Friday, 25 February 2011

UK REF Philosophy Panel

The ludicrously entitled Research Excellence Framework  is the exercise whereby research in academic disciplines in the UK is measured by panels who determine the level of "quality" of specific research submissions. It is not only the title of the exercise that is ludicrous since the means by which decisions are reached in regard to research submitted is also not apparent and the process by which panel members are selected is further not subject to anything other than a general consultation exercise with academic societies. The actual money available from the exercise can be altered also by arbitrary and late government decisions concerning where the cut-off point for funding should be. So all things considered it is not exactly an exercise that inspires hope for the flourishing of interesting and important work in UK universities. This is why, as reported in an earlier posting, there is a campaign amongst some to boycott the whole exercise. 

Nonetheless I am sure many academics in the UK will be interested to scrutinise the names of the latest panelists in their subject areas and I am listing below all the members of the philosophy panel with a brief mention of some of the notable contributions panel members have thus far made to philosophy:

The chair of the panel this time is Alexander Bird from the University of Bristol. Bird's last book was published in 2007 and is entitled Nature's Metaphysics: Laws and Properties and is a contribution to the philosophy of science. His most recent articles also indicate an interest in philosophy of science and analytic metaphysics.

The other panel members are, like Bird, with the exception of two people, Professors though why Professors should, simply by virtue of holding this status be thought better able to assess research "quality" than others is not clear. One of the two who is not a Professor is Julian Baggini who is best known as co-editor of The Philosopher's Magazine and who contributes a great deal to a wider public diffusion of philosophy as is evident in his philosophy monthly. Many of his books are on the same wave-length including the latest, Do They Think You're Stupid? which analyses and responds to "spin doctors". Baggini's inclusion on the panel appears to be part of a response to the "impact" agenda and a demonstration of the "relevance" of philosophy though presumably it is also thought that applied philosophical discussions generally will be ones he can assess. The fact that, in including him, we have someone from outside the university on the panel is an interesting development since, whilst it reflects a welcome understanding that not all philosophy is carried out in the university, it also raises interesting questions concerning why the panel is not therefore also assessing and potentially rewarding contributions that are not generated inside universities.

Nancy Cartwright from the London School of Economics is the next panel member and her last book, published in 2007, was Hunting Causes and Using Them: Approaches in Philosophy and Economics. Her general specialisation, as with Bird, is the philosophy of science though she also is concerned with the notion of "evidence" in "evidence-based policy", something that many a government seems to disregard. 

Gregory Currie from the University of Nottingham published in 2010 the work Narratives and Narrators: A Philosophy of Stories and appears to have a major interest in the notion of the imagination and so is likely to be called on to evaluate material in the area of aesthetics.

Nicholas Davey from the University of Dundee is the current President of the British Society for Phenomenology and his last book, published in 2006, was Unquiet Understanding: Gadamer's Philosophical Understanding which is a contribution to hermeneutics. Davey is one of the panel members who is evidently intended to respond to European philosophy specifically. 

Katherine Hawley from the University of St. Andrews works mainly in analytical metaphysics and epistemology but also publishes in the area of philosophy of science.  Whilst she does not appear to have published a book for sometime she is very active in journal publication.

Cynthia Macdonald from Queen's University Belfast works primarily in philosophy of mind on which she has published a number of book chapters but not, since 2005, any monographs.

Michael Martin from University College London is apparently completing a book on philosophy of perception but is also interested in David Hume. 

Catherine Osborne from the University of East Anglia is a specialist in ancient philosophy having published in 2009 two books on the area, one a specialist text on an ancient commentary on Aristotle's physics and the other Dumb Beasts and Dead Philosophers: Humanity and the Humane in Ancient Philosophy and Literature.

Thomas Pink from Kings College London works on free will and moral normativity and has forthcoming a work on moral action. He is also interested in the work of Thomas Hobbes and is editing an edition of the Hobbes-Bramall exchange on free will.

Robert Stern from the University of Sheffield is the editor of the European Journal of Philosophy and current President of the Hegel Society of Great Britain. His most recent book, published in 2009, is Hegelian Metaphysics.

Alison Stone, from Lancaster University, is the second non-Professor on the panel. She is currently working on a book on feminism and psychoanalysis and her last book, published in 2006, was Luce Irigaray and the Philosophy of Sexual Difference.

