous citizen can speak for fellow citizens—articulate their shared general will—in much the same way, and with the same limitations, as the ordinary language philosopher who articulates “what we say when.” Cavell develops this in his account of the political “claim to community,” and argues that certain archetypical forms of injustice are best explained by the failure of their perpetrators to properly articulate their own will. The problem here is not one of sincerity, but of self-knowledge. In reviewing these matters, this chapter also clarifies as neither previous commentators nor Cavell himself have the nature and worth of Cavell’s critique of the dominant model of contract theory, that of John Rawls.

Keywords:   theory of the general will, claim to community, democracy, freedom, John Rawls, Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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