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Title page for ETD etd-07212011-230230

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Houston, Joshua Wayne
URN etd-07212011-230230
Title A Radical Cosmopolitanism: Sociality, Universality, and Democracy
Degree PhD
Department Philosophy
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
José Medina Committee Chair
Gregg Horowitz Committee Member
James Bohman Committee Member
John Lachs Committee Member
  • political philosophy
  • radical democracy
  • cosmopolitanism
  • George Herbert Mead
  • universalism
Date of Defense 2011-07-20
Availability unrestricted
My dissertation tackles the question of how to theorize the democratic commitment that collective decisions must accommodate the voices and interests of those subject to them. The rigorous demands of this democratic commitment, on my view, require the thoroughly participatory stance embodied in radical democracy. Drawing on the work of George Herbert Mead, I maintain that we need an account of sociality that highlights its communicative dimension and that will allow us to critically and ethically evaluate political theory and practice. Ultimately I root a conception of democracy in a view of the normative ramifications of human communication that I call ‘universalist perspectivalism.’ This formulation highlights the simultaneous commitment to (1) a rootedness in perspectives that forecloses the possibility of transcending all perspectives in order to attain an aperspectival standpoint and (2) a robust conception of universality that allows us to attain a critical and normative perspective on legitimacy claims. I argue that the communicative dimension of human sociality involves implicit appeals to universality as openness to an indefinite number of perspectives and contexts; and this can only be adequately translated into the political realm via a conception of cosmopolitan democracy, meaning a conception of democratic legitimation that goes beyond the bounds of territorially-defined nation-states to take into account the interests of all affected by political decisions. The democratic ideal itself consists in the freedom of individuals to criticize and work to reform the social order; as well as the subjection of the collective coordination of human social life to the constraint of legitimation via the input, evaluation, and interplay of the claims, interests, and perspectives of all subject to its decisions.
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