Raymond Tallis from the University of Manchester is not based in a department of philosophy as his original specialism is medicine and his latest book is Michelangelo's Finger: An Exploration of Everyday Transcendence.

Heather Widdows from the University of Birmingham who works in the general area of global ethics and is editor of the Journal of Global Ethics. She has an introduction to global ethics forthcoming.

Some reflections on the composition of the panel in terms of how it relates to philosophy in general and the academic divisions in the UK are surely in order. Firstly, and most strikingly, there is not a single representative from any of the so-called "new universities" that in 1992 were renamed as such in the wake of the abolition of the previous divide between universities and polytechnics. Given the breadth of the panel in terms of general philosophical interests it is striking that it was not thought to be worth including a single person from this sector of the academy.

Secondly, the gender balance is almost equal with 8 men and 6 women so there was evidently an intention to think in a structural way about the representation of women in philosophy. It is, though, true that only one representative on the panel is a specialist in feminist philosophy and there is no one who appears to have specific interest in any other aspect of gender questions on the panel.

Thirdly, there are interesting imbalances in terms of the specialisms within philosophy. Of the 14 members of the panel only 1 has a specialist background in aesthetics. Not all areas of the history of philosophy are represented and there appears to be no specific attention to history of philosophy in terms of the panel's composition.

There is clear attention to "applied" philosophy and some specialists in the areas of ethics but no one with a specialist background in political philosophy is represented, an odd omission. There are 3 people out of the total 14 who can respond to European philosophy which is a small number. By contrast, philosophy of science, metaphysics and philosophy of mind appear to be areas rather well represented which indicates definite views about which areas of philosophy are expected to be fertile in work of "excellent" quality. It is something of a mystery, at least to me, why it is that there are 2 representatives of what we might term "popular" philosophy on the panel. It is not that this is not a reasonable area of philosophy. Rather, it renders unclear what the panel is assessing as this should broaden the remit outside the university and into other areas in which philosophical activity might be thought to be occurring and from sources who may themselves be outside the university but I have little idea as to how the panel might be able to accomplish this. 

Given the general cuts to higher education in the wake of the Browne report it is highly likely, whatever the work of panel members, that the result of the exercise will be much more concentration of research monies into fewer hands.

According to a new report in the Times Higher the weighting of "impact" factors in the exercise will be less than previously thought but will still be assessed in a uniform way across very different disciplines after a pilot exercise was undertaken. The pilot exercise did not include philosophy as a discipline and it remains unclear how it would be assessed in philosophy in general and certain specific areas in particular. 

Finally, the destructive work carried out by the Browne report continues to reverberate as reported over at the Brooks Blog where the postponement of the projected White Paper meant to emerge from government concerning implementation of its response to Browne is analysed. Generally the "impact" of Browne itself continues to be one that will merit study concerning the destructive response of the UK political class towards higher education in general and philosophy in particular.

Monday, 21 February 2011

The Return of History to the Middle East

A number of commentators have compared the uprisings that have been taking place this year across the Middle East to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War during the period 1989-91. However, whilst this comparison is one that I wish to endorse, what is noteworthy is the failure of analysts to expand on this comparison and make clearer in what the relationship consists.

The general argument at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall was that history had "unfrozen". Essentially the Cold War was related to as a kind of peculiar digression in the development of a number of societies although few were adventurous enough to note that this was true also for Russia and the Asian republics, all of whom had also been entombed in a political form that, whilst promising the future, had, in essence, incubated the problems of the past, problems that soon arose to the fore again (particularly in the Balkans but also in the Asian republics). This "unfreezing" was not without consequences and profound costs but was surely, despite that, preferable to the survival of the bizarre political forms that had termed themselves "communist".

The Middle East, it seems to me, is undergoing a similar unfreezing as occurred in Eastern Europe (and east Asia) during that period. The Middle East emerged as a geo-political area with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the close of the First World War which led to new areas of influence being claimed by the European empires, particularly those of Britain and France. The Second World War effectively destroyed these empires also although France fought hard to keep control of Algeria. The arrival of Israel in 1948 also contributed a key element to the mix that became subsequently familiar.

Leaving aside the special case of Israel the countries of the region have essentially failed to make any serious mark on history, being principally the site of concentrations of oil and being an area in which client states of the "superpowers" existed during the Cold War. Turkey, the previous home of the Sultanate during the Ottoman period, has a history during the period that suggests a civil society that has been allowed to assert itself and a corresponding open possibility of development (currently being stymied by the EU). Look elsewhere and a familiar litany begins to emerge of dictatorship, repression and lack of economic development.

