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By Craig L. Carr (auth.)

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Extra info for The Liberal Polity: An Inquiry into the Logic of Civil Association

Sample text

The moral and ontological diversity characteristic of pluralism goes all the way down, we can suppose. While groups may agree on some things, they may well disagree, and disagree greatly, on many things that they happen to think matter. Is it possible, given the depth of the moral and ontological disagreement we have reason to anticipate, to suppose that groups, whose members cling to beliefs that modern science or modern moral philosophy consider false, will concede their errors and when confronted with something the rest of us consider conclusive evidence, abandon their beliefs and change their ways?

As a practical matter, theoretical reflection must be considered time and place bound; it is only the effort to envision a politics of unity that remains eternal. This follows naturally from the therapeutic character of political inquiry. This is because the appropriate therapy depends upon the exact nature of the social pathology, as it manifests itself at a given moment and place in time, that is the cause for concern and the inspiration for political theorizing. So, it is necessary for me to situate my discussion in the political life of the United States at the dawn of the twentyfirst century.

Yet it is difficult to see how such an optimistic presumption can be defended given the very real and very deep danger of intergroup conflict. Some controversial issues simply go to the soul, and group members will likely find little reason to compromise on them. Imagine Catholic or certain fundamentalist religious communities engaging in open public discourse on the justifiability of abortion with members of pro-life feminist groups. Is it reasonable to hope for compromise here? Should we really expect these diverse groups to work through their differences and reach a mutually agreeable compromise?

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