Talisse's book reads well as a succinct account of the greatest problem with democratic dialogue at present, and he sets out to offer a progressive form of compromise based on an epistemological model that seems to be practical in essence, at least potentially. However, I think he might have been too succinct to achieve successfully that which he set out to do.
Unfortunately, Talisse did not want to be bogged down with definitions of democracy. Democracy as we know it has been organic since ancient days, and so that seemed a respectable stance to take. Yet, Talisse seems to fall into his own trap; he includes no description of what he takes democracy to mean for fear of being bridled, but then he seems to assume a fairly narrowly-conceived use of the term. In fact, he seems to equivocate democracy with liberalism, and anti-liberalism with opposition to democracy, from early on (p. 24). This has the unfortunate effect of making Talisse's political purposes transparent from the outset, and his political philosophy more rhetorical in nature as a result.
Similarly, Talisse bases his argument at other points of the book on deriving conceptual equivalences that are not only highly debatable, but often lack the logical flow that might have given him greater credibility. For instance, a social paradigm that gives priority to the community over the individual is not necessarily one that lacks a basis for equality or toleration. There may indeed be a good argument for this, but it is a premise that remains unsubstantiated through the text. In fact, many of Talisse's assumptions seem to be unobjective and ideological in nature. Thus, as he claims that "what is needed is a deliberative account of democracy that is not precommitted to liberal or antiliberal goals," (p.Read more ›
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Concise, Sharp and SuggestiveMay 6 2005
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This short book covers more ground than most twice its length. Talisse argues that popular forms of liberalism (Rawls, Rorty, Galston) cannot meet their own standard of neutral justification. He then offers a fascinating epistemological defense of democracy. My only complaint is this book could have been longer. Sometimes the arguments move very quickly and the conclusions in the final chapter could have been expanded. But as it is, this book is lean and to the point.