In these circumstances it is less surprising than everyone has so far found it that the region should be being wracked by turmoil with the dictatorships of the region being challenged in Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen. It is naturally difficult to see how the struggles in these places, each of which have quite specific characteristics, will play out. But what is clear is that the understanding of them all in terms of the "Palestinian struggle" as has been standard in many circles for some years, is radically defective. It is also evident that the Western powers have played an effectively reckless game in the area.

The Gulf Wars aside the interventions of the Western powers in the region have rarely been undertaken with the purpose of pursuing political and civil development in the region and the Gulf Wars themselves were hardly successful in terms of identifying means of strengthening civil society! Western powers backed dictators in the region in relation to narrow conceptions of their own interests as was dictated by the doctrine of "realism". The result was that the populations of the area were never related to as having any importance in international calculations. The result of this is now coming into view: such societies were always inherently unstable and, under the weight of adverse economic conditions, are coming apart. The departure of such figures as Mubarak and Gadaffi would be welcome but the development of a Western engagement with the area that aimed at fostering civil society in post-revolutionary circumstances would be even more so. The return of historical development in these societies in the sense of the emergence of their populations as actors in the region's dramas is likely to have multi-faceted effects but is necessary if the countries in question are ever to be able to shape a destiny of their own rather than being clients of others.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Renewing Philosophy and Karin De Boer

One thing that I haven't done very much of on this blog is promote the series I edit for Palgrave Macmillan, Renewing Philosophy. It has been running now for almost a decade and  a number of significant titles have been published in it. One of the most recent is the work by Karin De Boer On Hegel: The Sway of the Negative which has been treated to a review by George Di Giovanni over at the NDPR. Giovanni, like many reviewers, seems to have a problem with works on classic philosophers being themselves contributions to philosophy rather than merely scholarly commentary or at least that is the tenor of his remarks here. It would also have been helpful if he had read the Series Editor's preface that addresses one of his remarks about French treatments of Hegel. Still it is good to see that such an important scholar as Giovanni reviewed the book and that he can see that it raises a number of substantial questions. To see the full list of books published in the series go here.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Robert Mapplethorpe Night Works

Fire with Fire (song)Image via Wikipedia
I recently visited an exhibition of Robert Mapplethorpe works at the Alison Jacques Gallery entitled Nightworks and curated, intriguingly enough, by the Scissor Sisters who released an album to complement the show. The curatorial decisions included the complimentary presence alongside Mapplethorpe's own works of visual work of other artists although not, for some reason, any aural accompaniment from Scissor Sisters themselves so that the relationship of the exhibition to the album remains somewhat obscure. 

The exhibition also spread over two spaces since the gallery in question has recently extended into a second space across the road from the original area. The first visible part of the exhibition is a TV that plays the long documentary/interview from 1988. This features some very interesting footage of Mapplethorpe himself discussing his flower pictures described by him as "New York flowers" and of some of his sitters including Louise Bourgeois who appears less than happy with the picture Mapplethorpe took of her holding a giant phallic sculpture. Edmund White also plays a starring role in this video and makes interesting points in particular about the number of portraits Mapplethorpe made of black men, emphasizing the importance of seeing them primarily as pictures of men rather than as being mainly seen through the prism of race. Some discussion is featured of the sexual quality of Mapplethorpe's work though this is treated a little too easily as a historical documentary and not related to other types of portrayal of sexuality either in terms of his photographs of women and children or in terms of other work either at the time or since of sexual nature. Still the video itself is a serious period piece and it was both interesting and fun to watch.

In the main space one enters after the video in the foyer one of the initial pictures displayed is one of Mapplethorpe's most striking flower pictures, simply entitled Amarylis, a colour photograph that instantly lifts one into a space in which the opening out of a flower can indicate both something life-like and sinister in quality. The decision to feature a work of Matthew Barney next to the initial flower is far from obvious and there is something about the quality of Barney that immediately strikes one as out of key with Mapplethorpe's work, not due to the mixed-media nature of it as this was part of Mapplethorpe's early work but instead due to a lack of integration between the elements of the composition and the way in which the work appears set to defy expectations of beauty that Mapplethorpe, by contrast, was always encouraging of. Next to this work is the famous self-portrait in which Mapplethorpe posed with a whip as a tail. The following wall includes a variation on Man in Polyester Suit which was inflected with a coloured background and even sharper penile focus.

Above the first sharp penile picture is suspended a work by Jack Pierson that displays letters spelling the word "torment" and which is just entitled that. Slightly to the side of the penile picture is a folding screen that is blue made by Tom Burr and that is constructed of plexiglass and indicates in its title a reference to a blue movie. The relation between the penile picture, the letters of Pierson and Burr's blue screen is surely one in which the space is sign-posted by indications of sado-masochistic and pornographic type. Intriguingly, though, Burr's screen has a luminous kind of beauty and you can look through it at other viewers seeing them through the prism of blue (hint of a kind of Jarman touch?).

The other side of a door-way from the first penile picture is another one, a very early work from 1971 that is a collage and is titled Cock with Belt in which the cock is trussed by the belt but still hangs towards the left with a kind of care exhibited in the framing. This early picture, by contrast to the somewhat parodic view on the opposite side of the doorframe captures an oddly nurturing side to the SM frame. Next to Cock with Belt is a lovely commentary on the censorship that Mapplethorpe's work has suffered in the shape of nine prints by Glenn Ligon called Red Portfolio that feature black surfaces with white writing offering commentary on the reaction to Mapplethorpe's work.

The far wall of the first room features a take on Mapplethorpe's occasional use of pentagrams in the shape of a mirror in this shape fashioned by Marc Swanson. The wood effect around the mirror suggests something very solid in the pentagram image. By contrast a mirror of Mapplethorpe's own, exhibited here, adorns the other end of the wall. 

There are some pictures of Lisa Lyon, works not often enough exhibited in my view although part of the opening video discusses well the rationale for her place in Mapplethorpe's work as someone who challenged the rigidity of gender. Marc Swanson makes a second appearance with a lovely mixed-media work full of golden chains and wood that is featured next to an early (1974) mixed media of Mapplethorpe's own. A series of pictures of Derrick Cross are present as is also a lovely mirror made in the shape of a star by Mapplethorpe that is the real pendant to Swanson's mirror.

In the side gallery to the main room of the first space there are featured a number of smaller works including Gun Blast, Mapplethorpe's 1985 picture of a gun being fired that has inescapable references to a penile climax. There are also works here by Violette Banks, Neil Gall and, most impressively, of Oswaldo Macia. Macia's short film is of a gymnast who is born out of drapes and moves in and through them in a most dramatic and moving way. The vulnerability of the figure in question is emphasized by its setting as near it there are early bondage pictures from 1974.

The second space across the road is caught within one room and you have to buzz an intercom to be able to enter. It again features a combination of Mapplethorpe works with pieces by more recent artists and is accompanied again by a video, the famous one Patti Smith/Still Moving in which Smith declaims from the Bible and and is framed constantly in a white setting with blankets and sheets that evokes a clear relation back to the video by Macia. The second space is more loosely organised and some of the accompanying work here is less than obvious. I struggled to see the import of the works of Scott Treleaven on show and the very early collage from 1968 appeared here rather out of place. There are, though, another two striking portraits of Lisa Lyon and a picture by Gillian Wearing that is more than disturbing as indicated by its title Me As Robert Mapplethorpe, a work that references the late self-portrait in which Mapplethorpe appeared with a stick which was headed by a skull. Next to this work was a piece by him called Skull and Crossbones, one of his many pieces emphasizing finitude. Banks Violette's piece which strewed light bulbs and steel across the floor Not Yet Titled (The End Edition) struck me as being just something that got in the way, not least as one moved to the late self portrait in which Mapplethorpe posed in a dressing gown and slippers, a piece that belonged clearly with the Wearing/skull picture but which had no obvious relationship to Violette's piece.

There is quite some skill involved in placing Mapplethorpe here in a contemporary context but one of the odd effects of this is a displacement from some of the significant elements of his achievement. There is insufficient feel in the works shown and the proximity of the ones chosen for his deep and profound love for male beauty and the ease with which his eye gazed upon the male form. The fact that so few pictures were chosen seems an exercise in a peculiar minimalism and, oddly enough, it is the videos that linger more in the memory than either any individual work or the general composition of the exhibition. None the less, despite my reservations about the curation of this show and a feeling of lack of understanding concerning a number of choices made I left with a further extension of my already profound admiration for Mapplethorpe's achievement, an achievement that related beauty to death, and the human body to elegance in a way that few other artists have really succeeded in doing. But if I could make a suggestion to the gallery for the next time it exhibits Mapplethorpe, is any chance of a simple focused concentration on his male nudes? There would be much to commend a decision to focus just on this, the subject matter, in many respects, like no other, of his work.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Attack on Academic Working Conditions at UWE

I've been alarmed by news coming from the University of the West of England, for whom I work as an external examiner. It appears that all Professors, Readers and Principal Lecturers are having to reapply for their jobs, a situation that has led the local branch of the Universities and College Union to call a strike.

It appears that the affected staff members have had to apply for new "roles" and it is no longer enough to "merely" lecture and research. Some staff are likely to be demoted as a result of the exercise. Furthermore, after the process has been completed for Principal Lecturers, a similar reassignment of "roles" will be carried out for the rest of academic staff. Philosophy is under particular pressure as a small subject area with further threats to close the MA despite its attracting EU students and the work produced being, to my certain knowledge, of very high quality. This attack on the working conditions at UWE is likely to be replicated elsewhere. The Guardian meanwhile has been publishing articles about what university staff can do after being made redundant. There is little doubt that the situation in UK academia is worsening daily.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Public Reason and Practical Reason

One of the frustrations of trying to read Amartya Sen's recent book The Idea of Justice has been the recurrent feeling that it is not really concerned to present any kind of theory of justice. The general organisation of the volume shows some reasons for this. Whilst the first part of the work is concerned with what are termed "the demands of justice" the basic argument of this section is for a shift in theorising away from a concentration on institutions to what are alleged to be more situational concerns. However, the situational concerns in question turn out to be extremely general and culminate in an account of impartiality that is aimed at transcending the boundaries of any given society but which does not draw out much more than an allusion to Adam Smith's notion of the "impartial spectator".

The second part of the book then moves on to discussing "forms of reasoning" and presents an argument for taking account of plural types of reasoning as advanced from many sources of concern. This argument for plurality oddly echoes the concerns of John Rawls' second major work Political Liberalism which alleged, in view of the ineluctable pluralism of contemporary society the need to abandon the search for "comprehensive" views of social justice in which moral and political considerations were considered together in favour of a "purely political" theory of public reason. Interestingly, the latter work also concludes with a "reply to Habermas" despite the general argument of Between Facts and Norms also having voiced a criticism of a type similar to that of Political Liberalism of political theories that are guided too much by concerns derived from morality.

The oddest thing about the degree of convergence between these three books is the way in which very similar concerns are expressed despite the authors having quite different aims in view in many respects. Sen deliberately sets his theory up in opposition to that of Rawls, though it is true that it is mainly the early and not the late Rawls that he has in his sights. Habermas' concentration on providing a theory of law that can be disentangled from overly normative theories is again a reply to the early Rawls whilst Rawls' own late work is a considerable revision of the theory he presented earlier on.

However, and returning to the puzzle about the lack of direct engagement on Sen's part with the question of justice, what seems most at issue for each of these works, albeit in different ways, is the exploration of what might be called the theory of public reason. Each of the works marks, thus, not a theory of justice but, at best, a prolegomena to one.

In Rawls' early work A Theory of Justice the subject matter of justice was described as "the basic structure of society, or more exactly, the way in which the major social institutions distribute fundamental rights and duties and determine the division of advantages from social cooperation" (p. 6, both editions). Such a concern was narrowed in one crucial respect that Sen complains about in his discussion of impartiality by being understood in a contractarian way as "a closed system in isolation from other societies" and, in another way, also complained about by Sen, in terms of describing a "well-ordered society" in which everyone is presumed to act justly and to do his part in upholding just institutions.

These two ways in which the subject of justice were narrowed by Rawls concerned focus on institutions as the primary distributive agent of justice within one society on the one hand and a conception of the maximal way such institutions could be conceived of as delivering justice on the other hand. Sen complains both about the focus on institutions per se and on the "closed" character of such focus as concerned only with the operation of one society but his more fundamental complaint is the pursuit of perfection in the theory. It is worth looking at the contrast between Rawls' reason for advancing the theory in terms of such a search for perfection, however, and the reasons why such a search is condemned by Sen. Rawls presented the theory of justice offered in the work of this title most comprehensively as a reply to utilitarianism. Indeed he wrote quite clearly: "My aim is to work out a theory of justice that represents an alternative to utilitarian thought generally" and a characteristic of such thought, commented upon by Rawls, is precisely the comprehensive character of its response to problems of morals and politics. It is to provide a theory that covers the same degree of ground as utilitarianism that Rawls writes A Theory of Justice and yet it is precisely this ambition of it which his later work abandons and which is also the subject of criticism of the early work by both Sen and, in a different way, Habermas.

Sen's basic reason for attacking the kind of comprehensive view presented by A Theory of Justice is his argument that arrival at a set of principles on which all could agree is neither necessary nor sufficient for an account of justice. However the question that emerges at this point concerns the structure and nature of a reason that can guide a given plurality of approaches, a concern that utilitarianism addressed in its own way and which justice as fairness is intended to respond to in a different way. Both theories begin with the understanding that there exist a plurality of persons with separate systems of ends and then determine how to respond to this given situation with procedures for demarcating a public reason. The shift from A Theory of Justice to Political Liberalism is not one that shifts this concern since the theory of public reason is central to the latter work. Utilitarians also work with a conception of public reason. For Rawls (both early and late) and the utilitarians such a theory of public reason is at the heart of their conception of how to provide an account of legislation (though utilitarians, typically, have no specific account of justice).

Rawls (both early and late) and the utilitarians conceive of the notion of such public reason in terms of an account of impartiality. So also do Sen and Habermas. At this point we can begin to see a key set of structural parallels between the accounts that emerge from each of the theories. In a certain light, the divergence between Rawls' early and late theories can thus seem to have less importance than he gave it. It can also appear that the distance between the early theory and the concerns of Sen and Habermas have, to a degree, been overplayed.

However, what enables a return to understanding the difference between the early Rawls and the works of Sen and Habermas is the manner in which the early work arrives at the conception of public reason offered. Here the conception of public reason is derived from a contractual procedure and driven towards an account of some over-riding principles that are taken to be central to the pursuit of justice, considered as the "first virtue" of social institutions. The problem suggested in Political Liberalism is that the early view presupposes a conception of morality and, in this work, an "impartial" approach is taken towards comprehensive views of it in favour of a view of "reasonable pluralism". It is this that is supposed to mark the understanding of a "reasonable" view of the political but such a view does itself make striking presuppositions including ones favourable to "democracy". It is this that marks the theory in question as "liberal".

In making these presuppositions the later Rawls effectively conceals under the heading of "politics" some deep moral choices that are meant to guide the interaction between persons and shape the basis of public reason. In a sense, although the topic of public reason is much more to the fore in Political Liberalism than in A Theory of Justice the truth is that the former work presupposes an account of practical reason and subordinates it within its description of public reason.

Exactly the same thing occurs within the work of Sen as in Political Liberalism and it is precisely this way in which an assumed account of practical reason is effectively subsumed within the description of public reason that produces the effect in both works of a kind of pious appeal. Both works really take the essentials for granted and this follows from the abandonment, I would suggest, of the aspiration towards a theory that has a clear reference to the ideal. Take out the ideal and you are only left with a supposition about the real, a supposition that was well supplied by utilitarian calculations. In a central sense, the abandonment of the comprehensive view ceded the ground of such views back to the utilitarian picture that the early Rawls was so careful at providing an alternative to. 

It would be a different matter to reply to Habermas and would require a more detailed posting but suffice it to say that the disappearance of "discourse ethics" from Between Facts and Norms is of a piece with the retreat from comprehensive views in Political Liberalism and the endless pursuit of pluralism in The Idea of Justice. All three of these works move in a non-ideal space and, whilst the need for non-ideal theory is real enough, the shape and fate of each of these works suggests strongly that the abandonment of comprehensive views was part of a structural neglect of the theory of practical reason.

Essentially, in arguing for a view of public reason that emerges from a more generic account of practical reason, I am aiming not merely at a rescue of the perspective of A Theory of Justice but also for the need to think about the manner of approach Rawls developed in this early work in relation to the classic manner in which Kant's Doctrine of Right relates to his general account of practical reason. The latter is itself a controversial topic but the need to see Kant's own conception as "comprehensive" is part of the requirement for a revival of such an approach if a theory of justice is to be defended, a theory, that is, that enables distributions to be seen from the perspective of a public reason that has been guided by an approach to practical reason.